College experiences part 2: Suck it up

Another part of dealing with the pressure of professional level bass fishing is learning to deal with the media. If you’ve never done it, let me assure you it isn’t as easy as it looks sometimes.

I say sometimes because when you win the media can be fun. There’s no pressure on you as you answer questions about how you fished or about the decisions you made. Pretty much by definition you did things right. You don’t need college fishing experience to smile and talk under those circumstances. 

But then there are the times when you don’t win. Some of them you knew were coming. For whatever reason you weren’t on the big ones. The result was predictable. You don’t like it, but you can live with it. The media is no big problem under those circumstances. You congratulate the winner, get in your truck and suck it up.

There are other losses, however, that hurt. You were in a position to win and something went wrong. Maybe it was your fault, maybe not. Regardless, you’re down and not in the mood to talk to anyone. That doesn’t matter. You smile, say nice things about everyone and keep your complaints and excuses to yourself. 

One nice thing about the fishing media is that they are professional and polite. They know fishing and they mostly ask the right questions. They’re never rude or personal, at least I haven’t experienced that. Still, some questions go in you like a knife. When you lost a giant at the boat and it cost you the tournament it’s no fun being asked, “What happened?”

Your coach and teammates help you with all of that. You get good advice and you can see how other guys handle themselves. You learn from their successes and mistakes as well as your own, and that learning experience happens under circumstances where a mistake doesn’t turn into a complete disaster or define you to your fans and sponsors.

Past the media, college fishing gives you experience with travel and fishing new lakes and rivers you don’t know much about.

One of the toughest things about the Elite Series is being on the road so much. It’s constant travel, and the thing about that is that the rest of your life doesn’t stop. You have calls to return — frequently with poor or nonexistent cell service — bills to pay and a home life that needs attention.

College travel isn’t nearly as tough as that, but you still get a taste of what it’s like to live out of a suitcase for a few days. 

The fishing part is tough, too. It’s not easy to fish a lake or river you’ve never seen. In college it seems like someone always knows something about where you’re going, and they’re pretty free about giving it out. That makes a new place not so new.

At the pro level that information is a lot harder to get. You have to learn how to find things out for yourself and then prefish with an eye towards the tournament. That’s not so hard if you’re in a familiar type of water. It gets real tough, however, if you’ve never fished shallow, weedy waters and you’re in Florida.

I’m lucky in that regard. I’m an Alabama guy and we have some of everything when it comes to bass fishing. I didn’t realize what an advantage that was until I turned pro and started fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series schedule. The diversity of waters we fish is amazing.

Like travel, college doesn’t solve everything when it comes to fishing new and strange places but it does give you a taste of what’s to come.

Next week we’ll talk about what I miss the most about my college days.

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