There are just two events left in the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series regular season. But it’s never too late to take stock of where you are, how you’re doing and how you might get better.
For the first half of the year, I had everything rolling along pretty well. The season opened at Lake Martin in Alabama, and I finished fourth. At Grand Lake in Oklahoma I managed to finish in the money — 49th. I did a little better at Kentucky Lake (37th) and was 15th on Lake Travis at Texas Fest. That put me inside the top 10 in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. In the midst of all that, I posted a second-place finish at the Bass Pro Shops Eastern Open on Lake Norman.
Things were looking good.
But in the last three Elite events — Sabine River, Mississippi River, Lake Oahe — I was 82nd, 85th and 67th, respectively, and I’ve dropped to 39th in the AOY standings. That’s not a terrible place to be — if the season ended now, I’d make the Classic — but it’s not where I want to be or how I want to finish the year. I need to make some adjustments and to fish better.
And at the Elite Series level, that means mental adjustments, decision-making adjustments, even attitude adjustments.
My boat, motor, rods, reels, lines and baits are not letting me down. They’re the best you can find. What needs to change is my mindset, and I have only myself to blame for its getting “out of adjustment.”
Early this year, I talked a lot about fishing my strengths and stripping away the things I don’t have confidence in. It helped me to not only travel lighter, but to keep a clearer head on the water. I think it was a real key to my early success.
What I’m realizing — and my career is a constantly evolving process — is that you can “fish your strengths” and be very successful if you’re fishing a small tournament circuit or if your season is short. But on the Bassmaster Elite Series, if you only fish your strengths, you’d better have a lot of strengths ... and the right mindset.
If your strengths are too narrow, you’re doomed out here. You simply can’t compete across all the seasons and on all the different types of water we fish.
Luckily, I feel like I’ve honed my skills enough that I can catch fish whether it’s hot or cold, whether they’re deep or shallow and whether we’re north or south or east or west.
What’s elusive for me — and I think it’s elusive for a lot of pros and athletes generally — is the proper mindset.
Confidence is an easy thing to claim, but a difficult thing to maintain for a full season. And once it’s gone, things can really start to snowball in the wrong direction. You see that every year with several outstanding anglers. One bad tournament turns into two, two turns into four, and soon the season has slipped away.
I need to block the past few tournaments from my thinking. They’re gone. I can’t do anything about them. I need to move forward and regain my confidence.
The best way for me to do that is to keep as positive as I possibly can. I need to maintain the right perspective on my life.
That means keeping the best things in my life top of mind — my family, my friends and a career I love. I’m an extraordinarily lucky guy, and I know it.
I just lose sight of it sometimes and put too much emphasis on my last tournament, my last weigh-in, my last missed fish. That’s not good for me, and I know it.
I am going to be more positive heading into the stretch run. A couple of strong finishes can get me back near the top 10 and fishing with confidence going into the AOY Championship.
I’m going to make it happen.