I'm writing this just after the end of our practice period on Lake Okeechobee. The St. Johns River is behind us and Okeechobee starts Thursday, so I'm between tournaments right now. Back-to-back events are a challenge, but it's great to get in the flow of competition again.
I finished 24th on the St. Johns, and I'm obviously hoping to have a better tournament here. On the third day of the St. Johns event, I just couldn't find the better fish I needed to move up. I weighed in a small limit and fell short of the final cut to 12. Still, I'm off to a decent start, and every notch higher in the standings that I can finish is going to be critical with our new points system.
Practice on Okeechobee has been interesting. The wind has been brutal so far. It muddies the water, and these Florida bass don't like that. Worse yet, it's been blowing from the worst possible direction — east — and it means there's almost nowhere you can go to get out of it. Weights could be down a little bit from what they might otherwise be because of the wind and mud. If the wind would lay down a little, I think the fishing could be outstanding.
Of course, these guys always find a way to catch 'em, and that'll be true here, too. You can't afford to go into an Elite Series tournament thinking it's going to be tough for everyone and that you can relax. That'll get you beat faster than anything.
When things are tough, you just have to work harder, work longer, figure something out and make good things happen. That's another place that the right attitude becomes so important. When the going gets tough....
An interesting thing about the wind and mud is that it's bunching the anglers together wherever they find clearer water. Since there seem to be just a few of these places, boats are likely to stack up there. You may not think that a lake covering half a million acres could fish "small," but that might be the case here at Okeechobee this week.
Anglers are known for wishful thinking. "If the wind had just blown a little bit" or "If the sun had just come out...." It's easy to think that way. There's definitely a part of me that wishes conditions had been reversed from this week to last week. If the wind had blown on the St. Johns, it would have been a different tournament and maybe a better one for me. If the wind would let up at Okeechobee, the water would be clear, and it might not fish so small. I'm not a fan of fishing in a big crowd.
The reality is that conditions aren't reversed; they are what they are and we don't always get what we want. The key is to live in that reality, not to dream about what you'd like things to be. The more you can focus on what you have, and the less you fantasize about what you wish you had, the better off you'll be in tournament fishing — and maybe in life, too.
Remember, it's all about the attitude!