Fishing on the Bassmaster Elite Series is a tremendous learning experience. I have learned so much in just one year. The most important thing that I have learned is that I have to fish my strengths to be successful. By fishing with my strengths, I mean that when I was doing what I like to do and was comfortable doing it I was fishing better.
I can look back on this season and see why certain tournaments were more successful than others. We travel all over the place and go to unfamiliar bodies of water and have to find fish in a short period of time. The best way I do this is to utilize techniques that I am familiar with. There are always several different ways of catching bass, and I have to figure out which pattern best suits me. I was not nearly as successful when I tried to do something way out of my comfort zone this year.
Techniques that best suit me are power fishing with crankbaits, flipping and sight fishing. In my most successful tournaments this year, I utilized these techniques and felt right at home. During my worst tournament of the year, the Green Bay Challenge, I spent the entire tournament out of my comfort zone fishing a drop shot. I got caught up in the talk of Great Lakes smallmouth fishing and fished a drop shot in deep water most of the time. I got so narrow-minded that I completely missed a strong sight fishing bite and a good river bite with shallow crankbaits that many of the high finishers utilized. Tommy Biffle made it into the Top 10 fishing in the river in really shallow water, which is something that I love doing.
The last tournament on Oneida Lake was a great example of fishing your strengths. I had a pretty tough practice. I tried fishing for largemouth and smallmouth and really never got dialed into a good pattern. On the first day of competition, I made a really good decision and dedicated the day to flipping shallow water for largemouths (one of my strengths). I caught 10 keepers and culled up to 13 pounds. The second day was much slower, and I took a gamble that came back to haunt me.
Instead of staying shallow the entire day and fishing my strengths, I took two hours of my day and tried to catch smallmouth out deep. Basically, the same thing I did at Green Bay. Pretty stupid considering I caught two limits the day before fishing in shallow water. I finished the day with four largemouth around 10 pounds; I missed the cut by 1 1/2 pounds. I would do anything to have those two hours back, because I know I could have at least caught one more largemouth; I would have made the Day Three cut and pocketed another 10 grand.
I’m not second guessing my decision to take a gamble and do something different; I just should have gambled by moving locations and continued to fish my strengths by flipping for largemouth. I learned from my mistakes this year, and I think my decision making next season will be much better.
Dare to fail.