Typically, after a tournament I have time to reflect back on the event while I make the long drive home. The Florida Bass Nation State Championship was no different.
As I balance a full-time career with a family life, I understand that am not able to practice the number of days as my competition. To me that is not a handicap, but a fact that I build my mental strength on.
Maintaining a balance with a career and family of five has taught me how to switch my mental focus when I get on the water. It forces me to do more research, be more organized and efficient with my time, and to decipher the mood of the bass quicker. In a nutshell, it forces me to think like an Elite pro.
My goal in the state championship was to focus on the patterns and areas which I had located bass during a weekend practice day in September. During that trip, I scouted the vegetation and habitats, documented the water conditions, and even caught some nice bass up to seven pounds.
The first practice day of the state championship was scheduled the day of Halloween. I chose to spend that day at home with my youngest daughter who went trick-or-treating as a squirrel.
I woke at three o’clock Friday morning and drove down to Clewiston to begin fishing Lake Okeechobee. Little had changed on the lake so I ran new water to open my mind and get back in tune with what the bass were doing. Found bass doing the same thing they did a month earlier. I even located to two new populations of bass closer to the launch site.
On the first morning of the two-day tournament I was drawn out as boat 21 from the 110 boat field. My plan was to run my best areas first and fall back on the new areas I located on Friday if I had to. A two-hour fog delay ended my chance of getting an early morning feeding bite. When we were finally able to go, I didn’t reach my first fishing area until 10:30am.
A strong southwest wind had moved out the fog and moved the bass about 50 yards from where I had found them a month earlier. My first thirty pitches produced nearly twenty bass – but all of them were small 14-inch fish. The rest of the day I spent flipping and pitching targets all over the lake. At the end of day 1 I never caught a bass over two pounds and ended with limit of bass weighing nearly seven pounds, good for 48th place.
I was disappointed in my first day outcome, but I knew my performance was strong. Had I caught just a few of the four pound bass I flipped up in practice I would have been in the 13 pound range, and in the top-10 standings of day one. I was so close to meeting my goal.
A weather front hit on day two and presented us with steady 10-15mph winds out of the northeast. For anyone that has boated on the second largest lake contained within the United States, Lake Okeechobee is extremely rough and hazardous on windy days. It took me an extra 30 minutes to safely run around the lake in the wind-protected rim ditch along the Herbert Hoover Dike.
On the second day, my bass had again moved another 100 yards away but were tightly bunched up. I caught nearly a ten pound limit in about as many minutes. I worked hard the rest of the day to re-locate larger bass and again failed to connect. My second day limit weighed just under ten pounds and gave me a two-day total of 16.61lbs.
In the end I maintained a feeling that my performance was strong. I believed that if a few of the three and four pound bass bit, I would have made the top ten and the State Team.
I leave Okeechobee with a feeling of accomplishment in my mental game and feeling of failure in my ability to quickly locate quality bass within a single day of practice.
The Bassmaster Southern Open tour always provide me three days of practice to locate bass. Speaking of the Southern Opens, if I had weighed in 16.61lbs in the 2010 Southern Open on Lake Okeechobee, I would have placed 24th and earned a good pay check.
I am coming to understand that one day of practice is not enough to be competitive. With limited vacation time on the books I cannot help but wonder, is two days of practice enough??
Until next blog post, “tight lines”,