By Dave Mercer
from Issue 27-6
It’s hard to believe it but here we are again, time for the Power Boating Canada Test Issue. I have to be honest, before we go much further just the simple word “test” runs chills up my spine. I have basically spent the majority of my life avoiding tests. But thankfully this isn’t that kind of test.
This test actually comes with all the answers (thanks to the great writers here at Power Boating Canada), which, if you ask me makes the whole test experience a lot more pleasurable.  Tests and fishing basically just don’t go hand in hand. Or should I say, they haven’t gone hand in hand until now.  After reading this, I’m hoping that will all change. Don’t worry – I’m not going to ask you to write an essay or even give you a multiple choice test.  This test is going to be easy. This year, I want you to test yourself to become a better angler.
It sounds simple but when you think about it, it is something that very few of us do. Fishing seems to be one of the very few activities that most participants go out and take part in without actually investing much time or thought into how to become successful at it. Let’s compare golf for a minute. Long before more golfers ever hit the links, they probably try their hand at mini-putt and then progress to the driving range. The driving range – what a great idea! An area where golfers go to learn to hit the ball better! If you ask me, the driving range is a great idea. But have you every heard of a casting range? Nope! Because there is no such thing. Us anglers blindly go out without any preparation, practice or thought, and rely on one thing; one little four-letter word…L U C K!! An angler relying on luck is basically the equivalent of a golfer wildly swinging at the ball and hoping that the wind blows it in the hole. Forget the word ‘luck’ and stop trying to get lucky because that really has to do with a whole other topic.
Turn the odds in your favour by testing yourself to become a better angler.  The first thing I want you to do is set up a casting range. Believe it or not, the worst place to learn to cast or even to practice to cast is on the water.  When you’re on the water you are going to be focusing on trying to catch fish. For this test, I want you solely focused on becoming a more proficient and skilled caster.  The perfect spot to set up a casting range is just about anywhere that you have space – your local park, your backyard, or even your driveway. All you need is your rod and reel, a practice plug or lure with no hooks and some targets. As far as targets go, they really don’t need to be anything fancy. You can use some plastic cups, or an old Frisbee will do just fine. Once you set up the targets its time to hit the casting range. No different than our buddy the golfer, you should line up targets at different distances and go to town!
Before taking this test many anglers fancy themselves pretty skilled at the art of casting. But once they actually force themselves to get a lure to land right in the center of an eight-inch target, their opinion quickly changes.
On the water many of us achieve the ability to cast a long distance but very rarely do we develop the kind of pin-point accuracy that a little time in the casting range will help us achieve. Think of the last time you were on the water and out of the corner of your eye, you saw a fish surface. The smart thing to do is to cast to it. The problem is often times if you are four feet away, you might as well be forty feet away. A few hours in the casting range will cut that four feet down to four inches which ultimately, will equal a few more fish. If you ask me, that’s a test worth studying – and practicing – for.