Lessons from last year

As a new year begins, most of us turn inward to reflect. What lessons did we learn from the previous year, and what new ones now call us forward? 

Simply put, 2017 was the worst year performance wise of my professional fishing career. The details of how it all unfolded are irrelevant at this point, as the outcome has already been determined. What is relevant to me, however, is recognizing the common thread that has led me to success in the past.   

Sacrifice is the common bond between almost every successful person I know, regardless of their profession. The question is how much are you willing to sacrifice to attain your goals? With everything that I’ve ever done, I have tried to carve out what I believe to be the proper amount of time to make it successful. Whether it is professional fishing, real estate, tank leasing, Duckett Marine, or any other venture, I have made sacrifices and devoted enough time and effort to be successful. Looking back over the 2017 tournament season, I simply did not follow that plan. 

Each year, I have to assess what sacrifices I am willing to make in other aspects of my life in order to be competitive on the Elite Series. There was a point in my fishing career where I was "on fire" and willing to do whatever it took to put me in the best position to win tournaments and compete at my highest level.

I remember making the commitment to devote myself completely to fishing in 2005. I was able to take an inferior skillset and beat superior anglers strictly based on hard work and my drive to succeed. Now comes the hard part. How am I going to recapture the motivation and drive to do what I know it takes in order to be competitive in 2018? 

The first step will be setting reasonable goals. I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that I am going to make the huge sacrifices I have made in the past to achieve my goals – it’s just not an option at this point in my life.

The main goal that I have set for the 2018 season is to finish in the top 30 percent of the Elite Series field and qualify for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. That may sound simple, but I know that I need to have a really good season in order to accomplish that goal. 

My second goal is to put myself in position to win one or two tournaments without jeopardizing the entire season by taking unnecessary risks. If I can do those two things, I will consider it a successful season. 

Now the question becomes how do I plan on accomplishing these goals? The short answer is that I am going to build on what I call "mini successes." Mini successes create momentum, and building momentum is going to be the key that I need to get back on the right track.  

Mini successes don’t necessarily take place during tournament hours. The path begins by devoting the proper amount of time to tackle preparation and pre-practice. These are two elements that I can control even before the season begins.

I recently visited Lake Martin, site of the first Bassmaster Elite Series stop of the upcoming season, to start building momentum and generate some mini successes. It felt really good to develop a groove and increase my confidence level by focusing my efforts on preparing for the upcoming event well in advance. 

The key for me is taking that inspiration and building on it throughout the season. It is not an option for me to go through the motions this year. In order for me to look back on 2018 as a successful season, I have to be the race horse in the gate ready for the starting gun to go off. 

Let's see if I am ready to run!