I just came off my win on Lake Jordan. I didn't know a thing about the lake or how to fish it, but I won anyway. Here's how I put it all together and what I think we can all take away from those two days.
First, who cares if you have or haven't fished a lake before? It's not that big a deal. Get yourself a handful of maps, take a close look at the calendar and then put a plan together.
I did that with Jordan, and it worked out just fine. Even though it was September, I knew Jordan was in the South so the water would be hot. Basically, it's still summer down there. I knew I had to find three things to be successful — deeper water, thick cover or areas with current. That's summer bass fishing.
Where would I find them? I started with my maps — before I ever saw the lake — by eliminating water, while, at the same time, highlighting spots I needed to take a closer look at. I know there's deep water near the dam, that there's a canal in the same area which will move water. That's the place to start.
The only other thing I needed was thick cover. When I arrived I spent some of my time looking around. Soon enough I had the third piece to my summertime bass puzzle — the docks.
That's exactly how I developed my strategy for the tournament. After that, I used the rest of my practice to refine and fine-tune everything. But, and this is the key, much of my work was done before I ever got into my truck and headed south.
Secondly, and this is also key, I fished to win. If you're going to end up second, you may as well be last.
That's a lot easier to say than it is to do. As competitive fishermen we're programmed from early in our careers to be consistent. We want to make our club championship; we want to be the club angler of the year. It's like consistency is the Holy Grail of fishing.
It's not much different at the Elite level. We all launch our boats thinking about the Bassmaster Classic and the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. That's the way we are taught to think. After awhile, it's like it's a part of us.
But it shouldn't be. Who wants to be second in any tournament? That's wrong, man, just wrong. You want to be first. You want to be the winner. Being consistently second is never good enough. You have to go for it. If you aren't willing to suffer humiliation at the scales, you aren't thinking like you should.
To be honest, I know it's easier for me to say that than it is for a lot of guys. I have a Bassmaster Classic trophy and a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy on my mantel at home. I've won the big ones. I don't have to prove I can fish.
Still, your mindset is critical. I didn't go looking for a limit of bass on Jordan. I went looking for a limit of bass that were big enough to get me the win. Why not? I went into that tournament in 11th place in the point standings. Everybody — but me — thought I was just showing up. I knew better. I was there to try to win.
That doesn't mean it'll always happen. It won't. You'll come to the scales with one scrawny bass from time to time. I know. It's happened to me more than once. I've suffered my share of disappointments over the years. But I know that if I don't go for the win I'll never get it.
Lately I've been thinking that I should ignore consistency even during the regular season. Maybe I should go for broke in every tournament — win big or lose big, no in-between. Let the chips fall where they may. The worst that can happen is killer disappointment. The best is a year like no other. A year like no other sounds good to me.
Next week we'll talk about the second tournament in the Berkley PowerBait Trophy Chase, and I'll give you some information about my upcoming wedding.