Talking yourself off a great fishing spot

To some degree, these columns on are almost a form of therapy for me. As I try to vet through my decision-making processes and strategies on the water, I’m able to sort of diagram my mental mistakes on paper. After all, this is all kind of uncharted territory. It’s not like there are books or manuals on the mental side of tournament fishing. So airing out these mental mistakes as food for thought for other anglers is helpful to me.

In my last column I tried to illustrate the concept of mini-ruts – those little traps I’m prone to fall into on an hourly basis that sort of add up during the day to eventually put me in a bigger rut in the standings.

This time I want to try to verbalize another conundrum that you as anglers may have dealt with as well: Talking yourself right out of a great fishing spot.

Obviously, this is a hindsight-is-20/20 kind of thing, but how many times have you left a spot for some reason only to find out later it was actually an awesome spot? Maybe you revisited it late in the day, just before weigh-in, and caught two or three good ones in the last minute, leaving you wondering, “Why didn’t I stay here all day?”

Even more painful is to learn that the winner, or several top finishers, came off a spot you had found and fished and, for some dumb reason, left.

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been there. Leaving fish to find fish? I’m guilty as charged!

Nothing is going to change the outcome of those events for me so the best thing I can do is learn from them. So here is a list of some of the top “dumb” reasons I’ve left fish to go find fish.

Too many people here: Yes, you know this one, right? You’re boat number 80, you roll up to your best school and there are already three other boats on it. So you never even stop to fish it. You just throttle down to the next spot and, you guessed it, there are boats on that one, too. Then, at weigh-in, you learn the three guys on your starting spot all had 20 pounds. And to hear them tell it, everyone got along great and stayed out of each other’s way.

Got to get something bigger in the well: This is where you say, “These little 2-1/2 pounders aren’t going to cut it; I’ve got to go find bigger ones.” In the Bassmaster Elite Series, this pressure is immense. We could go to a mud puddle and in my mind the whole field is catching 5 pounders on every cast. So off I go looking for “bigger ones,” only to end the day with the same 13 pounds I left my starting spot with. With nothing else to go to the next day, I decide to camp on the starting spot for the day and cull up to 19 pounds. And for the 10-hour drive to the next event, I’m asking myself, “Why didn’t I just stay there the first day?”

Fishing for points or fishing to win: Gosh, this one kills me! Especially now with where I am in the points, bubbling for the Classic. At first I start out with this mentality of, “Just get a solid limit in the boat and slowly cull up to get your points.” After 13 pounds is in the well, I start thinking, “Man, I need to win this thing – screw the points.” And off I go trying to be some kind of hero. Dumb.

I can’t stay here; I’ll beat this school up: This is an argument of fish management. On the first day of a multiple day event, I am always concerned about fish management. Got to save some for tomorrow, right? And I get a little too conservative, leave a spot too early, someone else gets on it and mashes them and, yet again, I’m left regretting the decision of leaving a spot.

Too many options: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been beaten by guys who have just two schools of fish when I have 20 schools of fish. How does this happen? I spend my time running and checking 20 schools while the guy with just two schools has no other options but to bounce back and forth between them, and as a result, is actually on a school when it fires up big. And I’m just burning gas and my fishing time. Having too many options can be the death knell.

Being in too much of a hurry: Sometimes I’m in such a hurry to find a good spot, I end up fishing right over the good spot! Oh this burns me up. Twice now on the Elite Series I have fished right over the winning spot and never realized it because I was in too big of a hurry to find the winning spot.

Hey, I’m sure you have heard it before: Never leave fish to find fish. Well, hopefully I’ve given you a few more reasons to think twice about making this mistake in the future.