Editor's Note: VanDam entered Day Three of competition in 36th place.
As I write this, I'm mired in 61st place at the Alabama Charge on Pickwick Lake after Day One. It's been awhile since I got off to such a horrible start, and I'm not happy about it.
I told that to roommate Scott Rook, and he rolled his eyes. He's farther back and having a bad year. Our other roomie, Davy Hite, is second after finishing 83rd at the last event on the St. John's River in Florida.
But that's what is so humbling about this sport. Your success can turn on a dime. People just don't realize how difficult it is to consistently finish among the leaders.
The highs are high, but the lows are terribly low.
You can't get to thinking you're going to catch them every day because there are things that happen beyond your control.
Make one bad decision — like where you're going to start a tournament — and you spend the rest of the day behind the eight-ball.
Frankly, I didn't have a good practice, but I've had tournaments where a bad practice turned into a great tournament. I caught a ton of fish in the 2- to 2 1/2- pound size, but no big ones.
In an event like this, against these guys, you better find the big fish.
There have been a few factors that messed me up. I don't have a lot of experience on Pickwick since I've always locked through to Wilson Lake on other events I've fished here. But, this week, the Wilson Lock is under repair, and we have to stay down here.
That wouldn't be a problem, except we had 20- to 40-mph winds throughout our three days of practice which made it difficult to hold on the ledges and offshore areas I wanted to check out. There's still time for me to turn this around, but the first day is critical when the leaders smacked them pretty good, and I didn't.
I should have had a better day the first day. I've been on a roll since the Classic, landing just about everything that bit my bait. I had been fishing flawlessly, yet Wednesday was a different story, and things didn't go my way.
During one stretch, I lost five fish on three different baits, including a spinnerbait on which I had an extra hook!
I didn't do anything wrong, either. After a quick assessment of my rod, reel, line and lure, I realized that there was not one thing I needed to change. It's just that the odds caught up to me, and I know it will turn back around. It's the nature of the beast, and you have to fight through it. It's going to get better.
I'm catching a lot of fish shallow, but I need more quality bites to advance, so I need to bear down more. I've done it before and have full confidence in what I'm doing.
Remember, it's all about the attitude.