Trying to live up to expectations

I was in 16th place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race heading into the Delaware River tournament and I stubbed my toe a bit. I knew it was going to be tough, but after landing a limit on the first day it would’ve only taken 4 pounds of bass on Day 2 to get me into the cut.

Doesn’t sound hard, does it?

Well, it was. I didn’t land a single keeper bass that second day of competition. I never gave up, but at times I just had to laugh a little. I think that after two decades of fishing for a living, I have a pretty good idea of how to scratch out a bite, but that day on the Delaware it felt like there wasn’t a bass anywhere within miles of me at times.  I was totally flabbergasted.

It hurt not to have anything to weigh in because the Philadelphia fans were absolutely great. They cheered us on and made us feel at home, and that made me really want to deliver something great to them. They may have expected us to show them how to fish their river, but I expect even more from myself and when I fail to deliver I sometimes feel like I’ve let everyone down. That’s why this sport is so humbling and such an emotional rollercoaster. One day you’re on top of the world and the next day you don’t have a clue. If there’s one thing our fans can learn from us, it’s that no one is immune to the occasional zero. At some point, all of us have a bad day, a bad event or a bad season. While it’s frustrating at the time, that’s part of what keeps us coming back for more, that unending quest to master something that can’t be perfected.

After finishing 76th in Philly, I dropped in the points, and it kind of made me wonder what could have been. I had climbed my way back to 16th in the points after basically skipping the Lake Seminole event because I finished 106 and didn’t get a single point.  I really would love to have known how close I could have been to being in AOY contention had that first event started out better, that’s why momentum and confidence are two of the biggest factors in our sport. I always tell everyone that our sport is the most humbling sport of all because you can go from a hero to a zero in short order, and it’s all in how you handle failure that can make or break you.

That’s why Cayuga was so satisfying. After the misery of my final day on the Delaware, in New York I really put in the hours and made the kind of good choices that I needed to get back on track. I had over 16 pounds each of the first two days, which had me in 19th place, well within striking range of the Top 12. Unfortunately, I didn’t adjust as quickly as I should have on Day 3 and slipped to 28th place. Still, I felt like overall I’m back on track to fishing the way that I can. No one is harder on me than me. I feel like God has given me the talent to be a top finisher on a regular basis, and therefore every bad tournament is heartbreaking. When I mess up, I get mad at myself more than anything. This sport has been incredibly good to me, and I feel that I owe myself, my family and the fans every bit of effort that I can muster. We can’t all catch big bags every day. In fact, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, that’s when the bottom tends to fall out. The key is to keep your expectations realistic and then to consistently try to exceed them. If you’re not humble when you get here, it won’t take long to arrive at that destination.

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