Staying sharp in the offseason

The subject of downtime, rest and relaxation and staying sharp has always interested me. At this level it’s all mental. That means you need to know how to be prepared in your head for competition, and you need to know what works for you. Every angler handles it differently, but every angler — or any competitor in any sport for that matter — who’s at the top does it.

In my case, downtime is bad time. When I’m not working in the industry I get stale, quick. My competitive fishing suffers. That’s why I wrote a column some time ago about fishing Opens every year. They keep me sharp. I don’t like long layoffs between events.

Some guys see it very differently. One angler, a true friend of mine, never fishes between Elite events. He says that the time off puts him in the right frame of mind when he does compete, that he’s excited to get back on the water and that helps his performance. The time off gives him a positive mental attitude.

With the understanding that what I’m about to say is individual, here’s how I stay sharp during the offseason:

I work hard with my sponsors

During the season it’s difficult to get enough time off to work seriously with sponsors on new products, improvements to existing products and new colors. But, when your season is over you have plenty of time to do that.

I spend many days and countless hours working on all that stuff. In fact, I just got back from a trip where we were testing new crankbaits. Some of them worked, some didn’t. But, the experience kept me in the game. My mind was focused on catching bass. I need that.

Filming lots of content

I have several outlets — website, YouTube Channel, TV shows and commercials — that need video content. That takes hours and hours on the water. Everything has to be pretty much perfect. Bad scenery, bad weather or bad fishing doesn’t get it most of the time. The pressure is on. I like that.

It’s funny, when the red light on the camera starts to glow it’s like a tournament starting in my head. There’s no more excuses or stories to tell. It’s time to get serious. Nobody pays to see me not catch bass, and we can’t be out there two days trying to do it.

I also do a number of columns, blogs and article interviews. Talking fishing is almost as good as doing it. Sometimes things come up that lead you to do something new when you are out fishing. It’s the thinking process that helps keep me sharp.

I fish local tournaments

Here in South Jersey we have what we call Winter Leagues. We fish them all winter unless the lakes are frozen over and we can’t launch our boats. Some of the lakes are big, others cover only a few acres. And sometimes they’re trolling motor only or 10 hp only. It doesn’t matter. I fish them. Big or little it’s all the same. You have to catch bass against the clock. 

I know pros fishing local tournaments is a little controversial. It’s not to me. Don’t kid yourself. There are some really good anglers around who aren’t pros. Just because we have “professional bass angler” after our name doesn’t mean we’re better than some of the locals. We aren’t.

The point of this column is not to tell anyone how to stay sharp. That’s an individual decision that everyone has to make for him or herself. It is to get you to think about what will keep you ready and make you a better angler. Spend some time thinking about your head. It’s just as important as your tackle.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website, mikeiaconelli.com.