Pilots know that, while a good tailwind can hasten your speed and push you toward your objective, you still have to control the flight. Heading into his second Bassmaster Classic, Russellville, Ark., pro Jamie Hartman has a similar outlook — one he’s keen to embrace.
After a medical leave sidelined him for the entire 2018 season, Hartman roared back onto the Bassmaster Elite Series by claiming two tournament wins — Cayuga Lake and Lake Guntersville — site of the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. Momentum between regular-season events is one thing, but by the time B.A.S.S. marks the Classic’s 50th anniversary in Birmingham, more than six months will have passed since Hartman’s last victory.
No worries, though; he’s still feeling the tailwinds and, more importantly, he understands the course to victory.
Making his Classic debut at the 2019 event on the Tennesse River was an incredible experience, but understandably, that first pass was a blur. The details, Hartman said, took a while to crystalize.
“Even before I was in the Classic, I’ve heard other anglers say it’s all or nothing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you fish, you want to finish first. You put a lot on the line and take a lot of risks to try and finish first.
“After fishing my first Classic and finishing up the season, I get it now. It is first place or nothing, so I will fish differently. I won’t lay up, per se. I hate laying up anyway, but in the Bassmaster Classic, there’s no point in doing that.”
So, how does one win the Classic? Rhetoric aside, the mindset is considerably more definable than any tactical summary. As Hartman explains, you have to play for meaningful stakes.
“You have to fish for five of the biggest bites in an 8-hour period,” he said. “You put it in your head that it’s five bites; you don’t have to just catch fish. When you’re in practice you try to eliminate waters where you’re just getting mediocre bites and concentrate on what’s getting you the big bites.
“In the springtime, there are baits that are going to get you fish and there are baits that are going to catch you big fish, so it’s going to be bait selection. If you put it together quickly enough within three days of practice, you’ll eliminate some things and then you focus on the strategy that’s going to get you those big bites.”
Easier said than done, for sure, but Hartman bases his vision on much more than wishful thinking. For him, it’s about learning to compartmentalize the Classic experience and the Classic competition.
“I learned the last time, there is so much publicity that goes along with the Classic, and I know I’m probably going to get some extra on me because I won a regular-season event on Guntersville,” Hartman said. “But you have to put all that press out of your brain.
“I don’t mind all the eyes on me and the pressure. My mindset is to do my practice, get our Media Day done and after that, it’s strictly business. I’m not going to let everything — the crowds, the location — get to me. The whole big picture will be set aside for the three days of that Classic.”
Hartman calls it being mind strong — keeping your head in the game regardless of what’s swirling around you.
“You are in control of your actions,” he said. “Your mind controls your actions, so if you’re not mind strong and your mind slips, it’s going to make you slip. That has carried me through life, and it’s carried me through the Elites — whatever I’ve gotten myself into.”
Notably, Hartman developed this vice grip on mental processes during his previous career as a professional archery competitor. Spending seven years on the International Bowhunting Organization (I.B.O.) circuit taught him airtight focus and unshakable confidence.
“Shooting archery is 90% mental, so you have to be mind strong; each and every shot has to be the same,” he said. “One slip up and you’re done, you missed. That’s the same thing I’ve brought over to fishing.
“I feel like I mastered archery, and I wanted a challenge. The challenge I picked, you can’t master. So, it’s going to keep me going forever.”