Think about which part of high school bass fishing is hardest to control. Is it the ever-changing water conditions? What about fishing pressure? What about losing hooked fish? These things and many more are problems that high school anglers will face every day, but which one causes people to trip up most often?
In my opinion it’s an angler’s own mind.
Fishing in and of itself is not all that difficult. Many times we overcomplicate things, but let’s be honest, get the right bait around some fish and you will usually get some bites. No matter how much you think they have outsmarted you, fish have small brains and no way to reason. So, catching them should be easy, right? It can be if you learn to control your mental state and not let anyone or anything play mind games with you. Competitive fishing is way more mental than people like to admit. The fact of the matter is this, if you want to become the best angler on the water the work first begins between your ears.
There are many ways that you can get off your game mentality in a day of fishing. Some people are more fragile than others when it comes to their mental stability on the water and it’s important for you to know how well you can handle things mentally. They you can have a plan for adjusting your routines and strategies accordingly.
At the start of any day of fishing or any tournament week it’s important to have a clear mind. Many things weigh on our minds outside of fishing and, believe it or not it, dramatically affect our performance. For high school level anglers, it may be as simple as girlfriend or boyfriend issues or how you did on your last test. Either way, not having a clear mind to focus on the day of fishing and the decision you will need to make will hinder you out on the water. Trust me I struggle with this one big time. It seems like there is always something I’m worried or stressed over. The key here is to learn how to turn it off when you hit the water.
One mind game that gets many of us in trouble is “dock talk.” Now for those that don’t know what that is, it’s basically where you listen to other anglers about what the fish are doing more than you trust your own results or instincts. People love to talk about how they caught them or what the fish are going to be doing. Just like anything in life people love to give their opinions. Now here is where you get in trouble. Number one, who knows if they are even telling the truth, and number two, you don’t fish the same way as other anglers. This doesn’t necessarily have to come from some random guy at the ramp, sometimes our own people around us are the worst about it.
I learned for me it was better to avoid any situations where I might hear any of this kind of talk. The worst places for “dock talk” are the tournament registration meetings. Everyone always likes to tell how they either won practice or can’t get a single bite. Here is my suggestion. Without being rude just separate yourself from any talk that concerns the bite on that particular lake. It’s hard to do in certain situations, but the more you can focus on your game and not everyone else’s the better off you will be.
Once you get into the tournament day many things will be thrown at you out of your control. Let those be and deal with them as they come, but control the things you can. Such as not losing your composure over a lost fish. What about when another competitor catches a big one in front of you? That will mess with any of us mentality, but the key is to minimize its effect on your game and just let it roll off your back.
If you look at the greatest anglers ever to fish, one thing they all have in common is a strong mental game. Continue to work on yours and don’t let any mind games throw you off track.
Tournament note: The 5th Annual Bradley Roy High School Open will be held Sept. 29-30 and is open to all Kentucky high school anglers. Bradley teaches rod-building classes in conjunction with Mud Hole Custom Tackle. For more information visit www.BradleyRoy.com.