Going on a run

First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate Easton Fothergill and Nick Dumke on their Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year title for 2023. It’s an amazing accomplishment and those boys should be incredibly proud. They will join the top three finishers from this year’s Bassmaster College Series National Championship in the College Classic Bracket, the tournament that gave me the opportunity to make my dream come true. I wish them both all of the best throughout 2023 and beyond.

Watching along throughout the college season and seeing Fothergill and Dumke take home the title has honestly inspired this column. Bass fishing is a wild game. It doesn’t seem like one where momentum should play all that much, but anyone who’s fished a few years in any sort of “points” trail knows it does. It’s most definitely a mental thing, and it’s incredibly possible to go from the bottom of the standings to the top from tournament to tournament, but when it comes to a year-long circuit momentum almost always ends up playing out in some fashion.

I’ve been fishing tournaments long enough to have experienced hot streaks, slumps and everything in between. I see myself as a pretty consistent angler, but that doesn’t mean consistently great. I’m pretty good at avoiding a bomb finish, but I also have had trouble putting myself in true contention to win events. 

My year on the Opens has started off pretty rough, and I’ve been thinking a lot since Buggs Island about how I can go about getting my year back on track. Going off of the past few years and what it’s taken to make the Elite Series cut, I’m going to need to go on an absolute tear to make it. Something in the realm of averaging a 20th- to 25th-place finish is what I think it’ll take to get there, and that’s no easy feat. So that leads me to the question: How do you go on that kind of a run?

It’s a near impossible question to answer. To do it, you need everything to go as close to perfect as it can. Lost fish and mechanical failure are things you can almost count on happening at some point during a tournament season, so all you can do on those fronts is be as prepared as you possibly can. You can minimize, but you cannot prevent those things from happening. Guys say it all the time. Control the things you can control.

That only gets you so far. The answer I’m looking for is more so geared towards the mindset side of it. How do you approach going on that kind of run? That might be the better question. There’s always the “shoot to win” every tournament mindset, and it works for a lot of guys. The ugly side of doing that is it can land you in dead last place. You can also plan to take advantage of the events in your wheelhouse and salvage the ones that aren’t. I’m too far behind to try and simply “salvage” a tournament.

The answer I’ve settled on is an unfortunate, yet realistic one. I need just short of a miracle to make it happen this year, and if it’s going to happen there isn’t anything I’ll be able to do to stop it. That’s the crazy thing about going on a tear like that. You hear guys say, “I could do no wrong,” and it’s true. When you’re at one of those highs, you can’t do a darn thing to slow it down. I’m just going to let whatever’s going to happen, happen.

It almost sounds like I’m giving up, but I will not, and could not, ever. I’m going to prepare as if I’m leading the points. I’m going to fish as if I’m back out on Day 3 of the Classic. I’m just not going to stress out about the points and the standings the way I have been for the past few months. Maybe I should have started the year with this mindset. Who knows? What I do know is that I’m way less stressed out about it than I was, and you never do know what that could lead to.

What I will stress about is getting better. I know I’m behind the 8 ball on a lot of things in this game. While I’m confident about my instinct and mental ability, I know that I have a lot of room to improve when it comes to my technical skills. My casting needs improvement. I don’t know my electronics as well as I should. There are a lot of techniques I need to get a lot better at. All of that is going to have to happen whether I’m fishing the Elites or the Opens next year, and I intend to work on all of it.

Anyone know if golf is any easier? (It’s a joke, I promise.)