Fishing is Mathematics by Roger Hinchcliff

Fishing is Mathematics by Roger Hinchcliff


A long time ago I attended school like everyone else. I must admit Math was not my best subject. Especially when all I could think about was getting back on the river and fishing. But through the years I’ve often said fishing is mathematics and it’s all about the angles—no matter what fish species you fish for or target.

Fishing is just a series of math problems.

Let’s discuss and point out a few math problems you calculate every time you’re out fishing.

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The most important thing great fishermen pay attention to is the depth to fish your lure, bait, fly or plug. I think we all can agree that depth is very crucial in getting bit and putting fish in the boat. The offering or bait needs to be in the strike zone to get strikes.

  • How deep should I be fishing?
  • How deep is my float set?
  • How much weight is needed to get the bait down to the strike zone based on the current flow or depth?
  • How about the fall rate of the bait?

So many times, I’ve fished lighter lures with a slower fall rate on spooky/weary fish. Think about when bass or crappie fishing—over half of the jig strikes can occur on the fall.

So, thinking about “fall rate” can pay huge dividends on some days. Sometimes a finesse approach is needed to catch over-fished fish.

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When casting lures such as a spinner, getting close to the bottom is key to getting bit. But so is how fast of a retrieve is needed to spin the blade with the right amount of vibration, especially in colder water temps when a larger spinner blade is required to wake up those lethargic fish. This is an Algebra concept of slope and rate of change that changes by the retrieval reel speed.

Think of a fishing reel handle turning one time then the spool turns four, six or eight times. The difference in gear ratio is a mathematical equation.

Let’s look at back dropping plugs or forward trolling. The amount of line let out in feet from the back of the boat can also affect the depth. Not to mention the trolling speed in MPH. Some days they want the lure at a faster or slower trolling speed. Just another common math problem solved every day and most anglers never even realize it.

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"The Closer" Centerpin Rod by Lamiglas, designed by the author.

The Angle

Fishing is about the angle. Have you ever been on the bank or the boat and your buddy has the same set up and bait as you, but out fishes you? The first thing you think of in this scenario is he was fishing lighter leaders? That could be true, but a true buddy will tell you if he’s fishing lighter leaders to get bit. You would hope anyway, ha-ha. But more times than not he had the right angle, and you didn’t. For example, the most important factor is presentation. The angler who disturbs his presentation the least and mends his line less often catches more fish. If you’re at the back of the boat or standing further down the bank from your buddy at the wrong angle, it causes you to mend your line more often. This could be costing you fish without knowing it.

If you’re a wading angler you’re better off wading out further if the depth and flow permits—further upstream just to the side of the run you suspect is holding fish. So, your position or angle isn’t as severe, and you can deliver your offering in a stealth-like manner with fewer mends or disturbance to the bait. Even better if you’re in a boat anchored upstream in the run and go straight down the pipe. Take the angle right out whenever possible and you will catch more fish.

The last angle I will point out is the actual rod angle—very critical when fishing and can really make a difference. When back dropping plugs the rod angle will affect how deep your plugs will dive. If they are too high, they inhibit the action of the plug. How about back bouncing or side drift fishing? A rod too high or low will affect the sensitivity of the tick you feel when drift fishing. A rod held at a 45-degree angle is the best angle. This results in a better feel of the bottom as you bounce along in the current. A rod angle too high will also result in a poor hook set costing you more fish.

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Fishing Line

Many folks only pay attention to the pound test rating and what type of line they want to use for a specific technique. They should also pay attention and consider line diameter and line type; fluorocarbon, hybrid, mono, and braided lines all have different sink rates and breaking strengths.

We do math subtraction to ensure the leader will break before the mainline. Next, consider the sink rate of a line is based on how much line and type is on or in the water. For example, braided lines and mono can both tend to float, slowing a lighter jig’s sink rate.

The line diameter can also affect the dive rate or how deep a crankbait or a plug runs. Fluorocarbon line sinks the fastest. Many anglers will count the seconds it takes to get to the bottom. Through the years I’ve heard one foot per second. This really isn’t true due to many factors, but we still do it.

We also check the weather for wind conditions and water flow rates. Both can affect our presentations too. If I’m fishing dirtier water, I will check the visibility in feet and determine how I’m going to fish. There are lots of numbers to look at every time we go fish. As you can see there are many variables and math problems to consider just on your fishing line and the water you fish.

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I saved this one for last.

When thinking about more causes of fewer fish being caught compared to other reasons this one comes to mind the most? The angler who pre ties his rigs, leaders, beads, spinners or baits is ready when a snag takes his leader and hook. Just think if you lost 12 leaders a day while fishing on the river and took five minutes to re-tie every time.

You lost a whole hour of fishing. The more time your bait is in the water and covering the water column results in more fish. It’s simple mathematics you cannot deny. Luck is what happens when “Preparation Meets Opportunity.”

Let me be clear—math is no fun, but fishing is.

But you now must admit a True Fishermen is really a Mathematician. We just love and try to figure out the sport of fishing. We have spent our whole lives doing math problems and never even knew it. I wonder if Albert Einstein even fished.

- Roger Hinchcliff

Lamiglas Fishing Rods / Steelhead Manifesto


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