Hackney: Bite, what bite?

Before we get started on our next topic I want to say congratulations to Doug Markwell on his win in the Fish with Greg Hackney Sweepstakes. I’m genuinely looking forward to making a new friend and hopefully catching a ton of big bass with him. 

Now, let’s get started on this not catching bass thing.

A lot of anglers ask about what to do when you aren’t catching them. The answer to that question is both simple and complicated. We’ll start with the easy stuff.

Right from the get-go you need to understand that this is not a problem that’s unique to you. Everyone — highly experienced professionals and rank amateurs alike — experience this. There’s no reason to think you’ve been snake bit or that Mother Nature has it in for you.

Some anglers call it a slump. I’m not sure that’s the right term for not catching fish but it does give us a place to start. Every competitor or athlete with whom I am familiar works their way through a slump by continuing to try. Taking a break, feeling sorry for yourself or throwing a temper tantrum won’t help.

You have to keep fishing. There’s no other way out.

A little honesty with yourself will help, too. Maybe your “slump” is really a matter of throwing the wrong bait in the wrong place. That’s bad decision making, poor fishing. Calling it a slump is OK if you don’t allow that term to shift the blame for your poor performance from yourself to something else. It’s not always easy to make that distinction, but it’s always necessary to make it.

Another part of the problem is pressure. I’m frequently asked if being in the Bassmaster Elite Series makes not catching fish worse. Does it increase the pressure? The answer is yes. My family doesn’t eat if I don’t perform. But, the fact that the other anglers are good doesn’t have anything to do with it. I have to take the view that I’m as good as they are. My record proves that. I’ll eventually start catching them again.

Most of you reading this column are not professionals. You don’t have to catch fish to feed your family. There’s no reason to get carried away if you’re struggling. Don’t panic or worry yourself to death over a fish. You’ve caught them in the past. You were good enough to do that. You’re good enough to do it again.

It’s just fishin’, guys. Understand that, by its very nature, it’s a tough sport. We chase something that we don’t know much about and under conditions we know even less about.

Think about it this way: We know some things about fish and how they behave. The truth is, however, we know very little about why they behave the way they do. I know that you read a lot of materials that seem to contradict what I just said. Guys will tell you why a fish was in a certain place or why it bit a certain lure. Ever wonder how they know that? I do.

The same thing can be said about changing conditions. We know about some things that change and that affect fish behavior — air temperature, water temperature, water clarity, wind, sunlight and barometric pressure. That’s all well and good. But — this is the part that’ll kill you — are there other things out there that we don’t have a clue about, things we don’t even know exist that affect fish behavior? I’m betting the answer is yes.

You have no control over any of that stuff. So why let it get the better of you?

Next week we’ll talk about controlling the things you can control when you’re not catching them.