For those who suffer through my blog regularly, you know I am a pretty intense weekend tournament fisherman. I compete in 25+ events a year and fish two divisions of the Bassmaster Weekend Series. I chose the weekend series because it lines up well with my sponsors, the schedules are good and the events are run incredibly well. The WE series consists of five tournaments. Four one-day events, and a two-day divisional championship worth double points. With four events completed in the TN Central and in the Kentucky Divisions, I was sitting in first place in points in TN Central and second in Kentucky.
Although I wouldn't call this year a huge success, I have been pretty consistent. With eight WE series events in the books, I had weighed in 40 out of a possible 40 bass and had a 2nd, 3rd, two 4th, and several other top ten finishes. I know most people would call that a good year. It hasn’t exactly been easy. Several tournaments, I felt like I was on absolutely nothing after practice, but made good decisions on tournament day and put together some solid limits. I had one practice in March on KY Lake, where I caught one keeper all day and another that I didn't get to practice for at all. Please don't read this as bragging because it's all about to come to a crashing halt.
A couple weeks ago, I fished the Weekend Series divisional final Old Hickory near my home in Mt. Juliet, TN. Old Hickory is a very popular tournament destination. Why? I have no idea. Old Hickory has hosted several top-level professional tournaments in the past few years including the Women’s professional tour, the FLW tour, and the BassMaster Elite Series. If you look at professional angler's profiles, many of them, list their "Least Favorite Lake" as Old Hickory. The lake has a strong reputation for being tough, especially in the fall. That being said, I have a pretty respectable history on Old Stingy. I've won several events and have quite a few top fives and top tens. I’ve fished many tournaments in September and October there and understand that it strictly a game of making the right choices and adapting on the water. A couple years ago I fished a two-day event there, caught a decent limit the first day on a Carolina rig and returned the second day to find that pattern completely dead. I ended up catching another limit the next day: one a c-rig, one on a frog, one on a jig, one a crankbait, and one on a spinnerbait. My point is that to do well on this lake, you have to be flexible and smart.
I got a day on the water the weekend before the tournament. It took me a while, but I figured out two ways that I could catch keepers. I had about 12-13 pounds that day, which is a fairly good bag for Old Hickory in September. I practiced again the Thursday prior to the event, ran different water and had about 5 keeper bites. I was not terribly confident, but just somehow knew that since I had figured them out all year, I would just keep an open mind and figure something out in the tournament. I was pretty sure that I could scratch out a limit both days. My main goal was to win the points championship for the division. I was leading the points by a small margin, but figured if I could finish in the top ten, no one could beat me.
I've decided not to try and relive the pain of that weekend by sharing every detail, so here's the short version: Nothing I did worked. My decisions were off and I never got that feeling that I was doing the right thing. For two days, I made every adjustment I could think of to land on that “Aha” moment where it starts clicking. It never clicked. I weighed just three fish for 4 pounds on day one and two of those came on the dreaded shakey-head in the last 30 minutes. The next day, I completely changed my approach, fished new water, and had an empty livewell thirty minutes before weigh-in. I did manage two keepers in the last few minutes to avoid a zero for the day. My stellar performance put me in 20th place and I fell to second in the points.
My point with this blog is not to gripe about being a terrible fisherman or to make excuses. The point is that tournament fishing is all about decision-making. It's not a secret fishing spot. It's not a secret lure. It's not about installing the latest deluxe electronics. Those are all helpful tools, but winners win based on the decisions they make. The difference in 20th place and 10th place or 7th place and 22nd place is often about learning to make the right choices based on the conditions and what the lake is telling you that day. The better we get at decision making, the better we do. Unfortunately, there will always be a few days like my little Old Hickory adventure.
Until next time,
Keep chunkin' and windin'
Boat US ANGLER Pro-Staff
Back to Blog | Back to Pro Staff