I had high expectations for myself coming into my first season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but was quickly humbled after failing to make a top 50 cut in each of the first five tournaments. I did my best to rebound the second half salvaging a 28th place finish at the Mississippi River following a fast day one start, and a season high 9th place finish at the St. Lawrence River, but it wasn’t enough not to feel embarrassed and disappointed with my overall performance.
My dad gave me a piece of advice at a young age that I’ll never forget. He said, “Don’t ever count on anything being handed to you. You have to work hard for everything you want in life.” I can tell you it takes hard work to compete on the Elite Series, and there’s no guarantee hard work will win a tournament, earn a check, or translate into a prosperous career. However, working hard is the only way I’ve ever succeeded at anything, so it’s how I go about my business. I know if I don’t work hard I’ll have zero chance at reaching my potential. Sure, I’ve tasted success. Winning the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup comes to mind, but I don’t consider myself as successful as I could be — not even close. That’s why the Cup stays tucked away in my closet. It’s not that I’m not proud of it, because I am, but keeping the Cup out of sight helps me stay hungry — hungry to achieve a level of success I haven’t yet tasted.
I’m a big believer in figuring out what works best for you, whether it be experimenting with eating different foods to determine which ones make you feel and look your best, or the daily routine and habits you create to be the most efficient and productive person you can be. Everyone is different. What may work for some may not work for others. Compare Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year winner Aaron Martens to runner up Edwin Evers. Aaron always seems to catch them with small plastics and a spinning rod in his hand, even on traditional power fishing venues like the Mississippi River, while Edwin is more of a typical power fisherman, relying on jigs and reaction baits. Aaron and Edwin employ two drastically different approaches, yet finished one and two in AOY points. This proves there’s no one right way to go about tournament fishing, but rather it’s a process of figuring out what gives you the most confidence and ultimately the best results.
It takes time on the water to become a better angler. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, he says you need 10,000 hours in a subject to be a phenom. “To be so freakishly awesome, to be such a standout among your peers, that sometimes our first name is enough to tell people who you are: Peyton. Tiger. Venus. Kobe. Oprah.” Reaching 10,000 hours on the water would require fishing 150 days per year, seven hours per day, for almost 10 years. That’s a considerable amount of time, but certainly not out of the ordinary for some full-time tournament anglers. So why aren’t there more anglers who fit the phenom category? I think in order to be a fishing phenom (Kevin and Skeet immediately come to mind) it takes much more than just time on the water. It takes thought, experimentation, imagination, confidence, and courage (to name a few) to outperform everyone else at the highest competitive level.