If you're a regular reader of my tournament diary, you know all about my tournament fishing philosophy: One cast at a time; one fish at a time; one day at a time; one tournament at a time.
Well, today I violated that philosophy and it cost me. I'll tell you what happened in hopes that you can learn from my mistakes -- that's right ... more than one.
I had a small limit and knew I was right around the bubble for making the cut to fish Saturday, so I was trying to upgrade my catch.
The area I was fishing had some standing timber, and a school of fish popped up off a point. When I saw them, I moved to put myself in a boat lane through the timber so I could make a long cast to the schooling fish. At this point, I didn't know if they were largemouths or white bass or whatever.
I dropped my Power Poles, and on my first cast I caught a 13-inch largemouth. They were the right species! After that, I was catching them cast after cast for a little while, but they weren't very big.
Finally, a better fish smoked my topwater bait. She weighed about 4 1/2 pounds and would have easily put me in the cut to fish Saturday ... if I hadn't made a very big mistake.
I got greedy.
I knew that fish would put me in the cut, but instead of focusing on the bass on the end of my line, lifting my Power Poles and going to the fish -- thereby getting myself in a better position to land the fish -- I got worried about spooking the rest of the school.
So, I stayed right where I was and tried to pull the fish to me through the timber. Unfortunately, she hung me up on a stump and pulled off.
What makes that mistake even worse is that I sat there for another 20 minutes and did it again on another 4 1/2 pounder.
Knowing how important that fish first 4 1/2 pounder was, I was still greedy, thinking about that school and how I was going to stay there and catch 18 or 20 pounds of fish.
It cost me making the cut and getting a check.
If I had just focused on the fish on the end of my line and stuck to my one fish at a time philosophy, I would have made the cut and been fishing on Saturday.
I've beat myself up about that all afternoon.
I'm also frustrated because I had an opportunity here to make a big jump up in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings because of the extreme weather we've had. Those kinds of conditions make big improvements possible because a lot of anglers will fail to make the necessary adjustments to stay on the fish.
In the past, when there were severe weather changes, I always prided myself on being able to make those adjustments. I needed to make them here. You don't get many chances to make up ground against Elite Series anglers; they're just too good for that.
The bottom line is that I failed to heed my own philosophy and take things one fish at a time. I got greedy and on Saturday I'll be working for my sponsors in the booths at the weigh-in instead of fishing. It's a lesson learned -- hopefully not just for me, but for everyone reading this.
Now we're halfway through the Elite season, and I've gotten off to a really slow start. That's not like me. I know that I've got to step it up in these next four events.
I've got to stay focused and work my way up in the standings. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. It's going to be a challenge. I've got to make the second half a whole lot better than the first.