Ike: The mental game for Guntersville

I’m on my way to Guntersville. During the long drive I’ve been thinking about the tournament and how it fits into our schedule this year. It’s a big mental challenge, one that has to be addressed before the tournament ever starts.

Here’s what I mean: Before every event I try to work myself into the mindset of what kind of weight I’ll need to win. With most of the tournaments a daily bag somewhere around 15 pounds will keep you in the running or at least make your performance respectable. You know when you’re practicing that’s what you need to find.

At the Sabine River things were different. My mindset there was five keepers. I figured that would be enough. I was wrong. We caught more – and bigger – fish than I envisioned but you get the drift of what I’m saying. It’s all about the mindset. You have to have a plan and a goal.

Lake Guntersville is another exception. You know before you ever push your boat off the trailer that the “standard” weight of 15 pounds a day will get you nothing except a butt whipping. The lake is on fire and this is the time of year to make things happen. My guess is that it’ll take an average of at least 20 pounds a day just to make a respectable showing and 25 pounds a day if you expect to do anything on Sunday.

That’s a big mental shift. Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday isn’t about finding good fish or even big fish. It’s about finding giant fish. You have to wrap your head around that. There’s no other way to win there.

I don’t know how many anglers can do that. It takes skill and experience, and even then it’s far from a given. Some of the best aren’t able to put that mindset together. I’ll admit that I’m sometimes in that group.

With all of that in mind here are three guys I think you should watch:

Aaron Martens – He’s off to a good start this year and Guntersville is his kind of lake. He won here back in 2009 with 107.8 pounds. That’s a lot of bass, guys. And he has other wins on big fish lakes. Watch him.

Chris Lane – Chris is hot right now. He’s fishing at the top of his game, he knows how to win and he’s coming off a decisive victory on the Sabine River that has to boost his confidence. That’s a dangerous combination for the rest of us. And, I almost forgot to mention that he grew up fishing grass and now lives on Guntersville.

Justin Lucas – He’s a longshot, that I’ll admit. But he’s a really good and talented young angler who lives on Guntersville. Don’t count him out. He can catch ‘em.

I didn’t include myself in the list for obvious reasons. If you want to handicap me consider that I won here in 2006 at about the same time of the year as now. I caught 71.13 pounds. I also finished 47th in the 2014 Classic with a grand total of 19.15 pounds. Draw your own conclusions.

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