As frustrating as the TroKar Quest on Bull Shoals was for me, I learned some valuable lessons.
I was not happy with my finish (45th). I was really looking forward to that event as I fished there years ago as a kid. I knew we’d catch a lot of fish and I really thought I’d do a lot better.
But I got caught in the “pre-conceived notion” trap.
The week before the tournament, I spent time at Table Rock working with sponsors. Table Rock is the lake just above Bull Shoals and I developed some solid patterns that produced quality fish.
There were smaller bass tight to the shore but the bigger ones were in the rocks slightly deeper. I was catching them on a Strike King Series 5 crankbait and a 5XD.
When I got to Bull Shoals and began practice, I found the same thing. I could easily catch 17 to 18 pounds in all sections of the lake fishing with that pattern.
But when the tournament came, I got very few 3-pound bites, and the ones that I did get, I lost. That’s very frustrating because, if I had added only 2 pounds more, I would have moved up into the 20s of the standings. That’s how crucial big bites were.
The lost fish was just one of those things. It happens. I didn’t do anything wrong.
But I had it in my head that I didn’t need to change tactics or find a better way to get the big ones to bite.
I had other baits and would try them momentarily, but I lived and died with the same crankbaits because I had been catching them so well at Table Rock.
I had it in my mind that it was the only way to catch those bass and get a big bite.
That experience proved to me how it important it is to me to avoid pre-fishing and dock talk.
For me to succeed, I have to go into the tournament practice with an open mind. That’s the formula that has worked well for me over the years, and I have to stick with it.
When I do that, I rely upon my own instincts and focus on the current conditions, not what happened yesterday.
There’s nothing wrong with going in with a few basic ideas about seasonal patterns, but I have to look at the lake and the water conditions and put together something that fits my style on that day.
It sounds cliché, but I have to let the fish tell me what to do. At Bull Shoals, I was relying on what I thought they were doing and not willing to make subtle adjustments.
We go to such good fisheries in the Elite events that it becomes very easy to get complacent from catching a lot of fish and not trying to figure out how to catch bigger ones.
If you want to win, you have to step up your attack and catch bigger bass. I’ll not make that mistake again.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!