It's no secret that Florida pro Bernie Schultz has been struggling a bit lately, and he's working through the tough times by making the next cast, and the next one after that.
"It's all I can do, you know?" he said during the third morning of the 2019 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament at Lake Guntersville. "Slumps happen to everyone at some point in their career, and I'm going to get through this."
During the opening round of competition, Schultz anchored his Day-1 limit of 20 pounds, 7 ounces with a solid 7-pounder, which is currently the biggest fish of the event so far.
"Big fish go a long ways in this sport, especially when bites dissipate and fish seem to vanish from day-to-day," he said. "I've had to adjust quickly each day, and yesterday I fell a little bit, but thanks to the big one on the first day I made a Top 35. That's good, but today I need to build on that, climb a few places in the AOY standings and position myself to be within striking distance of the Classic when we head north."
The annual Northern Swing begins in August when the Elite Series will visit two legendary Upstate New York fisheries beginning with St. Lawrence River out of Waddington. At that point, the Elites will move to the second New York stop at Lake Cayuga -- both fisheries have fat smallmouths on the menu.
Traditionally, Schultz has been a terrific northern smallmouth angler.
"I love fishing up there," he said. "I've always done well when smallies are the focus. My goal is to get up there and win one of those events, or at least finish strong enough to boost my points back into the Classic qualification range. That's what this is all about."
At this point during Semi-Final Sunday at Guntersville, making the Top 10 is unlikely for Schultz, and he knows it.
"I decided to go hunting for big fish with my remaining time, and the best way to connect with a giant is to flip the grass mats," he said. "It's a tough decision sometimes, but ounces are critical to gaining momentum on the AOY leaderboard. I may not catch many doing this, but if I do catch one it'll be big."
Schultz said that enduring a season-long slump and a tough day on the water require the same mindset.
"You can't let it rattle you. Bass fishing can be very difficult and unforgiving -- especially when there are 74 other competitors looking to outfish you," he said. "You focus on your strengths and fish for them the way you like to do it. It's amazing how you can fish yourself out of a hole by just having fun."
Watch out for Schultz in New York, he's long overdue for a win and he's still very hungry.