Many men go fishing their whole lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after
– Henry David Thoreau
As tournament anglers, we often get stuck focusing on whether or not we catch them. High entry fees, gear, hotel and travel costs can easily distract us from our ultimate goals. Plain and simple, we all got into this game because we solely were looking to have fun.
I often find myself in an unpleasant stoop after a bad finish. The amount of time spent practicing and preparing can feel like a waste of time when the results don’t show. Nonetheless, we must look at each failure as a growth process, another blog entry we can use to learn from our mistakes.
This past event taught me quite a bit. Prior to the event, I had never had success skipping a jig around docks using a baitcasting reel. The truth is, as a river fisherman we don’t always have the opportunity to practice the art. I’ve always admired the anglers from North Carolina who are professionals in the art of skipping due to the huge number of lake houses that litter every cove across the lakes. In reality, I never had the correct rod setup to get the proper momentum and angle to make that perfect skip to the backs of the docks. Since collaborating with 13 Fishing, I found the perfect rod in a 6’7” Medium Heavy action. The short rod allows you to make that overhand roll cast perfectly. With the roll of the wrist and an eye on the opening at the front of the dock, it was inspiring to see the technique coming to life for the first time in more than ten years of competitive fishing. Not going to lie, I backlashed more than my fair share, but the casts that I perfected made for at least a pat on the back; A simple accomplishment, one an angler can come to peace with after the stinger falling short of the podium.
When fishing a spot for the first time, no matter whether itis a spot found on the map or Intel receive from a fellow angler, it is important to explore the area as a whole, not just the specific GPS waypoint on the unit. On Lake Anna, it was easy to fish the riprap bank we had found success on during the practice period. In fact, we shook off a limit worth of fish during the practice day, giving us the confidence we would be able to catch a limit on tournament day; however, not only was the location heavily fished by the field, but heavy winds had caused a mud line that had driven the bassoffthe bank.
With time quickly catching up with us, we ran back to this specific bank we had not been able to fish all day due to the community of boats that had attacked the bank all morning. To our surprise, we pulled up on the bank mid-afternoon to only find one boat, a crew of three fun fishermen struggling to maintain position under the intense wind conditions. Jesse hooked a fish soon after, a bite that was never felt due to the wind causing the constant bow of the line. Fortunately, the fellow boat got tired of battling the wind and left. We would fail to receive another bite along the riprap wall.
As an angler, you have to be open to the changing conditions. Where the fish were just a day before can change in an instance. As Jesse worked the bank, I began to fancast away from the bank. My squarebill crankbait struggled to maintain flight in the windy conditions, but I quickly hooked up within just a few casts, a non-keeper largemouth. Digging into the rock and wood, I hooked up with a fish on the following cast, this time a MUCH better fish. In fact, Jesse and I definitely thought we had a fish worthy of big fish of the event. What followed was one, if not the hardest freshwater fight I have ever experienced.
The headshakes were unbelievable. I became a little scared fighting this fish with 12-pound test fluorocarbon. I clicked over the thumb bar more than four times to let the fish take runs to, away and under the boat. With power poles in the down position, I gasped for air as the fish took off to the back of the boat and around the boat accessories.
After what seemed like an hour fight, adrenaline putting me in the ultra-focused time slow down, we realized that it was a hybrid striper that we were dealing with. I had caught my personal best of the species. In retrospect, had I known the minimum length, Iwouldhave saved the fish for the dinner table. For the next ten minutes, I couldn’t help but shake from head to toe. What a lake monster!
In the catch I learned a lesson, a reiteration we are often taught as anglers but easily forget in the spur of the moment. Search baits, aka moving baits, can play a huge role in relocating fish that have moved. It is easy to give up on a spot after not getting bit, but often the fish have not left the general area. In this case, the fish has just slightly moved to the nearest hump. Although no bigguns were caught, it was a personal realization I will take with me going into the next three events.
There is no substitute for time on the water. When practice fails you come tournament day, look not at failure as a complete loss, but grow from the losses and take with you the small successes. Build from your mistakes, let them be fuel for your goals and desires. It makes the wins that much sweeter.