It's a multiple day tournament — or maybe just a weekend-long fishing trip — and your first day didn't go so well. You had a plan, executed it pretty well, but the results were more than just off the mark. They were a swing and a big miss.
Where do you go from there? What do you do? Do you try to push through, showing confidence in your original plan, or do you drop it like a bad habit and zag where you zigged the day before?
That's exactly the situation that Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Tucker faced after the first day of the Optima Batteries Battle on the Border at Lake Amistad. He had found fish in practice and thought he'd be in the hunt to do well, but after a tough opening round that saw him weigh in just 12 pounds, 10 ounces on a lake known for 25 and 30 pound bags, he was in 56th place and clearly struggling.
How does the Missouri pro handle early adversity?
"It's easy to panic at a time like that," says the affable Elite angler. "That's the first impulse you have to fight. After that first round I knew I needed to stay calm and settle down — think things through."
Tucker knows the value of calm. It would be easy to assume that the Clunns, VanDams, Reeses and Iaconellis are all out there slaying the bass while you fight for each bite. But that approach won't get you anywhere.
"Don't over-analyze things," Tucker advises. "If you've caught a few fish or had a few bites, you have a starting point. Try different techniques in the same areas you found fish, but don't go crazy.
"I see a lot of guys go too far after a tough day. They'll have 10 or 15 rods out on the deck with all kinds of different rigs and baits on them, and that's a mistake. As soon as they pick up one rod and make a cast, you can tell they want to reel it in and try something else. They're trying to fish 10 things at once."
Tucker's advice is to think things through and plan on trying just a couple of other methods after a tough day. Narrow things down to the methods that should give you the best chance for success. Then, once you've settled on them, keep those rods in your hands until you figure something out. Don't go juggling multiple outfits in hopes of stumbling onto something good.
"And when you do catch a bass," Tucker adds, "think about what you did, where it was, how deep. How did it strike? Why was it there? Get as much information as you can so that you'll be able to repeat that success or even expand upon it."
His advice certainly worked at Amistad.
On the second day Tucker found a new pattern in the same area he had been fishing. Instead of Carolina rigging and throwing a small jig, he worked a four-inch Tru-Tungsten swimbait through trees and brush and brought 28 pounds of border bass to the scales. It was the second best catch of the day and moved him into seventh place with 40-10.
Tucker proved his statement: "If you just stay calm and think things through, you can really turn things around."