Monday, November 29, 2021

Mental Fishing: ‘STEP’ It UP

Left to right: Capt. Mary, Billy and Dad. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Left to right: Capt. Mary, Billy and Dad. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Captain Mary A. Fink

Although the act of fishing is physical, it is my belief that 75 percent of successful fishing is mental or cognitive in nature. For the purposes of this explanation, I will use the acronym “STEP.”

The “S” stands for “seeing.” When seeking or hunting fish, it is imperative to “see” and observe the current environmental conditions, such as tidal exchange, wind, water temperature and depth. Additionally, look for things like structure and cover found around mangrove islands, beaches, docks and reefs. These observed conditions serve as the roadmap to where a current ideal fishing habitat is likely to be.

For example, a mangrove point on an incoming tide where water is washing in and around the point could be a good bet. The presence of birds feeding offshore in the Gulf or from a local inshore fallen branch could offer helpful clues as well. Look for water that is alive with activity either from above or below. “Seeing” is the first step to success!

The next step is “thinking!” Based on the environmental conditions and habitat you have observed, think about the most effective fishing technique you can use to be successful. These techniques include cast and retrieve, drift fishing, bottom or still fishing, and trolling.

Once you have chosen your fishing technique, you must now “execute” that technique though effective bait presentation. This “execution” phase or third phase of “STEP” is the only real physical part of fishing. During the execution phase, it is important to experiment with various live and artificial bait presentations, retrieval speeds, jig head or sinker weights, and jigging techniques. Continue to experiment until you experience success and hook up.

The final phase in “STEP” is to “process feedback” by evaluating and analyzing what is happening during the execution phase. If the fishing action is slow, make changes in location or technique. If fishing action is good, keep doing what you are doing. If fishing starts hot and gets cold, make a move. If action starts cold and becomes hot, stay where you are. It’s all about analyzing and making adjustments to find the best results.

All of the elements of “STEP” boil down to simple awareness, mental processes and making adjustments. To experience better fishing results today, practice using the elements of “STEP”: Seeing, thinking, executing and processing results. Good luck!


Captain Mary specializes in fishing the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands. She holds a “six pack” captains license and has a knack for finding fish. A passionate angler possessing over 35 years of extensive experience in both backcountry and offshore fishing, Mary offers fishing expeditions through her Island Girls Charters company. When fishing with Captain Mary, you will be exposed to a variety of successful techniques including cast and retrieve, drift fishing, bottom fishing and sight fishing. Visit to learn about fishing with Capt. Mary, or reach her at 239-571-2947.

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