When I mention a “confidence bait” most of us have a lure that comes to mind. It’s a bait or presentation that has produced in many different situations and one we feel we are good at presenting to the bass. It’s great to have one, especially when the bite gets tough, because you can always come back to that lure and feel like you are going to get a bite. My question is: Which way of thinking will make you a better tournament angler? Becoming exceptional at one presentation or having confidence in many different presentations?
If you take notice of the best anglers in the world you will see a distinct difference in them. Some are great at one or two things, and then you have others that seem to catch them a different way every event. The obvious is this, when that angler who is great at flipping has a tournament come around that sets up for that technique, they will either win or be a contender. You could say that tournament was in their “wheelhouse” where they felt comfortable. What about the next event where the flipping bite is nonexistent? How do those anglers fair? It all depends on how they can adapt and utilize other techniques.
The fact of the matter is this, the Bassmaster Elite Series has never seen a stouter field of anglers, and the different venues we attend are all over the map. We fish deep and clear to tidal and everything in between. I would contend that the old days of being great at one thing and making the Bassmaster Classic or winning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) are over. Let’s just look at the last two AOY winners: Gerald Swindle and Brandon Palaniuk. Can you name one lure or technique that either of those guys rely on? I sure can’t, and in fact both of those anglers pride themselves in being versatile fisherman.
Fishing has become such a competitive sport in the last few years. You as a high school angler know this as well as anyone. The number of anglers pouring into the sport is phenomenal, but with more competition we are driven to become better at catching fish. The learning curve of each angler is sped up just simply due to the information overload that is available at our fingertips. Fishing success is based on consistency. Even the high school tournaments you participate in have points involved. Anytime you have a point system you simply cannot afford to finish at the bottom of the field. You must become a well-rounded angler.
My suggestion is this, become comfortable in the areas outside of your comfort zone. Sure, you are going to be more proficient with some techniques over others, and when tournaments set up for that presentation knock that tournament out of the park. The other tournaments where the bite isn’t inside your “wheelhouse” is what separates the good from the great. Learn to develop confidence in different baits and presentations all throughout the water column. For instance, one of the last tournaments I competed in, I was catching fish in 60 feet of water. I promise you three or four years ago you wouldn’t have caught my boat over that kind of depth. I’m not sure I even had that much line on my spool, but after learning hard lessons sticking with my comfort zone too long I realized it was time to develop my skills in every area of fishing.
When you get to the point as an angler that you can pick up any rod with any lure and feel comfortable about catching a bass on that setup, that’s exactly where you need to be. No more anxiety about going to a different body of water than you are used to fishing, you just show up and find the fish. Throw the bait that best suits the scenario and catch bass. It’s simple. Keep your confidence in the baits that have gotten you to where you are, but never be timid about developing yourself in other techniques. The well-rounded angler is going to win the points race every time.