Learning the hard way

This tournament fishing business is a funny thing when it comes to learning. You learn very little from a win but you can learn a lot from a loss. 

Here’s the deal: 

A win means you caught more weight than any of the other guys. So, while you may have learned some things during a tournament you won, it isn’t going to amount to much. Whatever you did was better than any of the other guys. There’s no one to compare your performance with in a win so who do you look at for information?

There are some exceptions to what I just said. Maybe another guy did catch a couple of giants. You can take note of where he fished and what he did and then apply it to what you did, learn from him. And, you might get some education from a fellow competitor who happened to have an extraordinary day. But, if you look at the big picture, a win isn’t much of a learning experience.

Losses are different.

When you lose you know you did something wrong and that the other guys did something right. You can compare and contrast performances, tuck away what you see and use that information in the future.

The last two events are excellent examples of what I’m saying. At the 2018 Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River presented by Go RVing I didn’t fish far enough back in the trees when the water rose. I thought that because it was so clear the bass would stay out a ways. They didn’t. 

I was able to learn about that by watching the other guys who were catching them after I had been eliminated. I saw that they went much farther back than I did. That was a lesson I learned the hard way, and I won’t forget it. Somewhere, sometime it will come in handy.

The opposite thing happened at the 2018 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe presented by Abu Garcia. That was a smallmouth lesson. 

Most of the structure out there is somehow related to the shoreline. When the storms moved in the water muddied up a little bit so I figured the bass would go in shallow, and they would have if they were largemouth. But they went deep. They weren’t largemouth. 

What is it they say? If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt on the ground when he hopped.

The point I’m trying to make is that lessons in this business come the hard way. And that’s true for all of us at all levels of the sport. When you fish, don’t just bask in the glory of catching them when you do and don’t cry when you don’t. 

Make every outing a learning experience of some kind and then keep what you learned in your head so it’s available when a similar situation comes along in the future. Never be afraid or too proud to watch what someone else is doing — or talk to them — if they’re catching more than you. I do it all the time. It helps me a lot and it’ll help you, too.

When it comes to becoming a better bass angler it’s all about learning how to learn, and then doing what it takes to get better.

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