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Setting great fishing goals

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Ask any hunter about goals and it's likely that sooner or later, the image of a target will come up in the discussion. We all know that a major part of accomplishment and success in any endeavor requires some planning and the establishment of goals. Goals give us something to focus on, like a target, and provide feedback for correction if we stray off course.

Most people think of goals in terms of career or business, but goal-setting can be applied to fishing as well. It helps to start by thinking about where you are as a fisherman and where you want to be in the future. To generate ideas for improvement goals, review your fishing journal and if you don't have a journal, make it a goal to start using one! Review for where you were successful and where you were weak. Consider what fish species you would like to target and what techniques you would like to add to improve your success on the water.

When setting goals be careful. In some cases you may not be challenging yourself enough - cheating yourself in a way. In other cases you may be very unrealistic, leading to a lot of frustration. The SMART acronym is useful as a guideline when choosing goals:

  • S - specific. Ask what do I want to accomplish, why do I want this goal, who is involved, where will this take place, and which requirements and constraints apply.
  • M - measurable. Make sure you can measure progress towards your goal. How will I know it is accomplished?
  • A - attainable. How can this goal be accomplished? Are the means for achievement available?
  • R - relevant. Is this goal truly worthwhile? Does it matter? Is this the right time?
  • T - time-bound. When can this be complete? What can i do short-term, near-term, long-term?

Review and re-review what you have chosen, once your initial list is complete. Remember that in fishing, not only must must an angler do many things right, but the fish have to be interested in eating as well. One could set a goal to catch a 20" smallmouth bass, for example, and become frustrated with the lack of success at the end of the year. This same angler could do very well, catching many good-sized smallmouth bass based on an excellent plan for achievement, but may never achieve the 20" bass goal because the waters he fishes just don't support many or any 20" smallmouth! In this case a better goal might be to improve an angler's catch rate. Or maybe a better goal would be to increase fishing time on the water. To add sanity to the goal selection process, it always helps to get opinions on the goals selected, particularly from fellow anglers.

The great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said on goals: "First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end. Follow his advice and you might just see better fishing in 2014!

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