In the words of Brad Paisley, “Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.” Whether you are an Elite Series professional or part-timer like myself, tournament bass fishing presents itself with an almost limitless list of variables to contend with: wind, sun, clouds, temperature, water clarity, seasonal patterns, lures, rods, reels, boats, electronics, hooks, line, knots and, oh yeah, stupid bass that don’t always do what we think they should.
Then there are the psychological variables like confidence in an area, confidence in certain techniques, fear of failure, fear of success, and the list goes on. My educational background is in research. Any good scientist controls as many variables as possible to achieve a desired outcome.
Most of my friends would classify me as having OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), especially when it comes to tournament fishing. My tackle, my boat, my rods, my hooks, are all extremely well organized and maintained. At times, I’ve probably been too concerned with little details that cost me time and money, but I’ve always felt that I was stacking the odds in my favor to succeed. This little self-portrait brings me to the story of this past weekend’s adventure.
March 19th was the first Weekend Series event of the TN Central season on Percy Priest Lake. I live in Mt. Juliet, TN, a Nashville suburb, that sits about four miles from Percy Priest. I’ve spent many, many days on this lake and have a fairly respectable tournament record there. March on Priest can be feast or famine and the bass have this strange tendency to swim around a lot. You can find them one day and they will disappear the next. I got on the lake for a couple hours on Thursday morning just to run around a little bit, check water temperature and clarity, and get a feel for things. The water was in the low 50’s, but we were on the front end of a major warming trend. I fished a few places and only caught a couple of dinks before I had to head to the office.
Friday I hit the water at daylight and fished until 5:30. The only things I really figured out was that the lake was fishing very tough and despite the water warming into the 60’s, the fish were not in their normal shallow patterns. I never caught a keeper all day long. At 5:30 I put the Triton on the trailer, checked-in with Randy Sullivan, the WE Series director, and spent about 30 minutes working on my tackle. Normally, I’d put in more time, but for a couple of reasons, I curbed my OCD tendencies. First, I was starving, and we were sitting right next to Hoppy’s restaurant. The sooner I got done, the sooner I could eat. Second, I wasn’t on anything. I hated to change line on 15 reels not even sure exactly what I’d do the next day. I really wasn’t that worried about it. To do well at Priest, you really have to fish by the seat of your pants anyway. I just retied about 12 rods with what I thought I’d try on Saturday and called it a night.
I used to get really hyped up before tournaments. I don’t know if I’m getting older or have just done it 10,000 times, but I don’t get the pre-tournament jitters like I used to. At the same time, a victory in this event would be worth more than $10,000 with my Triton contingency bonuses, so it was worth some serious attention. At blast off, I stopped at the first likely-looking bank and started fishing. After 30 minutes of cranking down a really good bank without a bite, I headed down lake. Dock talk was that the big smallmouth were biting, so I went to the area of the lake that in my opinion is best for big smalljaws in March. I had cranked a stretch of rocks for about 300 yards when my co-angler set the hook on a fish that he said felt pretty good before it pulled off on his jig. I turned the boat around, grabbed my jig rod and decided to work back through the area. On about my third cast a big smallmouth rocked the jig and ran straight at me. I set the hook, had her for a second, then she pulled off. I looked at my co-angler and said, “That was a big one!” No sooner than I got the words out of my mouth, that mean girl turned around grabbed my jig again and tried to take my rod away from me. I set the hook again and got her this time. She ran toward the boat so fast I was winding as fast as I could turn the handle to try to keep up with her. She surged under the boat and when she came back out, my co-angler slid the net under her. The fish was a beautiful 4.5 smallmouth. I dropped her in the box and jumped back on the trolling motor.
I looked at my line and my jig. The OCD voice in my head told me to sit down and retie. This spot was so rocky that the jig was hung up about every other pull and I’d have to pop it loose. I felt the line and decided I’d retie in a minute. I did. Only it was to tie on a new jig after another 4 pound smallmouth broke me off heading the other direction. When she hit, she was going full speed away from the boat. That speed along with my adrenaline proved too much for my beat-up knot and the line snapped. I immediately knew that I had screwed up big time. That was a variable I could have controlled but didn’t. Within ten minutes, I had a 3.5 and a 2.5 in the livewell with the big one. Then, it went dead: no more bites. I fished around the rest of the day and managed one more small keeper. With four fish in the box and as tough as it had been, I knew that my mental lapse was going to cost me big-time.
My fish ended up weighing 11.75. It took 14.30 to win. You can do the math, but my calculations have that mistake costing me about $8500. I am rarely one to whine about the one that got away. Fish come off, it just happens. If I do everything right and a fish comes off, I really don’t let it bother me. This one still stings. Had I done what I knew was the right thing and smart thing, I’d be blogging about my first win of the 2011 season and my $10,000 payday. On the bright side, the year really is off to a great start. I’ve banked over $1000 in each of my first two tournaments and I’ve been making good on-the-water decisions. I hope that will keep up and maybe I’ll be a little more OCD next weekend. Shameless plug: it looks like this will be two weeks in a row winning the Boat US ANGLER Weigh-to-Win contingency ( www.boatusfishing.com ). If you haven’t signed up, you better do it. It’s the smartest $38 dollars a tournament fisherman can spend (except maybe on some new fishing line).
Until next time, keep chunkin’ and windin’ (and retying).
Boat US ProStaff
Back to Blog | Back to Pro Staff