In my youth, I grew up near a fantastic lake and many a summer day was spent out on the water. Our family either owned or had access to a pontoon boat (called a party barge here in the South). It was our transportation to remote islands where we would camp out for a week; our ski-boat (very effective – no planing required); our swimming platform and our bass boat.
Fishing was the only form of “hunting” I was exposed to growing up. I learned how to fish for bass, brim, crappie – top-water, crank baits, spinner baits, plastic worms, live bait…you name it, we did it.
We also fished for catfish. One of the most effective methods of catching catfish is to use a trotline. We would find a “fishy” spot – not too deep, but deep enough to be below the thermocline where catfish liked to lounge.
A trotline is a long rope that has a leader and a hook every 2-3 feet along its length. You set it by tying one end to something on the bank (or a weight/buoy combination) and back the boat away from that point slowly. As the line is stretched out, you baited the hook – never stopping. The guy baiting had to be both prepared and skilled to not end up with a hook through a finger and my step-dad had lots of practice.
This continued until all of the hooks were baited and then the other end was tied off and it was off to the next location.
Every morning, we checked the lines, which was itself another well-orchestrated set of events. With a pontoon boat, you allow the line to pass under the boat and the guy checking is up front reaching down with hands in the water going hand over hand. If he came across an empty hook, he re-baited.
He was ever-mindful of any movement he felt as that would indicate a fish has been snared. When that happened, baiting became something to do later and the fish was job #1. So again, hand-over-hand he works his way down the line until the fish comes into sight and then the action begins.
Catfish have very spiny fins and can puncture your skin quite easily, so you can imagine how coming up on an angry 7lb catfish might get the heart pumping.
Hooking the fish was a very passive act. Yes, you have to know where and how to set the line, but the fish had to make the choice to take the bait. Landing the fish; however, is quite the active process. Knowing how to securely grip the fish, remove the hook and get it in the boat took a great deal of courage, skill and strength.
Looking back on those fantastic times on the water – calm and peaceful and peppered with moments of sheer excitement – reminds me of two things: successful fishing requires a ton of knowledge (gained mostly through experience) and even more patience. I spent hours upon hours with my hook in the water without anything to show for it. My technique was flawed and the fish knew it. Over time, I learned and improved and started thinking like a fish – making my lure ever more attractive. And over time, I caught more fish.
In business, these lessons translate fairly well.
You have to be prepared (constant learning, well documented, ever experimenting)
You have to start thinking like your clients – what matters to them and what will get them to “bite”
You have to be patient – feedback comes just as powerfully from failure as success
You have to know what to do if they say yes
There were times when movement meant that something other than a catfish found the bait too irresistible. On more than one occasion, we hooked large snapping turtles or alligator gars – both of which can take a finger or two in an instant. Those, you don’t try to get in the boat – you just cut them loose and move down the line.
There will be clients who pose a risk to your success – learning when and how to “cut them loose” is a skill that hopefully leaves you with all 10 digits.
Knowledge & patience – two ingredients to success that require time in the water.