Natural talent, hard work

I was asked an interesting question recently: Is hard work or natural talent more important in bass fishing? I think that if you’re talking about being at the very top of the top, they’re both important, indispensable. One without the other won’t get it done.

My theory is that you can get good at almost anything if you work hard at it. You can learn to be a good basketball player by spending a lot of time in the gym and on the court. Thousands of shots will make a difference. And, you can learn to hit a curve ball if you practice doing it enough.

The same thing is true of almost anything — photography, writing, archery, trap and skeet shooting and of course bass fishing. You can study and practice enough to learn the fundamentals. They’ll get you through most of the time.

I also think that given enough natural talent you can be good at most things — without lots of practice. We all know someone who can just “do” something. We say that it comes natural to them, and it does.

But, being good isn’t being great. Being great at something almost always requires a natural ability along with a ton of hard work.

Competitive bass fishing is an excellent example of what I’m talking about. The great ones in our sport have a natural ability that puts them ahead of the game. I’ve seen it time and time again. One of our greats will go down a bank flipping and pitching a plastic bait. He’s really catching them. By all accounts he dialed in to the moment. 

Then, for no apparent reason — same bank, same general conditions — he’ll lay down his flipping stick and pick up a spinnerbait. He’ll throw it a time or two and catch a really good one. As soon as he does, however, he’ll set his spinnerbait rod down and go back to his flipping stick, and back to catching more bass.

If you ask him why he did that, you’ll not get much of an answer. That’s not because he’s being coy or unwilling to share information. It’s because he really doesn’t know. He doesn’t use a conscious thinking process. It’s just something he knows he should do.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying, however. The guys with the natural talent are often some of the hardest working, too. 

One angler who has won an Elite event this year is the kind of person I’m talking about. I’m not going to mention him by name because I don’t want this column to be personal.

This man is one of the purest anglers I have ever seen in my career. I swear, he can think like a bass and make decisions like they make them. He’s one of the hardest working, too. 

On practice days he’s one of the first ones to launch in the morning and he’s one of the last ones in at night. Rain or shine makes no difference to him. He works to develop and make use of his natural talent. His record has shown that, and it will continue to do so.

If you lack natural talent, you can become good at our sport by working hard to get better every time you go fishing. If you have natural talent, add in hard work. You just might go great.