Tournament fishing can be a double-edged sword.
When it’s good, it’s peaceful and relaxing. But when things go south, it can turn into an animal that will kill your soul.
I’m having one of those stretches where things just go wrong. Everybody goes through it – you know, where bad stuff seems to happen. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted, but most of the time it’s stuff that you simply can’t control.
There are times when bass fishing just sucks, and it sucks for me right now. I’ve had days when bad stuff happens and others when I’m just not doing a good job of catching.
My problems at Santee Cooper Lakes were partly on me. The bite was slow, and when I go a long time between bites, I get too jacked up. I have a tendency to overkill each bite and that can cost you fish. I just was mentally out of whack.
I jumped a big one off, had a 6 pounder get off when I was hung up on a limb, and in one situation, I looked to the side when a shad splashed. When I looked back, my line was swimming 4 feet away. Such an unanticipated bite caused me to overreact, and I broke the line on the hookset.
I’ve had years when I still would land every one of those fish, but that hasn’t been the case this year.
I went into the Lay Lake tournament with a good frame of mind but practice was tough – again. I found a good group of fish in practice, but I was boat number 51 at the first day takeoff. By the time I got there, four tournament boats were already sitting there.
I found another place that was pretty good, but a big rain came in overnight and muddied it up. Yet, in areas where guys had found fish with similar structure and conditions, their water stayed clean.
Bad luck, I guess, and that’s all part of the sport. Yet, when most people have a bad day at work, they shake it off and it goes away. When we have bad tournaments, it stays with us and the whole world knows. There’s no in-between for an angler mentally. It’s either good, or it’s bad.
Now, what has happened to me happens to 70% of the field. Stuff happens and you can’t control it.
But I’m more accustomed to years when nearly everything goes right.
This isn’t one of them, and it’s happening during a season when there is little margin for error. Fellow Elite angler Scott Martin said it best: “You are one bad decision from having a disaster in every tournament.”
We used to be able to get by with a bad decision, but with this group of tough anglers, it’s tough to overcome. The 2023 Elite anglers are ferocious — even the relatively new guys. Most of them are in their prime; they never tire and do everything like a veteran. They go hard from daylight to dark every day.
Now, I’m not the Greg Hackney I was at 30, and I still have some fight in me, but my goal is to fish smarter, not harder, at 49.
We still have four events left, and I’m still right there in the hunt for that coveted Classic berth. I just need to knuckle down mentally, accept that there will be things I can’t control and make better decisions.
But man, sucking at your job — for whatever reason — just isn’t fun.