I'm still learning

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Bassmaster Marshal

Let’s face the facts. This has been a tough year for me. I ended up finishing 82nd in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. You can’t even see a Classic spot from that far away.

The frustrating thing to me is that I was generally around bass during most of the tournaments. Jordan, Gerald Swindle and I frequently share information. They’d fish the same general area of the lake that I was fishing. We’d go to the weigh-in. I’d have a light sack. They’d have a heavy sack.

They’d made one or two good decisions during the day. I’d made one or two bad decisions during the day. With this level of competition that’s all it takes.

As you might expect, I’ve done some soul searching about what went wrong and how I can fix it next year. Some of what I say might strike you as brutal but if we aren’t honest with ourselves we’ll never get any better.

One of my biggest faults is that I tend to overanalyze things. I was always a good student so I have a certain amount of confidence in my ability to think things through. The problem is that catching fish isn’t just an intellectual exercise. It’s one of those half science, half art things.

It’s fine to know and understand weather, wind, water temperatures, sunlight, time of day and how those things affect bass. It’s an important part of catching them. So is knowing when to stay or when to go. You make that decision by trusting your intuition, judgement and experience. That comes from your gut.

Another thing that happened to me several times — and this isn’t easy to admit — is that I tried to do what Jordan was doing. Catching fish is an individual thing. You have to do it your way. Just because someone else is catching them under docks with a trick worm doesn’t mean that’ll work for you. Your best bite might be offshore with a deep crankbait.

The final thing I’ve been thinking about is something Gerald Swindle said to me once. A lot more fish live in an area than maybe we realize sometimes. I need to do a better job of analyzing an area’s potential. Fish it fast for three bites — like I did in practice — or dial them in and maybe catch 12. 

If you have a tough practice and don’t think you’ve found the winning fish, it might be better to go where you had those three ordinary bites, spend several hours in there, and come out with a good bag instead of an average bag.

If I can take a step back and look at the big picture rather than continuing to look at things with overanalyzing tunnel vision, I’ll do better. That’ll be the difference maker. Adding the right mind set to the talent, sponsors and support I already have is what will result in a better 2017. I can’t wait to see what comes of it.