I finished the Wheeler Lake event a few days ago and am I ever disappointed. There's no way I shouldn't have won that tournament. I really thought I was in the driver's seat. What's so frustrating about it is that opportunities like that don't come along very often. You have to take advantage of them when they do come along. I can't believe I finished second.
Still, there's a silver lining in it all. Jeremy (Starks) is a fine angler, and I know from personal experience what your first Elite Series tournament win means and what it'll do for your career. At least he'll get something good out of it.
Anyway, I thought we might take advantage of this time by looking at strategies for fishing multiday tournaments. I'm not necessarily talking about catching more bass every day. Most of our weights drop off as a tournament progresses. I'm talking about moving up in the standings.
This is a competitive sport. It's not how much weight you weigh in that matters. It's how much weight you weigh in compared to the other anglers.
Here are a few of my thoughts on how to move up, rather than down, as a tournament progresses. I hope they help your performance in your next tournament.
1. Try to cover a lot of water in practice, but don't try to learn everything about a spot. Catch a bass or two off a spot and wait until the tournament to see what else it might offer.
It's not necessary to know every twist and turn in a channel to use it during competition. All you need to do is find it, know there are bass on it, mark it and then return during the tournament to fish it thoroughly.
Do your learning during the tournament. You'll be surprised at how much better you'll do when all is said and done.
2. While you're covering water try to develop several patterns. Don't rely on just one lure or technique to win an event. Things change. What if the weather changes (more on that below) or maybe another angler camps on your spot? You need options.
You don't hear much about pattern fishing nowadays, but it's as important as ever. On big water there may be a 100 points with rock on them in 10 feet of water. If you can establish that pattern in practice then you can fish fresh water every day during the tournament. You don't need to sit on one spot, throwing the same lure, hoping for the best.
3. Always watch the weather and try to fish towards it rather than away from it. By that I mean don't fish like it was yesterday. Things change and you need to be ready to adapt to those changes. You can't do that unless you have some idea of what the weather will be like tomorrow.
Having lots of spots and several patterns helps with this. You can adjust quickly to a change in sunlight, wind direction or temperature if you have several places to fish and several lures from which to choose. But, if you only have one spot or one lure you're stuck. Being stuck is something no competitive angler can afford.
4. Don't catch your fish in practice. Remember, this is tournament fishing, not recreational fishing. Save your fish for the tournament. Cut the hooks off your lures, or remove them entirely, and don't ever set a hook. If you don't stick him in practice, chances are he'll be there on tournament day.
This is especially important in one day tournaments. There's no time for the fish to recover. When you practice, just catch one fish — never more than two — from a spot and immediately move on. Get out of there! Don't exhaust your bass in practice.
5. Keep your mental attitude in shape. There's no such thing as a slump and there's no such thing as luck. Those are excuses, not reasons.
Your performance is on you. Understand that your efforts and decisions create a result. Stay positive; accept responsibility for your decisions; learn from them. That's the only way you'll get better.