Is Fishing a Skill Activity, or is it Mostly Luck?


When I was little, my brother and I would go fishing with our grandfather. It seemed to me they were always catching more fish, and they were often bigger than mine. I assumed I must not have the skills needed; however, I also wondered if it was just dumb luck.

So, is fishing a skill activity, or is it mostly luck? From personal experience, I can say that fishing does, in fact, require many skills to be successful. The skill set needed for fishing depends on the situation and the type of fish you are trying to catch. Apart from that, the skills include casting correctly, reeling in properly, and many others.

While skill is needed for a successful fishing trip, there can also be an element of luck involved as well. However, this luck does not play as large of a role as many people believe. Read on to see how this luck can actually affect one’s fishing trip.

Luck and Skill Explained

Every fisherman has wondered if their big catch (or the lack thereof) can be credited to their skill set or to the oh so uncontrollable luck. I’m here to say fishing requires a healthy amount of both luck and skill.

Before even setting foot in the water, a fisherman needs to have acquired certain skills and knowledge to be successful. The skills and knowledge are related to related to the type of fish they are targeting, the environment in which they are fishing, the type of fishing they are doing (ex. fly fishing), the bait or lure they use, along with many other aspects.

Each of these elements plays a role in whether or not you will catch a fish.

As for the luck portion of a fishing trip, it does not occur quite in the way we all imagine it too. For example, I may spend all day out on the river with no bites or nibbles. While I could blame this on luck and say the fish just didn’t want my line, I can also attribute my lack of catches to where I cast my line, or even to the type of bait I am using.

While many of us think that fish bites depend on luck, it is, in fact, more related to the size of the fish and the frequency of their interest than to the number of catches one gets.

Fishing Skills Required

Before you set out on a fishing adventure, you need to first have acquired certain skills and knowledge.

First, we will discuss the knowledge needed to go fishing. Since all fishing happens in or around a body of water, a fisherman should have a basic knowledge of water safety. If you are using a boat, then boat safety is included in that basic knowledge.

The next bit of knowledge you can acquire is about the type of fish in the area and the type of gear you need to successfully catch them. For example, if you are fishing on a local river or stream, you don’t need to bring deep-sea angling gear.

If this is your first time going fishing, take a moment at your local tackle shop to ask about the local fish population. Chances are you will meet an avid fisher that will have the knowledge and experience necessary to get you started.

After finding what you are going for and the type of gear you should bring, the only other basic knowledge you need (I emphasize basic because there is a plethora of information you could learn prior to the fishing trip that may be helpful, but not crucial) is the local laws and regulations for fishing.

For example, in several U.S. states, if you are under the age of 12, a fishing license is not required when you are accompanied by an adult. In addition, certain fishing areas may be closed during a certain season of the year or even during certain times of the day.

Now that you have learned the basic knowledge of going fishing you get to set out and learn the skills to actually do so!

Below is a list of the steps/skills needed in order to reel in the “big one:”

  • Weighing the line/Attaching the hook/Attaching the lure
  • Baiting the hook/lure
  • Choosing where to cast your line
  • Casting your line
  • Patience
  • Setting the hook
  • Reeling in your catc

Each of these little tasks is necessary and requires a great deal of skill to be a successful fisherman. Even after the fish has been reeled in, you then have to know how to remove the hook and how to either release or clean your catch. These steps will take patience and practice to perfect.

While there are many informational videos and textbooks you could read on how to accurately complete each of the tasks above (and I encourage you to check out one or two basic videos or texts regarding the matter), the very best way to learn these skills is to set out and do them.

Without going into the tiny details of fishing, you can already see that skill plays a much bigger role in your catch success than luck ever will.

The Makings of a Successful Trip

Now that you know the effects of skill and luck on your fishing trip, and know the basic required knowledge and skills to go fishing, you can learn how to successfully plan your outing.

My first tip is to pick a spot. While many fishermen have their own special “secret” location, there are many public fishing accesses that you can go to. After you know where you want to go, you can pick the time that will be best for you to go.

To plan when to go fishing, start by checking the weather. A cold day may make for a miserable time and a scorching temperature will require extra planning to be involved. Something I learned from my brother and my fishing trips is that a little rain never hurt. In fact, it can benefit your fishing!

When it rains, bugs get knocked out of the air onto the water’s surface. These bugs make perfect fish snacks and often bring the bigger fish from the bottom to eat. So don’t be afraid to fish in a light rain or even the day after a rain, because it may, in fact, increase your chances of reeling in that big catch.

I highly suggest inviting someone to come along with you. Fishing trips with family or friends always made for great memories growing up. Just remember, you don’t want a large group since lines can get crossed and too much noise can scare away the fish. So find a person or two you would enjoy sitting quietly with and go find your own secret spot together.

Once you know where, when, and who you are going with, you can start to plan what gear you will bring. Some stuff to keep in mind includes which pole(s) you should pack, which bait or lures should you bring extra of, and what clothes you should wear to be comfortable while fishing.

Bring some snacks and water. It is important that you remain hydrated and are not hungry while you wait for the fish to start biting.

Above all else, a successful fishing trip is made by the attitude you bring with you! Never start off with negative expectations and never rate your trip on how many or how big of fish you caught.

Remember you are still learning and that fishing is not an easy thing to do, for anyone! Even the most experienced fisherman can have a day of no bites. Despite all the skill in the world, luck can still make a bad day sometimes.

So keep your chin up, let that stress melt away, and enjoy the peacefulness that fishing can bring to you!

Related Questions

Why can’t I catch a fish? You’re out on the water all day, and still no luck? Well, while it could be as a common fisherman phrase says that “the fish just aren’t biting,” it could also be how you are going about fishing. Remember loud noises and big movements can also play a role in scaring fish away.

Why can’t I catch a fish on lures? We are all different, and so are fish! Not every fish is going to be attracted to that fancy lure you have out in the water. If you are fishing for a specific type of fish, do your research to see which lure (if any) will bring them in. If not looking for a specific fish, bait fishing is almost always a good way to catch any type of fish.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Stripped Bass.

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