Dealing with a slump

Slumps are a part of life for anyone who fishes competitively. Going through one can be frustrating but if you take a positive approach to what’s happening you can make the best of one. In simple terms that means identifying the problem, correcting it if you can, keeping your inner confidence up and working hard.

I’ll be frank. My career is an example of what I’m talking about. I’ve had a lot of success and won my share of honors. But, I’ve also had some tough years and watched the Bassmaster Classic from the Expo floor more times than I’d care to admit.

In my case the cause has often been physical. Over the past 26 years I’ve had a number of problems I’ve had to deal with. This year I suffered through a neck injury. By the time you read this I will have had three vertebras fused in my neck. There wasn’t a day this year that I didn’t hurt.

There wasn’t much I could do about how I felt but at least I knew what was causing my problems. I was aware that I didn’t feel well and that I wasn’t making good decisions. I was also aware that one bad decision leads to another. Because I knew what the problem was I was able to control the situation — sometimes. That’s an example of what I mean by identifying the problem.

If it’s physical do the best you can with your ailment. If it’s financial, personal or work related try to solve the problem as best you can or at least put it out of your mind when you’re on the water. I know that’s easier said than done but if you’re going to get out of a hole the first thing you have to do is stop digging.

More often than not, however, slumps are caused by a form of complacency. I said you needed inner confidence, and you do. What you don’t need is overconfidence or arrogance. It’s easy to get that way after a few top performances. You start to think you have everything figured out and then your performance hits rock bottom. You look around for the problem, never realizing it’s you.

No matter what the cause of your slump is, however, there’s one thing that’ll get you out of it almost every time — work harder than you ever have before!

Baseball players get out of a hitting slump by getting hits. You can get out of a fishing slump by catching fish. To do that you need to be prepared. I’m not talking about having your boat in good working order or making sure you rods and reels are rigged and ready to go the morning of a tournament. And I’m not talking about fishing hard all day. That’s obvious.

I’m talking about a commitment of time and money. Look at next year’s schedule or at least take a look at the lakes you’ll be fishing. Start by studying every map you can get your hands on. And then travel to them in the off-season and spend long days learning them. This is not about taking a fishing trip. It’s about work.

When you get home you should be able to answer these questions almost without thinking: Where’s the channel? Where does it turn? Is the water usually clear or stained? What’s the grass and cover situation? What kind of tackle will I need?

Those of you who were looking for a quick fix or an easy tip that would cure your problem are, no doubt, disappointed. If you think about it for a minute, however, you’ll realize I’m right. The only way to fix bad performance it to identify the problem, correct it if you can, keep your chin up and work harder than you ever have in your life.

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