Ike: Anatomy of a Chesapeake Bay disaster

Let’s face the facts: My performance on the Chesapeake Bay was beyond dismal. It was one of the worst results I’ve had in over 200 B.A.S.S. professional tournaments, and it was all my fault.

How many times have you heard me talk about fishing the moment? It’s one of my most basic rules for successful bass fishing. Yet, I didn’t do it. I did the opposite by allowing myself to get mesmerized by what happened in practice.

I kept hearing about how few bites the other guys were getting, how tough it was out there. That wasn’t what I found. I was getting all kinds of action on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – more than 40 bites in all. I honestly thought I was in a position to have a great event. I would have bet money on it.  

The thing is, though, when the tournament started the conditions changed completely. The wind, tide, water clarity and everything else was 180 degrees from where it had been. My efforts didn’t reflect those changes.

It wasn’t that I didn’t make some adjustments. I did. It’s that I made small adjustments with my lures and my spots when I should have made big ones. I kept thinking about all the good fish I had in practice and convinced myself that I could catch a few of them if I just kept casting and reeling. That didn’t happen.

You have to fish the moment. What worked a couple of days ago doesn’t count.

Another thing I did was allow history to trap me. I know this fishery about as well as I know the Delaware River. I allowed that knowledge to push me into fishing places that produced for me in the past. That tactic worked for me last year on the Delaware but it didn’t work this year on the Chesapeake.

History is a two-edged sword. Be careful which side you grab.

The final thing I did was rule some areas out that I shouldn’t have — ruled them out without fishing them first.

“Everyone knows” that after about the year 2000 you couldn’t win a big tournament on the south end of the Bay. The fish just weren’t there anymore. You have to go north. Well, everyone knew that except Aaron Martens. He won the tournament in the south, an area where I’d won several tournaments many years ago before I turned pro. I never gave the south end a thought.

Never rule anything out. All you’re doing is limiting your chances of success.

The really bad thing about these three mistakes is that I know better. I fell into traps that I’ve preached about for years. Some of that is human nature. We all tend to repeat what’s worked for us in the past. We call it experience.

But that’s really not a reason. It’s an excuse. Experience should also teach us when not to repeat things. About all I can say is that I’ll do my best not to make the same mistakes this week on Lake St. Clair.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website, mikeiaconelli.com.