This one was ugly. I made two bad mistakes that should teach us all a lesson. They both involve the mental side of fishing. I had high hopes just before the event. We were up north and we were fishing a smallmouth venue. How much better for me could it get? Well, a lot better as it turned out.
The first day of practice was a mess. I expected fast action and big fish. What I actually got was about seven keeper bites with maybe three of them good fish. I was mentally down when I got back to the dock. I checked with Ish [Monroe] and John [Crews] and they had a tough day, too. On top of that I heard a lot of grumbling from the other anglers.
And then I did the one thing I always say never to do — I let the negativity get to me. I started thinking that instead of catching 20 pound sacks I’d be lucky to catch a limit. My negative attitude started to affect my practice. The second day only made things worse. By Wednesday morning I was a mental wreck.
Late on Wednesday, about an hour before I had to leave, I hooked a really nice largemouth in a shallow, grassy bay, and I got a couple of other decent largemouth bites. I thought I was on something. I went back to the tournament meeting in a better mood.
On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, I went straight to my largemouth. When I didn’t get a bite I started paying more attention to my electronics. I soon realized that my largemouth were leftovers from the spawn. They were still sitting on their beds. That’s when my second mistake started. I decided to stay and fish for them.
I should have known better. In the first place I’m not that good at catching bedding bass. It’s not my thing. Nevertheless, I went forward with the idea that they were the best I had. I fished them the way I thought I should.
Time passes quickly. I thought I’d been there for an hour or so. When I looked at my watch I realized I’d been there a half-day. I had one fish in the boat. She might have gone 3 pounds. In a panic I went to a couple of smallmouth spots I’d marked earlier in practice. They didn’t produce much, either. I never recovered from that mistake.
The lesson here is to always think positive. With a tough practice I should have been thinking that I’d be the one angler who would catch 20 pounds. Instead, I let myself believe that I’d be the angler who struggled to catch a limit. That kind of thinking will kill you every time.
The other thing I did is let a couple of bites in practice throw me off my game plan. You can’t do that. Develop Pattern A, Pattern B, and Pattern C whenever possible, even if they aren’t very good ones. Then work them. Don’t fish to your weakness out of desperation and fear.