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01 Dec

Fishing Success….Do You Have the Wrong Perspective?

I will never cease to be fascinated when I talk to today’s new generation of fishing guides. They always seem to be looking at new ways to fish and more importantly, better ways to preserve our fishing resources. Just when I think I’ve heard it all, I hear more about their fresh perspectives and approach to the challenges of today’s anglers. Recently I had another enlightening conversation with Captain Ethan Bilderback of Topsail Island, NC . Ethan thinks far beyond his years and brings a logical approach to saltwater fishing.



While our conversation started on actual fishing tactics that Ethan uses, it quickly moved to how the younger generation of saltwater fishermen bring a far different mindset to the table. It’s based on individual perspectives of fishing and how we approach it. We need to understand that fishing was originally a means of gathering food for survival. Fishermen would fish for food for their families and/or as a product to barter or sell to others. As time moved on, people began to fish for recreation and relaxation and use their catch as a bonus to the day on the water. We have a segment of fishermen that earn a living by their catch (commercial fishermen) that boast of their full nets. For all those and even so today, anglers judge their success on not only the largest fish, but often the numbers caught. That’s referred to this as FITC (Fish In The Cooler).

Think about this, when a fisherman is resting after a day of fishing, he’s thinking about where he fished, his presentation, his hook-ups and releases, and the size of the fish. He rarely, if ever, thinks about the FITC. As a result, saltwater fishing is starting to see a transition from the FITC approach to factors that made the fishing trip a success. This new generation is now placing the importance on the tactics, form and execution rather than judging their fishing success by how full the cooler is. Thus, bringing saltwater fishing out of the centuries of being a primary food source or bartering for means of supporting their families, to returning it to the sport that it should be. This approach not only challenges us to increase our skills, but it can also increase the health of our fishing resources.

The shift is simple. Change what you count. For example, count your target presentations. It is a better measure of your being able to identify a good fishing spot, as well as your hook-ups. This measures your level of success in lure choices and your patience in waiting for the length of time for a strike. Next, measure your releases. What’s the number of times you got the fish to the boat and successfully released it? These are all key factors that represent a good angler. You can add other thoughts to your list as you improve.

The charter fishing industry has seen a downturn in the past few years. Much of this is due to Covid and economic factors, and this industry has keenly used and depended on the FITC approach since day one. However, by teaching their customers to actually fish rather than just taking them on a boat ride, handing them a rod and reel and showing where to cast could serve to be far more rewarding for their clients and result in increased repeat business. Polishing your people and communication skills, as well as being patient, is the first requirement. Teach them a sport, not FITC.

Our need to measure FITC has been in our blood for countless generations. It has been how we measure our fishing success. It’s how we feed our ego. Now more than ever before, we need to follow Ethan Bilderback’s lead and change the way we approach fishing. We can still bring a fish home for dinner from time to time, but we need to see and treat fishing like a sport. Besides, if we really need food, there’s always the Piggly Wiggly down the street.

I would like to thank Captain Ethan Bilderback for his contribution to this story. You’re a true professional and great example of how we should approach our fishing passion. 


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