Complete Understanding with Gary Klein

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story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos by Dan O’Sullivan and courtesy Gary Klein

For most fishing fans, seeing a pro in their jersey with their sponsor hat on is the typical view we get into their careers. We see blastoff in the high powered boats and the display of fish from the stage. If the angler is fortunate, the final view we get of them is the celebratory lift of a trophy overhead.

CompleteUnderstandingGaryKleinClassicStageFor Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Gary Klein, that view usually includes him wearing his green and white Repel jersey with a Triton, Mercury or Quantum hat, and we can see him perched atop the bow of his Triton looking much like a kingfisher stalking its prey in the shallows.

What we didn’t see were all of the hours of preparation that Klein put into getting ready to fish competitively in the offseason. Sure, there is all of the tackle prep and boat rigging, but for Klein, it is so much more.

Klein is not one to haphazardly try new techniques or new gear. He often spends dozens of hours on his family’s farm ponds fishing out of a john boat learning new techniques. In fact, so thorough is Klein, that he will not apply a lure or technique in a tournament until he has a complete understanding of the lure or product, how it works, how it responds to a load and most importantly, how to land fish that he hooks on it, or while using it.

Here is an example

Great Outdoor Games 2003
Some of you may remember ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games. They featured competition in numerous outdoor categories and one of them was bass fishing. In 2003, the Great Outdoor Games went to Reno, Nev. and they decided to hold the bass fishing event on Folsom Lake.

The bass fishing event had become a team event, and Klein was partnered with longtime friend Shaw Grigsby. The two dominated the competition by using a topwater pattern and a dropshot pattern. They would catch a few key topwater fish in the morning, then stop on an underwater hump loaded with spotted bass and absolutely clean up.

Klein expertly picked apart the fish, and by the end of the event, he and Grigsby looked like masters of the program. Little did I know that it was Klein’s first time using it in competition. Not that he was unfamiliar with the technique; quite the opposite, he knew every nuance of it. That is because Klein, as he would tell me in an interview about that event, spends hours upon hours perfecting a technique, and only when he feels like he has developed a complete understanding of it, will he put it in his tournament arsenal.

“I just really want to be able to understand everything about what I am fishing,” he said. “Whether it is a CompleteUnderstandingGaryKleinGreatOutdoorGameslure or a rod action, I want to know what it does every time I use it, how it should react, and how it is going to put fish in my boat.”

Offseason Test Tanks
Klein has a series of farm ponds on family land near his Weatherford, Tex. home that are, as he says, “slap full of bass.” He has ponds that he has not fished in more than a year by the time he goes out to test lures and equipment. He has used these “test tanks” to test the lures from his projects at the custom lure building site Boss – www.fishboss.com – and he was recently testing the latest Tactical Series rods that he has been working on with Quantum.

“I need a place where I can put things through their paces,” he said. “I need to find out how a rod responds under load, and I need to be able to have a count of how many fish I hook, and how many I land on a particular lure or technique; these ponds give me a place to do that.”

He also said that it is a way for him to knock some rust off after a long winter hiatus from competition. “We get rusty,” he said. “I can tell when I haven’t fished in a while. My casts aren’t as accurate, I don’t feel the lures and bites immediately and my hooksets aren’t crisp, so I work to make sure that I get back in tune.”

Testing and Learning
ON this most recent outing, Klein said that he was working on getting to know his new 7’10” Quantum Tactical rod in comparison with some of his and his teammates existing equipment. “I really put them through their paces,” he said. “I want to know how it feels while Flippin’, pitching, casting and putting them through extra stress tests.”

He said he has feedback for the engineers at Quantum as a result of this round of testing. “I really like the blank and the action,” he said. “But, I won’t use it for what we’ve originally designed it for.” he said the rod is expected to be his signature Flippin’ rod, but it will most likely be a rod he would use for fishing football jigs deep.

“The way I Flip, I need to have a foregrip because I hold the rod in my pal with my left hand and run the line through my pointer finger and thumb,” he said. “I can feel the bites more instantaneously and react as quickly as I need to.”

He was also learning more about a lure that he likes, but is at this point, unwilling to put into his tournament arsenal. That lure is a vibrating jig. He said his first experience with the lure cost him a bass over 10 pounds and another over nine on consecutive casts at a tournament on Sam Rayburn and he is unwilling to suffer those setback any further until he has a complete grasp of the bait.

CompleteUnderstandingGaryKleinTestingRetrieve“To this day, most of the things I’ve tried with the bladed vibrating jigs have resulted in about a 70-percent success rate,” he said. “That may be alright for some people, but I’m not comfortable with that, I want to know what I need to do to make that number higher, say 90 or 95-percent. I have a few tweaks that I’m working on, and the results are improving, but not to where I want them yet.”

Stay Fresh
One other side benefit of his approach is that he can constantly give himself a chance to think outside of the box. “I can’t really do that in a tournament because I am under the time pressure of producing,” he said. “So, I have to do things that I know will produce and not experiment during an event. if I didn’t find the time to try and experiment, than my competitors would be getting the better of me.”

He said that he has learned a few tricks that have made a difference for him on the water in events. Things like weighting and customizing squarebills and employing different retrieves with them have made a difference on tour. He said it has made him a better, more complete angler, and suggests that other anglers find a place they can do things like this as well.

“I’ve been able to stop and analyze each thing I do differently in my test
tanks,” he said. “Each minute I spend makes me a more complete, better understanding angler, and if other anglers find a way to do this themselves, there’s no telling how good they can become.”