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Are You Head Strong?
Dave Norton

Sure you can catch bass, but is your head strong enough to handle the mental roller coaster of tournament fishing? This story might make myself sound like a whack-job, but from what I have seen these experiences are real with many tournament anglers.

I came to the conclusion that by writing an article about staying mentally strong during a tournament I will not only educate myself, but any others who might be dealing with the same issues.

I will briefly tell you about specific examples I have personally experienced so you get an idea of what types of distractions, frustrations, or any other non-planned variables which I have dealt with. Distractions which spark the fire of frustration can be as simple as a fly buzzing around my head while fan-casting a slop field. Or better yet, I can become unraveled when I am working a great stretch of hard bank because the fish are pulled up tight and there is a pair of ducks scrambling just ahead of me right over the fish. I just wish the freaking ducks would let me go by or fly away. I have this theory that a bass can tell the difference between ducks scrambling over them because something is wrong, or just swimming around un-pressured (call me goofy, but these are REAL things which can really bother me). Another is equipment issues. This can be anything from my trolling motor foot switch malfunctioning, reels acting up, a buzzbait blade not spinning properly, or even something as simple as a swim jig running a little sideways during my retrieve. Lastly, I actually do a pretty good job of not letting weather bother me because I know that is something every contestant is dealing with but this can be a trigger for others. I know the weather is something I cannot change.

In the last paragraph I mentioned these minute distractions can spark a fire of frustration. What I mean by that is once something little doesn’t go the way I want it to during these high pressure situations it can have a snowball effect and quickly escalate into a meltdown. From personal experience, it seems like if I don’t react quickly to the small problems and correct them a snowball effect takes over and many more bad things are soon to follow. The post-trigger bad things are certainly a result of me not having my head in the game…a complete lack of focus.

What can I/ we do about this? Well, I am truthfully asking the same question. Recently I have received advice which has led me to believe that the first and foremost thing we can do is remember that we are doing this for FUN. If you do something dumb, laugh at yourself and call yourself a bonehead (while laughing)! Then think hard about your next move and get your head back into the game. I also received valuable information from a guy named Steve which quotes, “You choose when to get mad”. I know that sounds simple or stupid, but think about it. If I cut you off on the freeway, it's your decision whether to let it go or to fly off the handle”.

If you are experiencing situations where you are fighting a meltdown on the front deck during a tournament, maybe you can use this story to remind you of how we can control our reaction to unwanted issues. Maybe right now you can do some research about how to cope with idiots…oops, I mean un-planned issues which constantly get in our way throughout a tournament J.  

-Dave Norton