PALATKA, Fla. --I'd like to start by apologizing to those of you who were expecting to read about my practice and the first couple of days of competition. Those entries didn't get done this week because of a really long and arduous practice schedule (sunup to sundown), but I plan to be more thorough and regular with these pieces in the future. It seems that quite a few folks are enjoying this series and maybe even learning a thing or two along the way.
Whenever you fish a bass tournament, there are lots of "what ifs?" What if I go up the lake versus down the lake? What if I stick to flippin' and pitchin' rather than go dropshotting? What if I go sight fishing rather than look for pre- and postspawn bass offshore?
You have to make critical decisions and that last "what if" got me this week.
I committed myself to go sight fishing and isolated myself to Rodman Reservoir. I wanted to immerse myself in that body of water and fully commit to that technique. I felt that if I did that, I could figure out that group of bass and have a pretty good tournament. I didn't feel that I was going to win the tournament that way, but I thought I could avoid disaster and have a solid performance.
That may sound defeatist to some of you. You might have expected me to say that I was going all out for the win. But, that's not the way I look at it. I don't let myself get wrapped up in the gotta win, gotta win, gotta win mentality. My motto is "One fish at a time; one day at a time; one tournament at a time; one season at a time."
I'm going to urge you right now to adopt that as your motto, too. It'll help you become a better tournament angler.
That motto doesn't mean I'm not trying to win. I am! It just means that I'm taking it step by step and working toward the bigger goal with each small step. You can't win a tournament unless you put yourself in position to win on the final day. And you won't be in position to win unless you have a good Day One and Day Two and Day Three.
You have to maximize each day on the water, each hour of the day and each presentation. You have to take what the water and the bass are giving you. To try to do more than that is to doom yourself to failure.
It's a little like an offensive coordinator in a football game. Every play might be "designed" to score a touchdown, but realistically it's being run to get a first down, lull the defensive secondary into thinking they know what's coming or getting the linebackers to respect the run so you can set up a pass.
Here on the St. Johns, I committed to sight fishing in Rodman and felt good about that. My friend Shaw Grigsby has taught me a lot about sight fishing. He's the best in the world and has given me a lot of confidence in my own technique. I felt I could be very respectable here this week and make a cut or two.
As it turns out, I had a pretty good tournament. I finished 23rd with 38 pounds, 2 ounces. It was well off the lead, but I picked up valuable Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points and have put myself in decent position for the season.
What's more, it's only the second tournament of an eight tournament season, and I've avoided any really bad performances. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
As for what happened out on the water, my bass were coming into the shallows and beds late each day. It meant that I had to get the most out of just a few hours at the end of each competition round. Things were tough early.
A 5 pounder that I missed in the second round would have made a big difference and moved me up several places, but a lot of guys have stories like that this week.
I enjoy sight fishing. There's nothing quite like looking at the bass you're trying to catch, but it has one limitation. You can only weigh what you're fishing for there's no greater top-end potential. If the best five you see out there weight 20 pounds, that's the best you're going to do. And, if you can't get all of them to bite, you won't even do that well.
As a tournament angler, I've learned that I need to fish for the bass that I understand. If I don't feel I understand them why they're where they are and what they're doing I'm probably not giving myself the best chance to succeed.
Think about that the next time you're preparing for a tournament day.
And remember: "One fish at a time; one day at a time; one tournament at a time; one season at a time."