by Tommy Abbott
Having the blessing of working with Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments is something I cherish.
I also cherish the opportunity to speak with so many parents and listen to their experiences with the sport. It gives me a unique insight that most people will never know.
Being fresh out of the competition side of the sport myself also gives me personal experiences that I too can share with parents. It’s the input that I get back from parents that helps me to put myself in their shoes. I know their pain, and I’ve felt their triumphs. I have the opportunity to both sympathize and offer other scenarios that they may not see, being intertwined in the throws of competition.
I could cover subjects for years on end but one sticks out above all. Motivation.
How do you handle the motivation side of the sport? It’s the one factor that can make or break any team. It’s a vital ability that every single boat captain must not only understand but master if his or her team will ever see success.
His or her ability to instill motivation techniques into a team will go with the anglers the rest of their lives. Hopefully it will trigger memories that the anglers can look back on later in life, to pick them up when they have fallen into feelings of hopelessness.
So how do you handle it? By making them understand that every moment in every tournament is an opportunity to see success. Every single cast is important. Every single crank of that reel is vital to their success. Five less casts in a day is five less opportunities to catch the one fish that could turn their day around or catapult them to victory. Five more casts in a day is five more chances at a huge fish or five fish to fill a limit has a chance to come in the boat.
So many young anglers get down on themselves and start doubting everything they are doing. When that happens, things go bad because a choice was made to let things go bad. Why? Because when the mind starts doubting, proper fishing techniques stop. Concentration is lost. Presentation of the lure ceases. Casting accuracy no longer exists. They do this because when they lose confidence, they lose complete focus.
Instead of believing that the next cast will produce a fish, they believe that nothing they do will produce a fish. I’ve seen it in my own boat a hundred times.
My lessons didn’t start in a tournament where my high schoolers were competing, when I couldn’t fish. They began on practice days and local club tournaments where I was allowed to fish. Most times in these tournaments, I chose not to fish, but at times, when I saw despair and defeat in my anglers, I’d pick up a rod and fish “seriously.” Most time I’d tell my crew that there are fish there to catch if they focus and get serious. Then I’d show them by catching a quick fish.
Nothing stokes the fire inside a high school angler more than when their captain is able to pick up a rod (in practice) and fish the same bait that they are and quickly catch a fish. Simply by fishing seriously with proper techniques, then I would look them in the eye, smile and say, “Now, let’s finish this thing.”
Captains, remember that these lessons must come when you are able to fish with them. I’ve used this enough with my own son for him to know that he just has to keep his focus on the next cast, and it has worked. He has developed that “never give up” attitude, and his tenacity even amazes me now.
He watched me use this technique early on in his first year competing as a Jr. Bassmaster when we had 30 minutes to go. He had zero fish, and he was ready to give up. We had always discussed that if this ever happened, we had “the plan” I always used when I was younger. God must have been with me that day because I picked up a rod with our “last minute” bait tied on, made a cast, cranked the handle one time and hooked a small bass.
He smiled, and I saw instant confidence on his face and in his actions. He fished every moment of his last 30 minutes and caught enough weight to come in third place on a very tough day. I never made another cast that day. Will this always happen? Nope, but it can, and that possibility is what these young anglers need instilled in them by their captain and family.
I’m sure every kid is different. Each one needs a little different “lesson” to motivate them. That’s the thing that high school boat captains have to learn – how to find a way to light that fire inside each one.
One extremely important note, if at least one of your anglers is serious and has a dream of becoming a great fisherman, it is the responsibility of the captain to make sure both anglers on any given team are doing everything in their power to help the more committed angler realize their dream.
It’s a captain’s job and responsibility to know the commitment level of his or her anglers. If you find that at least one is seriously committed, that will means both anglers must be motivated.
Not all partners will be as serious, but you must make them understand that they made a commitment to one another. They became a partnership and with that comes great responsibility. If their partner is committed, they must keep casting, focusing on the task at hand and do their part to help their teammate succeed. They must put the mobile phone away, wake up, get up and fish. Their partner’s dream depends on it. They may not be the best young angler out there, but at minimum they can keep casting and trying to contribute.
One suggestion is to sit down before the partnership even begins and talk about how committed each angler will be. Get them to talk to each other and help them understand their partner’s level of commitment. You might find that this wasn’t the partner for you or, if it’s after the partnership has already started, you can open a dialog between your team members where hopefully they can be honest with each other so they will understand what it means to have a committed partner.
The last thing you want is for them to hold a “silent resentment” of their partner where they can’t be honest with each other.
Hopefully honesty will lead to commitment by both partners, to either the goal of the team, or the goal of one of its members. Either way, it’s still the team that comes first.
As always remind your team … if there’s one cast left in the day, there is a chance for a huge fish and potentially, a win. Make that cast as accurate as you can, present the bait correctly and be prepared when that bite comes. Expect that next, or last cast of the day, to produce a fish, every time.