Offseason education and obligations

The Bassmaster Elite Series season has wrapped up, and I have a few down months before I start to prepare for the Bassmaster Classic. While I will be spending quite a bit of time in a tree stand looking to take down a big buck with my bow, I can't lose focus on fishing. I will spend quite a bit of time educating myself and gaining confidence in baits, equipment and even a few techniques.

This might sound crazy, but it's tough to just take a new bait or product and start fishing it on tournament day. So much of fishing is about confidence, and if I haven't used a product enough to have 100 percent confidence in it, then I can't use it. It's not that the product won't work, and in some cases it may work better than the product I do have confidence in. However, just a small amount of doubt in a product can lead to bad decisions. Bad decisions lead to bad tournaments. Bad tournaments to bad seasons, and so on. Which is why, for the most part, I stick with the products I know very well and have full confidence in.

I'll use the next few months to educate myself on new baits, new rod models, new reels and more. With the release of next year's schedule, I can start to get an idea of what I will need for next year and plan accordingly. Just this week I began fishing with a new MESU Bait Company jig that is built with a TroKar flipping hook. I will also spend a lot of time with the new Pro Series of baits from Livingston Lures. Jerry Rago and Robert Castaneda have worked really hard on building the lures that we (the pro staffers) want, and I can't wait to fish them. There are 20 to 30 prototypes that I really need to take out and fish for a few hours to a few days each. I need to understand each lure as well as the lures I have been using for many years. That's what it will take for me to tie them on at Lake Guntersville in February at the Bassmaster Classic.

The offseason is also when I take some time to get with my sponsors and fulfill some of my obligations — everything from visiting them to attending trade shows or shooting videos about their products. During the season it's easy for me to get a one track mind, focusing on the current event or next event. Sponsors and my obligations to them are always on my mind, but I don't always get to give them the attention I want to give them. This time of year is when I can get a lot done and make sure I take care of my part of the agreement.

If you are a tournament angler, take the time during your offseason and educate yourself on new products and work on building confidence in baits, techniques or even bodies of water you aren't typically comfortable with or confident in.

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