Lessons Learned: Green Bay

This one was ugly. I made two bad mistakes that should teach us all a lesson. They both involve the mental side of fishing. I had high hopes just before the event. We were up north and we were fishing a smallmouth venue. How much better for me could it get? Well, a lot better as it turned out.

The first day of practice was a mess. I expected fast action and big fish. What I actually got was about seven keeper bites with maybe three of them good fish. I was mentally down when I got back to the dock. I checked with Ish [Monroe] and John [Crews] and they had a tough day, too. On top of that I heard a lot of grumbling from the other anglers.

And then I did the one thing I always say never to do — I let the negativity get to me. I started thinking that instead of catching 20 pound sacks I’d be lucky to catch a limit. My negative attitude started to affect my practice. The second day only made things worse. By Wednesday morning I was a mental wreck.

Late on Wednesday, about an hour before I had to leave, I hooked a really nice largemouth in a shallow, grassy bay, and I got a couple of other decent largemouth bites. I thought I was on something. I went back to the tournament meeting in a better mood.

On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, I went straight to my largemouth. When I didn’t get a bite I started paying more attention to my electronics. I soon realized that my largemouth were leftovers from the spawn. They were still sitting on their beds. That’s when my second mistake started. I decided to stay and fish for them.

I should have known better. In the first place I’m not that good at catching bedding bass. It’s not my thing. Nevertheless, I went forward with the idea that they were the best I had. I fished them the way I thought I should.

Time passes quickly. I thought I’d been there for an hour or so. When I looked at my watch I realized I’d been there a half-day. I had one fish in the boat. She might have gone 3 pounds. In a panic I went to a couple of smallmouth spots I’d marked earlier in practice. They didn’t produce much, either. I never recovered from that mistake.

The lesson here is to always think positive. With a tough practice I should have been thinking that I’d be the one angler who would catch 20 pounds. Instead, I let myself believe that I’d be the angler who struggled to catch a limit. That kind of thinking will kill you every time.

The other thing I did is let a couple of bites in practice throw me off my game plan. You can’t do that. Develop Pattern A, Pattern B, and Pattern C whenever possible, even if they aren’t very good ones. Then work them. Don’t fish to your weakness out of desperation and fear.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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