Each year after the season ends I take a look back at how I did. I analyze what tournaments I did best in and take a look at my approach. And while it’s a bit painful, I look closely at my bad events and try to understand what went wrong. It is something that all anglers should do from time to time if they want to continue to improve. Here is what I learned this year; finding my own personal approach and doing what works best for me.
Everyone is Different
After Gerald Swindle won this year’s Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year he posted a video talking about what he did differently this year compared to other years. He simplified everything, limiting colors in his boat, what tackle he used and anything else he could do to change his approach. He also spoke about spending more time focusing on his game plan than he did for planning what tackle to use. Andy Morgan on the FLW Tour does the same thing and he has really made it work for him.
I watched that video of Swindle and sent a text to my brother Jordan, mentioning how I need to simplify things next year. I said I needed to get rid of some of my tackle and reduce what I bring with me. He replied back and said, “You have to do what works best for you.” That got my attention and I feel it is so spot on.
Looking back at last year’s Angler of the Year, Aaron Martens, you will see a completely different approach. Aaron could be considered a complete 180 from Swindle. He analyzes every single aspect of his rods, reels, lures, line and anything else he can modify. He is known for staying up very late working on tackle before a tournament day; he pays attention to the little things that nobody else even thinks of. Nobody would argue that it hurts his fishing because it obviously works for him. It’s his approach.
My Own Approach
This season I realized that my best tournaments were when I slowed down and focused on one area. These were the tournaments where my practice was not too great, but I found a few keys locations and made the most of them.
A good example of this was at Norfolk Lake. I had one of the best practices I have ever had in a tournament and really thought I had a chance to do well and possibly even win the tournament. I had six creeks all over that lake with big fish biting. Instead of choosing one or two to focus on, I spent too much time driving back and forth between the locations, ending up down near the bottom of the standings. I was the first boat to my first creek and should have stayed there and maximized it before the fish became pressured. All of the other creeks had boats on them when I arrived.
This may sound crazy, but having an awesome practice can actually hurt you in my opinion. What often happens when you are catching fish everywhere and on a variety of baits is that you may spend too much time moving around and trying different things. My best tournaments have been when I have one or two areas and a handful of techniques that are working. I definitely spend more time fishing because I have nothing else to fall back on.
It is also interesting to see that my best finishes are when I slow down. When I was starting out bass fishing I wanted to be just like KVD. I would fish very fast and cover tons of water. It worked for me, but only because I was so familiar with the lakes around my house. When I went to new bodies of water it didn’t work as well. It was deceiving to me and looking back it makes sense. At the time, I would have never thought that I could fish as slow as I do now and definitely wouldn’t have believed that it would work for me.
Each and every season that I fish on the Elite Series I learn more about fishing and myself as an angler. This year, I learned that I do best when I am methodical and focused on what I have found. The events where I “flew by the seat of my pants” and ran all over the lake were usually when I did the worst.
I also learned that figuring out a game plan and sticking with it is something that works for me. It may not work for everyone, it’s key. I also plan to start spending twenty to thirty minutes just thinking about my game plan the day before each tournament; finding somewhere quiet with no distractions to think of different scenarios and how the day will play out.
You’ll often hear anglers talking about the metal aspect of fishing. Those aspects are real, and the more you can understand what works for you the better you will become. Find your own approach, not what’s worked well for other anglers.