Monday, November 15, 2010

Fishing Too Thin

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. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Highs and Lows

Six words that I hate: " you did not make the cut."  I ended up 1.5 lbs short of qualifing for the national championship. A three pound bass that broke my line in the last 10 minutes of the 2day tournament cost me the championship. At this level of competition you can't afford to lose fish like I did.

Looking back, I know what adjustments I should have made when the Army Corp raised the water level. My fish simply dropped out deeper to the main lake. Instead of moving up with the water the bass began feeding on the deepest edges of hydrilla. Some anglers were able to move shallow with the fish and catch them on Spro Frogs.  I wasn't that fortunate.  In my fishing areas the flats were so large the fish simply spreadout to the point that I wasn't able to get back far enough to reach them.

Live and learn...

My next season begins January 22, 2011.  I'll move forward and try harder next year. Thanks to everyone who cheered me on!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gaining Knowledge

Science has shown that humans only utilize a small portion of their brain's power. Learning is something that I believe keeps us young, active, and provides personal worth. Everyone learns something every day. I make that bold statement with true convection that you learn even without trying. Read a book, watch TV, or talk to a friend and you will find out something that you did not know the day before.

In the world of tournament bass fishing boat captains need to keep an open mind and learn from their non-boat partners. When a non-boater catches a huge fish during an event it mentally kills us boaters, but I try to overcome my loss by focusing on learning the technique they used. While a tournament is not truly a team event, the day's non-boat partner is still a partner, and I find it easier to welcome them in my boat and share with them my day's plan. I can't remember an event in my 24 years of tournaments where I didn't learn something at the end of the day. Next time you hit the water, do what I do and make learning your goal, not a by-product of your trip.

Pre-tournament Prep

Well, here it is, one day before I need to head out and travel 600 miles to this year's Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Regional Championship.  I've spent the last month studying maps, reviewing aerial photographs, and researching the latest water data. I still find it hard to sleep before an event even after 24 years of amateur-level tournament fishing.  I don't think the insomnia goes away when you become a pro, if anything, it probably gets worse and you learn to keep going on less sleep.

I'm really excited about getting on Lake Seminole and putting in some time on the water. Last week's Bassmaster Open tournament was a tough event and the added fishing pressure of our anglers practicing is only going to make fishing tougher.  Even though flipping was the winning pattern for Trevor Fitzgerald my tournament may just be won with a finesse technique. Either way, I can't wait to get on the lake and try my hand at figuring out the bass.  It seems to me that once an angler catches fish on purpose with a good pattern, they never give up trying, even if they get skunk more days than not. 

This blogging stuff is new to me so I hope I express my thoughts in a way that keeps you interested in returing. I'll try sending updates during my championship if we have cell service in the area.  Many places do not.