Anybody who's followed pro bass fishing for very long knows that Rick Clunn doesn't think like the average angler. And the average angler certainly hasn't won at the rate that the 4-time Bassmaser Classic champion has.
His holistic approach to a sport that's extremely simplistic at its core has set him apart from his fellow pros for decades. But one glance at those victory and earnings totals is proof -positive that what he does works for him.
If you'd like to find out if it'll work for you, too, you can spend 5 days studying under the Zen Master this fall. And in the little bit of free time you'll have, you can fish one of the finest big-bass lakes in the country.
Rick Clunn's Advanced Angling School will be held for the third time Nov. 2-6 at Byron Velvick's Lake Amistad Resort in Texas. There's no actual fishing in the curriculum, but Clunn promises students they'll get the latter part of a couple of afternoons off.
And at a place like that, after listening to one of the greatest anglers ever discuss ways to locate more and bigger fish, you're not likely to have an urge to spend that time checking out the local used-book stores.
The Bigger Picture
Clunn's lectures don't include a lot of discussion about the relative merits of this or that lure, or the best rod, reel and line to throw it on. He tries to give his students the ability to make those types of decisions – and many others – on their own.
"So much about fishing is observation and awareness, and the transition from the subconscious to the conscious," he said. "The cliché you hear over and over is that so-and-so thinks like a fish, but that kind of awareness tunes you into your natural rhythms until you're thinking under the same conditions that other animals are.
"The real point of the school is to introduce people to a way of thinking about fishing that they haven't been exposed to. People might think that's not possible because of all the media exposure the sport's received over the last 30 years, but it is possible, and that's the way I approach the school."
Locating fish receives much more emphasis than catching them.
"I do go heavy into seasonal patterns – recognizing, developing and using them. And we'll expand those into general and specific patterns, and patterns within patterns. I go into a lot of detail on sectionalizing a lake and applying seasonal patterns to it so that students can make sense of it."
How Do You See?
One question Clunn will ask students is whether they know what type of vision they use when they fish. There are two types that can both benefit and hinder an angler, depending on the circumstances.
For instance, a very narrow focus is best when flipping, but wide-angle vision is better when casting.
"What we're doing is taking (mental) pictures, and we don't see everything unless we train ourselves," he said. "A flipper should be focused in on exactly when that fish hit, which piling it was on and all of those things.
"But what that person will probably miss is something like a shad flicking off to the side, which would be seen by the wide-vision angler. I try to encourage students to develop both types and not limit themselves to one or the other."
And that's just the foundation of the full sensory experience.
"We'll also go into hearing, feel and even smell, which might sound strange. The goal is to really get people turning their senses back on because we tend to be sensory-dead. We're encapsulated in this man-made environment where we don't have to use them, and you can't just flip them on when you're out on the lake if you haven't been practicing it."
Systems that Win
Clunn will do a presentation on what he calls the "super systems" of tournament fishing – techniques and tactics that have produced a minimum of 10 national-level victories.
"It's something I've been working on for about 5 years, and if you're going to be a tournament angler, it behooves you to know the systems that win," he said. "Every technique wins occasionally, but the super systems have won again and again in the biggest events.
"For instance, flipping and bed-fishing are super systems. The dropshotting technique wins, but it's not a super system – at least not yet. I try to teach people how to understand these systems, how to develop them and how to define themselves in that category."
He also wants to teach anglers to become self-reliant. At his first school, which he conducted on his own property near Springfield, Mo., the first thing he had students do was build a fire using only a primitive bow drill.
"The look on their faces when they finally achieved fire – it was a real sense of accomplishment. It goes all the way back to the primal being and they say, 'Hey, I actually could survive. Then I told each one to remember that feeling, because that's the way I wanted them to feel about fishing.
"You don't want to have to depend on people to tell you where to go and how to catch fish. You can locate and catch them on your own."
> Clunn said the classes are limited to 30 students, but most consist of about 15.
> For more information and a link to the registration form, click here.