The highs and lows of bass fishing are very steep and very deep. As fisherman, we get on rolls and we get in slumps. The difficulty comes when you need to break a slump and get back on a roll.
The nature of any competitive event comes with highs and lows, winners and losers, but in bass fishing this is compounded by the financial dependence we have on success. For that reason, I think there are very few sports that have as much pressure on the participants to succeed as professional bass fishing.
The amount of dependence on success varies with each individual angler, but all of us rely on it at least partially. This financial reliance adds heavily to the pressure and makes slumps even tougher to correct than they might be for athletes in other sports. This is mostly because athletes in most other sports know they are getting a paycheck regardless of the outcome of their events.
So much of bass fishing is mental. You see it when guys get on a roll; they are hard to beat. In 2012, I had a season like that. It went really well and it seemed that I could do little wrong. While 2013 wasn't as great as 2012, it was still a good year for me. This year I've been in a little bit of a slump. I have had some average tournaments and that's keeping me average in the points race.
With every tournament that I have an average finish, it adds to the pressure for the remaining tournaments. Don't get me wrong — I like pressure. Most of the anglers on tour enjoy the pressure of competition.
Pressure makes us make decisions and do things we won't typically do in search of a positive outcome. My blog a few weeks ago was a perfect example. I discussed how I did exactly what I tell people not to do — I tried to find fish in too many areas. I think I did that mostly because of the pressure of not only being the defending champion on Toledo Bend, but the pressure to turn my season in a more positive direction and move up in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. I was able to do that even though I made decisions that in hindsight might have hurt me.
Pressure may not always culminate in something as easily seen as that decision, but it is definitely a factor in every decision we make on the water. And sometimes the difference between making a Top 12 cut and missing a Top 50 cut is based on a single small decision.
I am not much of a golfer, but I know golfers refer to missing multiple short putts as getting "the yips." Much like the yips in golf, in bass fishing bad decisions seem to be contagious. When you make one you seem to make many more. Also like the yips, it's 100 percent mental. It's hard to make a good decision when you're always wondering if it is the right decision. On the flip-side, when you're making good decisions and fishing well, you have confidence and you never wonder if you're making the right decision — you just make a decision and do it.
At this point in the blog I'd love to offer you a easy solution to getting out of a slump, but there is no easy solution. I can offer two things that might help if you find yourself in a slump. First, continue to fish hard and try to not over-think decisions. Make decisions based on the natural instinct you've developed over your years of fishing. Lastly, it can also help to go fun fishing, without the pressure of a tournament. Just have some fun and get back in the groove of catching fish.
These are the things I am going to try in an effort to climb up in the Angler of the Year standings and qualify for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.