Finding fun when the pressure builds

I’m a very competitive person.  If I show up on tournament day, I’m going to do everything I can to win.  Sometimes, though, I have to understand that my everything just isn’t enough.

Years ago, in what seems like another life, I played competitive golf.  One summer, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend a junior golf camp at the University of North Carolina, and part of this camp was working with a sports psychologist.  Perhaps the biggest lesson I took away from this camp was moving on from a bad shot.  I learned that nothing good comes from dwelling on the previous mishit, misread, or other bad execution.  No amount of anger or disgust will change what just occurred, and the only way to recover is to focus on future execution.

Much of this same advice applies to fishing, especially in a tournament setting.  Dwelling on the missed hooksets, the lost fish, or the misplaced casts will not put fish in the livewell or on the measuring board.  We must learn from it, build on it, and move on.

Looking for some schools on Kentucky Lake

Looking for some schools on Kentucky Lake

At the end of May, I was blessed to be able to fish the 2nd Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake, an amazing event with the opportunity to represent Team USA in China at the Hobie World Championships on the line.  Common knowledge is that the big bass on Kentucky Lake stack up on deep ledges this time of year.  This is a method of fishing I know very little about, but advice and research had me ready to give it a shot.  Practice had me pedaling a lot, staring at the screen of my Lowrance Elite-5, following these ledges and looking for schools of bass.  I marked many smaller schools, and even fished enough to find some solid fish.

I found a few in practice, including this solid fish.

I found a few in practice, including this solid fish.

Day One fish on the Hawg Trough

Day One fish on the Hawg Trough

As it often goes in ledge fishing, come game day, these schools were gone.  Hitting all of my waypoints showed no fish, just a blank screen or empty shell beds.  I panicked a bit, and fished hard trying to find fish wandering through in those areas.  Day 1 was a scramble for me, scrapping hard to find a small limit of 40.25″.

As I learned from my days of golf, I knew that I had to move on from the first day.  Not dwell on what I did wrong, or if I spent too much time trying to make something happen that couldn’t.  Looking at the numbers, it was pretty obvious that a top finish in the event wasn’t within reach, so I chose to take the next best path:  HAVE FUN!  Before the sun broke into the sky, I had decided that I was going to beat the bank in new water, fishing topwater, my favorite way to catch fish.

Fish on the board on day 2

Fish on the board on day 2

I ended up fishing a buzzbait the entire day, covering tons of water that I’d never seen before, and had an absolute blast.  I lost track of the numbers of fish I caught throughout the day, but for the most part it was a day-long flurry of fish, most of which were bigger than I’d caught the previous day.  At no point throughout Day 2 did I regret forgetting about Day 1 or moving away from the trend of fishing the ledges for big bass.  I finished Day 2 with a 45″ limit, moving me up to a respectable 27th of 73 anglers for the weekend.  I suspect that much of this was due to others failing at finding big fish on the ledges but not giving up on that pattern, but I’ll take it.  There’s no indicator that shows this, but I’d venture a guess that I may have had more fun than anyone else there that weekend.  All because I chose to not dwell on my mishits and poor execution.

One thought on “Finding fun when the pressure builds

  1. Awesome attitude Jason. Every golf instructor I know says the last shot needs to be forgotten and the most important shot is the very next one. That doesn’t mean you don’t take something positive or make an adjustment based on the last shot but you do that quickly and move on. I play my best golf when I relax and try to make my natural swing and block out all those golf tips. FISH ON!

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