A lot of the guys take time off from fishing after the Bassmaster Elite Series is over for the year. That works for them, some are the best in the business. I can’t do that. I love to fish too much, and I have too much to learn.
It is true, however, that lately I’ve been slowing down a little bit. I’ve had sponsor commitments and holiday festivities to worry about. But I’m still going out at least two times a week and fishing for several hours each time.
When I don’t fish I get rusty. It seems like I overthink things and my presentations aren’t as sharp as I like. Making decisions about where to fish, what to fish with and then physically casting or flipping keeps me sharp and at the top of my game. Besides, it’s fun to go fishing. This sport isn’t so much what I do as it is a part of who I am. I just love to do it.
But, there’s an equally important reason I keep fishing during the offseason. I need to up my game. I know that I haven’t been doing this as long as most of the guys, and I know that I don’t know as much as most of them.
During the offseason I can go fishing and do things at my own pace. I can learn in a relaxed way and still have fun. It’s not about catching bass.
A lot of the time I just practice with different lures using different tackle. You’d be surprised at how different a jig performs on 25-pound-test line instead of 12-pound-test line, or on fluorocarbon versus braid. It’s almost like they’re two different lures. A jig also preforms differently in grass than it does in wood or rock. The same thing can be said about shallow water versus deep water presentations.
A lot of the guys I fish against have known about those differences for years. I haven’t.
And sometimes, when I am catching bass, I can change the size or the color of my lure and see what happens. That kind of experience is invaluable when you’re in a tournament and don’t have to experiment.
Another thing I do — a lot — is fish water I’ve never fished before or fish water I know about in a way I’ve never fished it before. I’m always amazed at what you can learn doing that.
What makes that so important is that I’m faced with that situation all the time in the Elites. Two and a half days of practice might sound like a lot of time, but it isn’t. It goes by fast and then the tournament starts. And remember I don’t have 20 years of experience on those lakes like some of the other anglers. I need as much knowledge as I can get before everything starts.
The bottom line is that I don’t feel comfortable not fishing as much as I possibly can. It feels like I’m not trying as hard as I can.