Elite learning experiences

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Bassmaster Marshal

I’ve been sitting here thinking about the past couple of events we had on the Elite Series. Normally in this column, I tend to share stories about events and from home with my family, but it’s time to share some things I’ve learned coming out of these past couple of events.

First of all, congratulations to my Lucky Craft teammate Takahiro Omori for his win at Wheeler Lake and to Kevin VanDam for his win at Toledo Bend. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since they have had a chance to hold a trophy overhead; I bet that felt really good.

Let me start with Wheeler, and let me be totally honest with you. I had no fricking idea – and truthfully still don’t – what happened there. Sometimes you just miss a bite, and that one still has me scratching my head.

Toledo Bend on the other hand is what I want to talk to you about. This is really what I want to share with you all that I think can help all of you on the water in your own fishing.

I think fans look at the highlights of a tournament and they think we catch ‘em every time we hit the water. Most people see Kevin’s final winning weight and think he must have pounded them all day, or they assume that anyone who cashed a check on Toledo Bend must have had the fishing days of a lifetime.

That’s absolutely not true. First of all, Toledo Bend must get the heaviest boating and fishing pressure of any lake I have ever seen. From what I’ve seen there, that place must average 500 boats on it each day, and when a tournament like the Big Bass Splash is going on, there are several thousand entrants fishing on the lake.

That fishing pressure alone can make the fishing tough.

I talked to Kevin after day three, and while he caught a big sack on that day and held onto his lead, he told me he got lucky late in the day. He said that he had four fish with only a little while left to fish, and he caught an 8-pounder to get his fifth fish. That kind of stuff happens all the time to us out here.

That kind of situation makes us have to stay flexible and call audibles on the water in order to get the bites we need each day. We like to start a tournament with two or three rods on the boat. But there are times when it seems we have every rod we own on the deck of the boat, and we catch them on a lot of them during the day.

All of us have our own fishing styles, and we have techniques that we really enjoy fishing. As a rule, younger anglers tend to fish really fast and aggressively, and more seasoned anglers tend to slow down a little. What I’ve found out about myself is that I don’t really like fishing; I really like catching. That makes me do what I need to do to get a bite.

In reality, I survived at Toledo Bend. I did it by being flexible and trying new things because I like catching better than just fishing.

We fight to stay current during a tournament, and in order to do that, we have to be willing to adapt and make changes. In conversations I’ve had with a lot of anglers around the country that is one of the biggest struggles they have when they go fishing. You can’t be afraid to make a change. If you do, and it doesn’t work, you can always make another change, or go back to what you were doing, but you can’t sit there hoping to get a bite.

There have been days in tournaments that I’ve had it all figured out, but truthfully, I’ve had more days when I was constantly picking up a different rod and ended up catching fish on five or six different things to fill my limit.

What I’m trying to do is encourage you all to not get stuck when you’re fishing. If you’re not getting bites, make a change and try something new, and if that’s not working, try something different. If we step out of our comfort zones and try that kind of approach, we can learn new things. I know it’s not easy, but it’s how we continue to get better on the water.

Most importantly, I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend with your families, and that you stopped and remembered our soldiers somewhere along the way. Without them and their willingness to sacrifice their time and lives to protect our country, we would not have what we have today.

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