I’ve always heard that fishing is just as much mental as it is physical. That may or may not be true, but one thing I know for certain is that the mental side of fishing is much more fragile than the rest. Becoming a better angler is what we all strive for, and without a strong mental game you won’t get far in this sport. No other sport that I have experienced can compare to fishing when it comes to momentum swings. One minute you are on top of the world and the next you are at the bottom. The roller coaster of fishing affects everyone of us – no matter if you are an Elite pro or just joining a high school fishing team.
Wanting every fishing day to go perfect is the norm, but that just can’t happen. We spend days, if not months, preparing for tournaments so when something goes wrong it’s easy to lose control. One of the best ways I know to handle those bad situations is to be quick to forget. If you lose a big one don’t throw a tantrum in the bottom of the boat – simply make another cast.
Trust me I know how frustrating that can be. If someone is sitting on the spot you were planning on fishing just learn to let it roll off your back and move on to the next place. The fact of the matter is this, everyone else is having the same trouble you are – it’s all part of tournament fishing. It’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to what happened that makes the difference. I challenge you that the next time you lose the biggest fish of the day to not say a word but just make another cast as fast as possible. Develop a quick-to-forget habit and those bad situations will not have much effect on you anymore.
After being on the Elite series for a full eight years now, people often ask me if I get excited to fish these tournaments anymore. You’re dang right I do! I don’t care if it’s a weekly night tournament or the Elite Series, I get pumped up, but it’s different for me now than when I first started. It has nothing to do with tournaments getting old to me, but it’s got everything to do with me knowing how to better mentally prepare myself for a tournament. Having pre-takeoff butterflies is great, and I hope you get them.
Learning how to manage your excitement is the key. How many times have you missed the first bite of the day because you were so jacked up from all the excitement? I’ve done it too, but learning to be excited and motivated in a controlled way is much better for your performance. Being on top of the world mentally at takeoff only adds to your roller coaster for the day. The higher you are the further you can fall. Do whatever works for you to keep yourself level-headed before a tournament.
I hope everyone reading this has had the opportunity to witness an Elite Series takeoff, but if you haven’t I strongly suggest that you do. Gather your whole high school fishing team, go to the closest one next year and observe what happens in the boats and minds of the best anglers in the world. Sure, they will all have a little different routine but one thing you will notice is the calmness they all have just before they compete.
You can bet your hard-earned money those guys know what it’s like to have things not go their way on the water. That’s why they do everything they can to avoid the mental roller coaster of fishing. Start your day calm and be all about business but don’t let the excitement take over. Always be in control.
The facts are this, catching fish is such as small part of what we do as tournament anglers. We are more managers than fisherman. So many variables go into a day of bass fishing that it often makes my head hurt. That’s what makes it so challenging. Some things are in our control and some aren’t.
Try to level the roller coaster out a little bit. Keep your lows from taking you down lower and capitalize on your highs when you get the chance. Always remember it’s not about what happens to on the water, it’s about how you react to what happened that will ultimately make the difference.