Where Science Meets Muse

Are You Losing Your Hooks? – Lessons on Innovation from Fishing

Posted by Plish on July 22, 2009


The other day I went out on the lake to fish and had my bead on an extremely weedy corner of the lake.  I made up my mind I would venture directly into the middle of the pack of weeds, but in order to do so, I would need to forgo my motor and row my way there.

As I stepped into the boat I noticed two other fisherman on the outer fringe of the weeds slowly drifting towards me.  Judging by the size of their boat and the engine/motor combo, I figured they weren’t going to venture into the weeds but instead were going to stay on the fringes.  Call it a hunch.

I rowed quickly but quietly into the midst of the weeds and tied on a weedless floating frog and began fishing.

Five minutes later I had my first hit but missed the fish.  Fishing rules say that when you miss a fish in a spot on one type of lure switch lures and go back.  I ignored it and went back to the same spot with the same lure on the next cast…BAM! Largemouth bass number one, about 2.5 to 3 pounds. 

About ten minutes later I cast to a small opening between some weeds.  It barely touched the surface when a small explosion of water sucked my lure under.  Bass number two, 3 to 3.5 pounds.fishn2

Five minutes after that I placed a cast only ten feet from where I hooked the last one but in another open pocket.  Pause for about half a minute….twitch…SPLASH and a dive into the thickest part of the weeds.  But I kept the line taut and reeled it in.  Bass number three, 3.5 to 4 pounds.fish1

“What are you using over there?” I heard from the tandem still fishing not 40 feet away but at the fringe of the choking weed bed.

“Floating Weedless Frog Lure,” I responded.

“That’s what we have…”

Another 10 minutes passed and evening fell quickly; they left and I decided to head back home as well.  A successful day fishing indeed…

So what does this have to do with innovation?

I left multiple clues within the story but I’ll get right to the points.

Are you losing lures?  In other words, are you fishing in the tangle of wood and weeds that leads to the inevitable loss of hooks and lures.  When I was younger I borrowed a couple of my uncle’s favorite lures for a camping trip to Minnesota with my family.  When we got back home I had to tell my uncle that I had lost them all on various pieces of timber and in weeds while fishing.  He simply responded, “If you’re not losing lures you’re not going where the fish are.”   Are you venturing into the “thick of it” to get the job done? If so, there should be no punishment, no repercussions for going after the big one.

If you’re going to innovate you will fail, you will lose stuff that you can’t get back.  You’ll learn, you’ll move on, and you will ultimately succeed. 

Go where others don’t want to go.  When you go where others don’t go you become a trailblazer!  I went into the weeds and risked losing lures.  I caught multiple fish.  Those other guys caught nothing. 

Think like a fish when fishing – Go where the fish will go based upon their needs for food, shelter, and reproduction.  Think like your customers.  But don’t think you think like your customers – know your customers, know their problems inside and out.

Know the rules so you can ignore them – People give rules of thumb for fishing but sometimes it’s better to just stick with your assessment of the environment, the problems at hand, your talent and break the rules.

Patience- Not every cast lands a fish nor should every innovation effort result in huge returns. However, we should learn on every cast.

Watch the competition – Those others guys weren’t equipped to go into the weeds.  I was able to fish without competition from them. (This is kind of like a  Blue Ocean Strategy but here it’s a “Weedy Waters Strategy”) .  Even after I told them what I was using they were unsuccessful because catching fish is about more than just lures.

Use weedless hooks when fishing in the weeds – Don’t be foolish.  Be prepared and use the best tools available for the situation. 

Be prepared to sweat – Going into the weedy areas isn’t easy; weeds cling to oars and the boat and you’ll work up a sweat in the weeds.  Be prepared to work when getting where you want to be.

Sometimes low-tech is best – Super thick weeds can’t be entered with stealth using  gas-powered, high horsepower engines, or even with electric trolling motors.  You need to get down and dirty and go low-tech sometimes to get into and out of sticky, convoluted situations.  Find low-tech ways of testing, of developing.  You might work a little harder, you might have to think a little more, but in the end you’ll get results quicker. 

Stealth Helps – Big grinding motors/engines in weed pads are not stealthy.  If you’re going where your customers are, where the problems are, it’s better if you’re incognito – at least as much as possible. 

Enjoy the Rewards! – You’ve done everything right, you’ve caught the big ones and few smaller ones….CELEBRATE!


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