Last year wasn’t my best year, not by any definition. As a result I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as I looked at highways through my windshield driving from one place to another. Some of what I thought about might be helpful to you no matter what kind of year you had in 2018.
We’ll get the good out of the way first. That doesn’t require much thought. If you won a tournament, finished high or even if you were out fun fishing and caught a bunch of good ones, you must have done things right. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, but it does mean you’ll have a smile on your face. A lot of thought isn’t necessary.
It’s the tough ones that haunt you.
In my case I had execution problems in 2018. Fish after fish got loose on me, fish that I’ve caught a thousand times before. And so I spend a lot of my windshield time thinking about rods, reels, line and hooks. It’s the little things that matter. Every knot has to be perfect. Every hook has to be razor sharp. Every rod and reel has to be in perfect working order. And even when everything like that’s good you have to detect the bites you get and set the hook properly.
That’s the same with all anglers regardless of where they fish or what stage they’re at in their career or hobby. Broken tackle or a bad hookset means that a fish you should have brought to the boat will swim away — laughing at your frustration.
Another thing is the decision making process. Beware of dock talk. It’ll get you in trouble more often than it will help you. It isn’t that all the guys are lying to you. It’s that you have to fish the places that make you comfortable and with the lures and techniques that you know will get the job done.
I made that mistake last year, too. In at least a couple of events I didn’t fish where I knew I should be fishing. I spent too much time listening to the other guys and second-guessing myself.
If you have any experience at all, you know when you caught your bass, where you caught them and what the good places were like. Don’t ever be afraid to trust your gut and never discount your past experiences.
Fishing new water with new techniques and lures may be a lot of fun, but it is rarely the way to put a massive sack of bass in your livewell. More often that not fishing waters you know and the way you know will be a better option.
My final thought about all of this is that you have to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s important not to criticize everything you’ve done. Sometimes you do things right and the bass just don’t bite. There’s no fault involved. It just happens.
But there are other times when a bad day, a bad tournament or a bad year is your fault. If you can’t cast without backlashing, you need to practice. If your knots are breaking, you need to learn how to tie them properly. If you’re fishing a spot that produced in April but it’s July, you need to make better choices.
Thinkin’ through your windshield — or time in your garage while you’re listening to the ballgame — is important and will help you improve as an angler, but only if you do it right.