My bass fishing mentor, my dad, has told me repeatedly that the most important tool in a fisherman’s arsenal is his confidence. After having fished several tournaments, it became painfully obvious that my father is correct. There is not a single aspect of bass fishing that can make or break an angler to the degree in which self-assuredness can. This week on the blog, we’re going to discuss confidence and how it can affect your fishing for the better and for the worse.
We’ve all been there. A day out on the water, and we can’t figure out how to get a fish on the hook. A few hours without a bite can really dampen your day, and put your mind in a tailspin of negativity that breeds more bad feelings. Before you know it, you’ve thrown in the towel and given up on catching any fish for the day.
This is a difficult place to be, especially when fishing a tournament. In a competition, there is no room to give up half way through your allotted time. You’ve got to stay on the water and grind it out, even if your mind has given up and deep down you start to believe that the fish just aren’t going to bite.
Once you’ve sunk into this vortex of despair, it can be really difficult to dig your way out. Here are some tips that I’ve used to help my head space during tournaments to maintain a positive outlook.
You would think it would go without saying, but it is often the simplest of ideas that can help you out when it counts.
Most serious tournament anglers will have a practice day or two when it is allowed, to find good locations that hold fish prior to their actual competition. This is a great way to get a leg up, and it is also a terrific way to boost your confidence going into a tournament.
Having five or six ‘go-to’ locations can make an angler feel more at ease with the time constraints that are imposed during a tournament. If one spot doesn’t pan out after a little time has passed, a scouting session can provide you with a ‘milk run’ that makes it easy to hop from hole to the next. Having your path ready and planned out before launching your boat takes away that head scratching moment as you try to figure out your next move while keeping an eye on the clock.
A word of caution about having scouted out spots: Don’t become stubborn.
There is a difference between being confident and being stubborn, but it is a fine line. If your practice day is bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky and no breeze, the fishing will be different if the tournament day is overcast with high gusts of wind. It is important to stay versatile, so scout out locations and keep them in mind for different weather and water conditions. I like to mark spots on a GPS with a label that can help me make quick decisions based on the circumstances. An example would be “Deep Brush” or “Shallow Dock”.
Another thing about practice many anglers don't consider is just practicing the basics. We’ve mention brushing up on pitching and flipping on the blog before, and I strongly stand behind working on these basic skills. Honing these abilities before tournament time can be greatly beneficial and can make you feel like a more confident angler.
Yet another practice idea would be to utilize a swimming pool or a clear water lake to see exactly what your lures are doing beneath the surface. Take time to practice different retrieve styles with your favorite lures, and memorize the way they move. This can go a long way towards confidence when fishing murky and stained water. If you know exactly what each retrieve is doing, it takes a little bit of doubt and wonder out of your mind, and that can be the key to a positive mindset.
We all have our favorite lures. Maybe you caught the biggest fish you ever caught with it, or maybe you limited out in under an hour with it, but there is no denying the power of your favorite lure. Having that ‘lucky’ lure tied on in case of emergencies can help with your head space in a great way. Almost like having a security blanket on the boat with you, having that gem tied on can be a major boost of assurance.
Going back to the clear water that we mentioned before, get to know your favorite lures forwards and back. But, also take some time to experiment with lures that you don’t regularly throw.
Another word of caution: DON’T BECOME STUBBORN!
This is a theme that runs alongside the confidence game.
Sometimes your ‘go-to’ lure just isn’t going to be what the bass are looking for. It’s a dreadful feeling, I know, but it is what it is. Keep a cool head about this and maintain a secure level of confidence, but don’t let a full hearty approach keep you from catching fish either.
A good litmus test is to keep an eye on your partner, if you have one. If he or she is putting fish in the boat while you struggle to even get a bite, it might be time to change over to what they are throwing. It’s okay to throw the same lure, if you know that it is catching fish. This is a good reason to practice with lures that you may not be as familiar with. Having faith in a lure is great, but nothing boosts confidence like actually catching a fish!
Just stay positive.
This is easier said than done, I know. Having an optimistic view isn’t always a choice, but the better you are at controlling your mindset the better you will do on the water. Negative thinking can derail even the best angler, while positive thinking can truly bring your game to new levels.
It comes across as a cliché, but the fact is that you mind is the most important part of your bass fishing game. If you let those negative thoughts in, it can poison the rest of your day and ultimately result in a poorer turnout than you could have achieved.
It is important to remember that in a tournament, you have three competitors. The obvious two are the group of people you are fishing against and the bass you are trying to catch. The lesser recognized opponent is yourself.
Attempting to best yourself is what makes bass fishing so compelling to so many people. Starting with your confidence level and moving out from there is a great way to truly raise the bar on your own skill set, which will lead to more fish when it comes time for weigh-in.
So keep these ideas in mind the next time you get out on the water, because the catch of a lifetime could happen at any moment!
Chase Buie is Co-Owner of Flipside Outdoors and writes for the website’s blog.