There’s a guy I know who told me long ago “Rooty, you’re a good hunter, but if you wanna be a great hunter, you need to start keeping a journal”. He was right. But I had no idea just how right he was until I began using that for tracking data that has been a crucial part of my fishing toolkit that I have managed to fine tune so that it only takes me about 10 minutes to complete after each fishing trip.
The main things I track are temperature, moon phase, wind speed, water temperature, water clarity, barometric pressure, time of year, time of day, amount of fish, what I caught them on, and where I caught them. This requires me to use a variety of different programs and save them all in one place. I use the Navionics App and Notes program on my iPhone 5, Microsoft Excel to store it, Microsoft Paint to edit images, and I get all my weather information from Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com). The reason why I like WU is because it shows me a lot of the information that I want in these graphs below (this is from 9/11/13 in Syracuse NY). You can see that it not only shows real time data, but also what the normal high and low is as well.
I take this photo, which you can see in the history of any weather station here, save it to my computer, open it in Paint, and then I begin marking along the barometric pressure line with my system of colors and numbers and symbols to identify what I caught, how I caught it, and how big or how many. I post in green for largemouth, brown for smallmouth, blue for spotted bass. I don’t waste time plotting 15 individual 2 lb largemouth. I’ll post a green 15 with a circle around it to represent it was a group. I use different symbols ($, #, !, >, +) to identify if I was cranking, finessing, flipping, etc. And if I caught a lot of fish in a period of time I’ll use brackets to show that time period. See below:
I look back at my iPhone apps to let me track the depth and location for what I caught. I give a quick rundown of what I was using (color, size, line, leader, retrieve, weight), what the water temp was, and what the water clarity was like (was it stained, clear, was it nautical out there or was the lake laying flat under bluebird skies) and I make sure to note anything that was really significant (fish were in patches of grass containing hydrilla and milfoil, fish were concentrated on ledges, needed Ronnie Grass, docks with 7 feet of water), anything like that so that I can remember for years to come.
The reason why this is helpful is because I can look back at September 2011 and see what worked, or I can search for keywords like “ledges”, or “tubes” and it will show me a list or journal entries that include those words. This, more than anything else, will help you learn how to pattern fish, and give you an enormous advantage when you’re fishing a new body of water and trying to dissect it based on the history of other places and the weather data that you’ve stored. And the more you do it, the more useful it will become.