By Todd Ceisner
(Editor's note: This is part 1 of a 2-part feature on the quirky habits of professional anglers. Part 2 will be published Monday.)
Habits, rituals, routines. We all have them – some more than others – and attach varying degrees of importance to them.
Whether it’s putting on a pair of pants right leg first or ordering the same coffee from the same coffee shop every morning, routines help define who we are. In the realm of professional bass fishing, rituals and routines can help an angler maintain a competitive edge and, in some cases, his sanity.
Pro anglers are creatures of habit for the most part despite what some are willing to tell you. If they’re not, they eventually adopt some sort of ritual. The nature of tournament fishing is too regimented to avoid it.
Anglers are up and moving in the morning well before most other people – often at the same exact time each day – and if it’s a tournament they’re headed to or preparing for, it’s a safe bet they have a specific checklist (boat and tackle, for instance) to follow in order to feel fully ready. A small deviation from what’s worked in the past could throw off an entire day.
Some anglers have a tried and true system that’s worked for years, decades even. To them, the routine is normal, even if it may appear unorthodox or strange to outsiders. Out of these routines sometimes arise superstitions that take on lives of their own.
To gauge just how ritualistic they are, we quizzed some competitors from the pro ranks about what some of their quirky habits are and why they’re so important.
Mike McClelland’s quirky rituals begin and end with his favorite beverage – iced tea.
A devoted consumer of sugary soda as a kid, he soon realized he needed to find an alternative. Coffee never agreed with his stomach, so he turned to unsweetened tea and it’s been an integral part of his day for more than two decades.
“As a youngster, I was absolutely addicted to Mountain Dew,” he said. “I’d drink eight to 12 cans a day. I hammered it. It got to a point, though, where I knew it wasn’t healthy and I made a choice. I haven’t had a soda in 20 years now.”
He consumes roughly a gallon of unsweetened tea per day whether on or off the water, mostly from a jumbo-sized insulated stainless steel tumbler, which someone gifted him after having McClelland’s name monogrammed on it.
“Most people just assumed based on my Southern roots it’s sweet tea, but when I swore off the Mountain Dew, it was more of a move away from sugar,” he said.
Attention to detail is of great importance to many pro anglers and John Crews is no different. The Elite Series mainstay from Virginia said he doesn’t have any corny rituals or habits – well, maybe one – but he did reveal that he sticks to a strict schedule and itinerary when it comes to leaving home for a tournament and what he does once he arrives at his destination.
“Early on in my career, a friend told me I need to get to tournaments not the day before practice starts, but the day before that,” Crews said. “That way you have an entire day to get everything ready and rested when practice starts. I couldn’t agree more.”
In addition, the extra time allows him to gather groceries and miscellaneous items that he may need over the course of the week.
“I’ll plan out meals for on and off the water and that way I don’t have to go back to the store and I only need to get gas and ice and I have what I need for the week,” he said.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Crews doesn’t invest much time prepping tackle at home before he hits the road. He prefers to get settled in where he’s staying and then start the tackle prep process.
“I like to do it the day before practice starts,” he said. “That way, my mind is totally focused on what I need to be doing because conditions may change in that time.”
As for the one ritual he’s adhered to for close to 20 years, it involves dental health and skin care.
“In the morning on practice and on tournament days, I brush my teeth and put sunscreen on – in that order,” he said. “I feel like the sunscreen is more effective before you get outside and I rarely have to re-apply, especially with the beard. I don’t want to look like I have any premature gray (hairs).”
As a two-time FLW Tour Angler of the Year and winner of the 2019 FLW Cup, Bryan Thrift clearly has figured out a system that is effective on the water. But it also meshes with his off-the-water habits, which include constant reel and hook maintenance.
“I’ll re-line my reels every night,” Thrift revealed. “If I used them, I’ll re-line them, even I used it for only 20 minutes.”
Bryan Thrift has a habit of putting new line on his reels every night during a tournament.
When told that his ritual seems a bit extreme, he agreed.
“It’s crazy, I know,” he said. “I get that a lot.”
His picky nature also applies to treble hooks on his hard baits. When current BPT pro Luke Clausen used to compete on the FLW Tour, he and Thrift would travel together and Thrift would swap out hooks on crankbaits on a nightly basis. Rather than allow Thrift to discard them, Clausen would take them and add them to his hook collection, knowing they still had plenty of life left in them. It’s all part of Thrift’s need to feel as prepared as possible for each day on the water.
“To me, I view it as normal,” he said.
Unlike Crews, Todd Faircloth spends time at home prepping rods for the venue he’s heading to. He’ll also scroll through some maps on his Lowrance units to get a feel for where he’s going.
“Before I leave the house, I’ll get in the boat and go through my tackle and put the baits for the techniques that I feel that will work where we’re going and start prepping my rods,” he said. “Some guys like to do that when they get there. But I like to relax when I get there.”
He doesn’t subscribe to any superstitions, per se, but he typically buys the same groceries once he arrives in the host community.
“Bread, PB and J,” he said. “We’ll usually do tacos one night, maybe a steak or pork chops. The cool thing about the (Bass Pro Tour) format is you don’t fish every day so you can eat a little better and spend more time preparing stuff.”
End Part 1 of 2