The month is November, the off-season for Bassmaster Weekend Series tournaments, and I have time to reflect on my 2010 season. While I finished a respectable 13th place in Angler of the Year points, I now realize that I fished too thin. By that, I mean that I spread out my practice too much giving myself no chance to win any single event. I found many great places to fish, but never really established a good set of techniques or baits. This left with me with the challenge of making too many critical decisions on the water. Clogged with decisions, my mind was not open enough to allow me to adapt to the changes needed to keep catching fish.
I know why this happened. My professional training as an aquatic biologist motivated me to section the lakes I competed on into habitat types and potential fishing patterns. Trying to break down the ENTIRE water system was the problem, especially those with many interconnected lakes, like the Harris or Kissimmee chains. I never took the time to refine my techniques to fish clean and efficient. This also explains why my tournament record shows improvements on sequential days of multiple-day tournaments. As I refined my pattern in these events, I would focus on smaller and smaller areas and occasionally do well. The problem with this philosophy was that it left me behind my competitors and made for a poor game plan. I plan to change my thinking in 2011.
My work schedule only allows me enough time to practice two days before the tournament. In that time I plan to spend half the time finding groups of bass and the other half defining techniques and baits that work. I still find it difficult to hook fish on purpose during practice, believing like I do that every fish I hook is one less fish available to catch in the tournament. Maybe this is flawed, maybe it is not. Ask 10 anglers if they hook fish during practice and you are likely to get eight different answers. This mental game is some of the “art” that defines the sport of bass fishing.
In the upcoming 2011 season, the first four events are all during the bass spawning season, making the scouting part of my practice extremely important. This also makes the lakes fish small, causing anglers fish next to one another in the small number of prime spawning areas. Mental patience will be a virtue in dealing with heavily fished waters and finicky spawning bass. I hope to excel in this arena.