Dock Talk Puzzler
Wanna hear a tall tale? Just show up at any tournament weigh-in or pre-tournament meeting.
"I've caught over 20 pounds every day this week!"
"It's gonna take over 30 pounds to win this tournament easy!"
"I shoulda had this tournament won, but I lost three giants!"
"If I only coulda caught what I had yesterday, or the ones my co-angler caught, or the ones I saw on the graph, or the ones that didn't bite...."
You get the point.
For those that know me, I tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. Not that I don't have confidence, but I'm never the guy that makes big claims before the tournament, and I despise making excuses afterward. The advent of camera phones has debunked some of the "giants" caught in practice. I love seeing the guy holding the 3.5 pound bass up on Facebook the day before the tournament, claiming it is a six pounder. I guess it's all part of the game, but it's a game I don't play. I am always conservative in my assessment of how good my practice was and the potential for what I can catch on game day.
Last weekend I fished my first event of the year on Kentucky Lake. I worked the pre-tournament meeting for one of my sponsors, Royal Purple. As I stood there peddling synthetic lubricant, angler after angler came up to me asking the dreaded question, "Are you on 'em?" My answer was a confident and resounding "No!" I had a terrible practice. Since I hadn’t been on Kentucky Lake since November, I spent two days trying to figure out what to do. Day 1 of practice started at 24 degrees and ended at 41 with sleet. I got four bites all day. Day 2 of practice was warm, sunny and windy. I got five bites all day. I was almost completely clueless. It got so bad that I did something that I detest. I tried to use my "Phone A Friend" lifeline. About 2:30 on Friday I called a friend who had done well in a tournament a couple of weeks earlier to ask how to catch a bass on this lake. He told me what he had done, but of course the conditions had changed dramatically and his pattern wouldn't work for me. I hate dock talk and listening to people tell you about all of the bass they caught on this or that lure, but I found myself listening to what I usually ignore because I was struggling so bad.
As Saturday morning dawned clear and windy I wasn't sure what I would do or where I would go. I started on a place I had caught one the day before and didn't get a bite. Then, like a moron, I spent two hours chasing some junk I got in my head from listening to the dock talk. About 10:00 AM with the livewells empty, I decided to start from scratch. I kept telling myself that this lake is loaded with fish and what I had done thus far hadn't worked. I needed to piece the puzzle together, fast. I caught my first keeper about 10:30 and a very dim light bulb started to glow. I caught my second about 11:15 on the same lure and type of structure. The light grew a little brighter. I had a five-fish limit by noon and from noon until my check-in time at 3:45 we caught fish on every stop but one.
The point is not to brag about my uncanny fish finding ability, because I spent two days utterly clueless. My point is that those two clueless days really were valuable in finally solving the riddle. I took the few bites I had in practice tried to find a common denominator and ruled out everything else. Pros talk about eliminating water. I guess I'm good at that because I spent 22 hours of practice on unproductive water. I knew exactly where not to go and somehow fumbled around and figured out what was working. Although it is a lot harder to keep a positive attitude, sometimes not catching them in practice is just as important as catching them.
My 21.38 pound limit was good for 3rd place and a healthy check. I'll be adding another $150 bucks to my bank account from the Boat US Angler Weigh-To-Win bonus as well! It was also good for quite a lot of ribbing from my competitors who accused me of sand-bagging. I wasn't lying about not knowing what to do, I just was fortunate to figure a little something out just in time. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from this weekend's adventure is to trust yourself and your own abilities. If I hadn't finally been able to tune out the dock talk, I'd be blogging about a zero in my first event of the year. Stay positive. Trust yourself. Tune everything else out.
Until next time,
Keep chunkin' and windin'
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