Fishing is a Head Game: The Importance of Confidence

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Angelo Viola with Tobin Lake Northern Pike

Most of us are familiar with sports psychology and the vital role it plays in the lives and successes of today’s professional athletes. But have you ever heard the term fishing psychology?

If I ask you what the single most important tool you have in your fishing arsenal is, what would it be? I’ll bet a lot of you would say things like “My favourite go-to lure,” or “My electronics,” or “My jig box.” Or maybe “My lucky rod and reel combo!” Ask ten anglers that same question, and chances are you’ll get ten different answers.

That’s because, in most cases, the ultimate fish catching weapon isn’t in your tackle box or rod locker; it’s between your ears! It’s your state of mind. That favourite lure of yours is nothing more than a security blanket. The ultimate fish catching weapon is called confidence!

Fishing is a head game.


Confidence is defined as trust, faith, and self-assurance. This is precisely how you feel when you cast that favourite go-to lure out in the water; you believe that it will catch a fish. And having confidence or trust in every cast can be a self-fulfilling prophecy that often makes the difference between a good day fishing and a day full of excuses.

According to Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, a world-renowned psychologist trained in clinical counselling and organizational psychology, confidence is “the degree to which you think and feel your actions will achieve positive results.” As I said earlier, we all have that one presentation or bait or colour that we keep going to over and over again. And more often than not, we achieve a certain level of success with it. With that success comes confidence, and of course, with confidence comes more success. It’s perpetual. So, you tend to use that bait or colour or presentation more often. Eventually, this leads to building confidence in your own ability until you no longer depend on a lure or other physical item to fuel the confidence level. At this point, you believe that you are a great angler—you believe you’re a fish catching machine!

The Fishing Machine

I’m sure we all know that one person in our fishing circle who can drop a line in a toilet bowl and come up with a trophy turd every time, right? This is the person who usually outfishes everyone else in the group to the point of embarrassment, leading to someone in the boat saying, “Okay, I’ve had it. Give me that f***ing rod, and you fish with mine!” And you know what happens next, don’t you? He catches the biggest fish of the day on your rod—the one you couldn’t get bit on. Like anything else in life, believing is achieving.

Believe to Achieve

I have a saying that I often use when talking to folks who tell me that they do not have much luck when it comes to fishing. I tell them, “In order to achieve, you must first believe.” If you don’t think you’ll catch fish, guess what—you probably won’t. If you don’t see yourself setting the hook or fighting that trophy, it’s probably not going to happen. The human brain is an incredible piece of technology. Program it right, and you will enjoy success. Feed it negative thoughts, and you will inevitably have bad results. Good anglers always believe they will have a good day on the water. And guess what—it’s no coincidence, they’re usually right.

The Doc

One of the most astute anglers of our time, Gord Pyzer (aka the Doc), recently produced a great video called Fishing with Confidence that refers to interviews he conducted with 50 of the top pro anglers in North America before a major tournament. Each one of them confirmed that confidence is the key to fishing success. Confidence, confidence, confidence: It is the single most important tool in fishing. Or, for that matter, in life. Everything we do, we do better and enjoy it more when we do it with confidence.

Formula For Fishing Success

So how do you get this level of confidence? Well, first off, it’s not something that you just will onto yourself. As I said earlier, true confidence is a byproduct of success, kind of like the chicken and the egg scenario. You don’t have one without the other—but which comes first? 

From personal experience, I believe being a consistently successful angler is a learned behaviour. Gaining knowledge about fish and what makes them tick, understanding the fundamentals of proper execution, and absorbing other people’s successes are the most basic building blocks. A formula that helps simplify this is called KLP, a formula for fishing success. It’s quite simple and very effective. If you haven’t already clicked the link above, make sure to check it out. It’s well worth your time.


The next step is a little more complex: Visualization. According to Jack Canfield, New York Times bestselling author and founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, elite athletes use it, the super-rich use it, and peak performers in all fields use it. Every time you make a cast, you should see fish following your bait or lure right to the point of contact. No, I’m not talking about actually seeing underwater in real-time (although the sonar industry has come awfully close to giving you that experience with Panoptix and Livescope). I’m talking about visualizing what your bait is doing and how it’s moving along the bottom or through the water column and, more importantly, visualizing how the fish are reacting to it. 

All good anglers have the uncanny ability to feel their way across that rocky bottom or through that weed bed with their lures. They see fish following and hitting their baits. We often refer to these anglers as “having the touch” when, in fact, what they are doing is visualizing. 

Like Catching Fish in a Barrel

Fishing really is that simple. First, believe in yourself. This will lead to developing confidence in your ability. Once you have that, you’ll start visualizing yourself catching more fish. That will be followed by fishing success, which, in turn, will give you more confidence, which is directly tied to even greater success—the more success, the more confidence, eventually making you a FISHING MACHINE. Achieve this level, and it’s like fishing in a barrel. Or should I say, a toilet bowl!  

Angelo Viola

ANGELO VIOLA is one of Canada’s most recognized and respected outdoor enthusiasts. His passion for the outdoors and skills as a creative director / producer have served him well crafting a broadcasting career in TELEVISION and RADIO that spans over 30 years. His relentless pursuit of the ultimate adventure and the ability to share the moment with audiences landed him the “best jobs in the world”, co host of The Fish’n Canada Show, The Outdoor Journal Television Show and Outdoor Journal Radio. In 2010 Angelo was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall Of Fame making him a true fishing legend.

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