Rick Clunn is always looking to simplify his fishing. That way as few distractions as possible are between him and the fish. He first simplified his color selection, and a while back he discussed his preference for using just one rod and one reel. Now he talks about another component: line.
"In the last 3-5 years, there's been all this technology developed in line," he says, notably products like braids and fluorocarbon. "I didn't really get into that stuff too much, but what little I did get into it added a lot of confusion to my fishing -- and I suspect everyone else's.
"I've pretty well gone back to fishing 90 percent mono again. A lot of good line companies are out there making good line, but the real key to line is your understanding of it. If every rod has a different line on it, it's difficult to understand. You need to know how hard to hit a fish at 10 feet vs. 10 yards. You need to know how many times a fish can wrap your line around a limb before it breaks. That's where line breaks down -- your knowledge of it. People need to fish one line to where they have a complete understanding of it.
"Probably the No. 1 mistake people make with the line they're using is that they change line (brands) once a month," he says. "I think that prevents them from becoming intimate with their line.
"If that's part of your fishing fun, then do it. But in fishing you have controllable variables and uncontrollable ones. The controllable variables should be controlled at a subconscious level. That frees your consciousness to think about what you're doing. It's like running a trolling motor. You don't have to be aware of what you're doing. But if you forgot you changed lines, and you fish it too hard and a fish runs under the boat and breaks your line, then you'll remember: 'I'm fishing fluorocarbon, it's a lighter diameter and I can't hit the fish as hard.' And if you're forcing yourself to make that conscious, you're in trouble. You don't want to have to do that. You want all of that to be working at a subconscious level."
He says that the primary things you want to be in the conscious part of your approach are "figuring out and understanding the fish, and watching the conditions and adjusting to them."
What kind of line does Clunn like? "I like a line that is more a hammer-type line," he says. "Simply tougher. Usually those are heavier-diameter lines.
"As we all know, unless a line is IGFA-rated, it's not apples vs. apples." For example, one 10-pound-test line will have different properties, including breaking strength, than another 10-pound-test line, and that's partly because "they all have different diameters. Diameter is the key element in the line, not the pound test."
His favorite line is Bass Pro Shops Signature Series mono. "I know that line is tough by my standards," he says. "It holds up under the conditions I most utilize it under, which are heavy cover, big lures and many casts per day."
It also hold up in his method of fighting fish, which he calls "controlled aggression." With lighter line, you might have to have circle the boat "12 times before you land a fish. That works well for some people, like David Fritts, but it's not my philosophy." Clunn's is that "a fish is allowed one tough run and then it's coming into the boat, one way or the other. Is one (method) better? No, it's just which one you prefer."
With Clunn's attention to the details of fishing, it's surprising that he doesn't have a favorite color of line. "I use clear the majority of the time, but I don't really have a favorite color.
"I like green line, but under certain light conditions you can't see it very well above the water, and color is more important to me above the water than below," he says. "I like to be able to see my line. That's more important to me than whether the fish can see it."
Why? One example he gave was that "there are times when you have to see where the line is, even on the cast. When the cast is going out, you may have to adjust where the line falls. And if you can't see your line, how will you know how to do that?"