Looking at the Toyota Angler of the Year standings, and comparing the current list to the list that was posted last month, you may ask, “Where did Brandon Card go?”
Well, if you keep scrolling down the standings, you will see that I fell from 1st to 57th in a matter of three tournaments. You’re probably asking the same question that I have been asking myself the last several days, “How did that happen?” After days of thinking about it, I have found the answer: I second-guessed myself and did not trust my instincts.
Professional bass fishing is all about paying attention to details and knowing what your strengths are. At each of the last three Elite Series tournaments, I have made some bad decisions that cost me a lot of money and valuable AOY points. Here is a breakdown of those bad decisions.
Bull Shoals was the most frustrating of all the three tournaments because I had things figured out. If I had stuck to my game plan, I would have made the Day Three cut, moved way up the leaderboard, and pocketed $10,000. I found this area that had a good concentration of bass toward the back of a creek. I knew I could catch them fishing shallow, which is just how I like to fish. On the first morning, I found that the whole back half of the creek had been washed out, and the water was super muddy because of torrential rains the day before. It was too muddy to fish that day, but I thought the water might clear up for Day Two. So I left and threw a jerkbait on the main lake for the remainder of the day. I caught a bunch of fish and jumped off a few good ones. I finished the day in 60-something place and knew I needed much improvement on the second day.
On the second day, I ran to the back of that creek. To my liking, the water had cleared up, so I felt better. I started out catching a 3-pounder and continued to catch a decent fish about every hour. Even though the fishing was good, I decided to leave around 1:00 and go look for a big bedding fish in the clear water. I thought that I needed to catch a better quality fish. Unfortunately, I never saw any. Another bad decision! I left fish to find fish, and it bit me in the butt. I was only a few ounces from making the top 50 cut. I know if I would have stayed back in the creek, I would have culled a few more times and would have made it in.
West Point was one of the toughest tournaments I have ever fished. It seemed that most of the Elite anglers struggled there. We hit it during a postspawn funk. That being said, after practice, I knew where I could catch some decent fish. On the first day, I went to the Highlands Marina area (where the tournament was won) around 10 a.m., and when I got there I was shocked to see 10 or 15 other competitors there, including eventual winner Skeet Reece. I should have put the other boats out of my head and just fished in there knowing that was the best area on the lake. I don’t like fishing in crowds, so after an hour I left. Once again, I left fish to find fish, and never found any other good areas. My instincts were telling me to stay in Highlands, but for some crazy reason I left anyway.
Going into the Alabama River, I knew that I had no experience fishing flooded rivers fishing for spotted bass. I have only fished main river current for bass a few times in my life. Most of my river experience has been fishing backwater areas for largemouth. Like I said earlier, it is very important to know what your strengths are. On the first day of practice, I found a few backwater areas where I could catch better than average largemouth. That night I heard guys talk about how good the spotted bass were biting, so I started to second-guess myself again. I started thinking that if I spent enough time out there on the main river, that I could figure out how to catch the spotted bass. Wrong! I never figured them out. At that point, I had not put enough practice time into finding largemouth areas, so I rolled the dice during the competition days and once again fished the main river with little success. I should have done what Cliff Crochet did and committed to the largemouth bite. He finished 26th fishing exclusively for largemouth. I shouldn’t have let the dock talk influence me.
Please learn from my AOY plummet and do not second-guess yourself on the water. Your instincts come from experience and knowledge, and it is important to trust them. I have dug myself a little hole now, and better turn up the heat on the final three Elite tournaments. Failures just give me more drive to go toward my next success.
Say it loud … Yeah Bass!