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When one begins fishing
tournaments he believes he will do well and when he does not bring home
cash and prizes frustration can set in. While this article is written
drawing on my past bass tournament experience, it could easily be
applied to any type of tournament, fishing or otherwise. The whole key
to reducing frustration and increasing enjoyment is to set small goals
and celebrate small victories. To illustrate what I mean, I would like
to give you an overview at my first few years of tournament fishing.
A good friend of mine called one day and asked if I would fish an open
event with him since he did not have a boat. I agreed and we showed up
in my 16’ tin can with a 25 Evinrude tournament day with every idea we
would do well. Before it even started, however, reality began hitting
me. I could not believe we were going to fish in weather like that. It
was raining and cold. I had always headed in when bad weather hit. As I
recall, we fished hard all day and never had a bite. All was not lost,
however, as it turned out the local Indiana Bass Federation club hosted
the tournament. The next year I joined the club and my addiction began.
First Year. Doing the
Wrong Thing. Because I
had a boat and wanted to use it I joined as a boater. The boat was legal
but not comfortable so, no one was forced to fish with me. I did not do
well this first year but I did weigh fish at a couple of tournaments
that year. Looking back it would have been more fun to have had someone
to talk to and I would have learned the ropes much quicker if I had
joined as a non-boater and then got paired with a boater.
This year ended in a disappointing club classic. I caught my
biggest bass ever 8.5lbs but, unfortunately, it was a practice day. It
took only 6.5lbs to win the classic. I spent the first day catching and
keeping 12 inch spotted bass because we were in Kentucky, which allowed
the smaller size limit. At the scales I was told I could not weigh them.
I was cheated out of the weight by the club in my opinion. The club
rules simply stated size limit would follow lake or state rules, but I
was told, “Well, we always have the 14 inch rule even though it
isn’t written.” The moral here is to be sure you pick a club who
will honor their own written rules. The only good thing I took away from
this year was, I did weigh a few fish.
Second Year. New Year, New
State, and New Club. Well, I knew it would not be hard to improve on
last year’s performance. I joined a local club in northern Illinois,
which mostly fished clear lakes in Southeastern Wisconsin. I went as a
non-boater this year and learned a great deal from my partners. Fishing
these clear lakes required me to learn new techniques. I got my first
check this year. It was small and barely covered the entry but I won
something. I also weighed fish at over half of the tournaments. These
are two things that I look back at and can see I was improving, and this
was enough to keep me competing.
Third Year. This was
much the same as the second year. I did improve, however, and claimed
three small checks this year and bought my first real bass boat.
Forth Year. Expanding.
This was a very good year. I changed to a Federation club, and began
fishing a couple of other trails because I wanted to fish bigger lakes.
The change to a Federation club allowed me to work toward bigger things.
I may never make the Bassmaster Classic but at least now I can see the
road to it. I weighed fish this year at all but 2 tournaments. I managed
to finish high enough in the club standings to qualify for the state
Federation 8-man tournament. Consistency was the key to this good year.
I ended the year by taking second place in the club classic and I cashed
my first big check for $1500. As I looked back at this year, I really
began to feel I could compete with most any of the club anglers. I had
come a long way.
5th year. New
Year, New Club, New State, Again! I
had to move once again after getting laid-off from my job. I also became
a Director for the American Bass Anglers Tournament Trail, a large
national organization in which I fished in Illinois. When my family and
I moved to Iowa I called the ABA and they had nothing close so I agreed
to start a district here. This became a busy year over night. First, I
had to lean how to fish a muddy place with current, the Mississippi
River. Second, I had to recruit for and run the new district. And
lastly, I had to find a way to improve on last year’s performance to
keep the momentum going. While I did not win more money than last year I
had a few good improvements. I won my first tournament, had another 1st
and a couple of 2nd’s as well as big bass twice. Also, up
to this point I had never actually brought in a limit or had to cull.
This year I did it 3 or 4 times. Another milestone, I started pursuing
sponsors and picked up a few to sponsor both the tournament district and
me. Does this now mean I’m a pro?
few years, Goals became harder to define and achieve but I can see
how far I came and I thoroughly enjoy tournament fishing now. My focus,
however, has shifted some from me, to running the best tournament
circuit I can and teaching my kids the sport. My son who is just turning
9 is quickly becoming a bass fishing demon. My biggest reward came from
him about a year ago. He begged me to let him play flag-football. I have
never forced him into fishing so I agreed he could play. After going to
practice for a couple of weeks and the after the first game ended he
says to me. “Dad can I stop playing football? I’d rather just go
fishing.” I think I was only happier when he was born!
OK, I suppose the background
got longer than I anticipated but what I wanted to show is, tournament
fishing should not be only about cashing a check every time, but instead
one should enjoy seeing their skills improve and get most of the
satisfaction from the small improvements made every year. While, talking
with other tournament anglers they have revealed basically the same
experiences. If you do get frustrated at a single tournament look back
and reflect on the past years it will help you put things in perspective
and realize you should not be upset, but instead be happy with your
overall performance. Even pros at the Bassmaster Classic stumble
occasionally. Look at the bottom of the standings where you will find
some pros that weighed one fish in 3 days. They stumbled, but I bet you
would still love to have had their experience.
So, this year, think about
your past performance and then find two things that would be an
improvement over previous years and work toward them. Make sure what you
choose is obtainable and then pat yourself on the back and buy a round
of drinks after it is achieved. If
you need some suggestion send me an email or use the ones as I have.
Don’t forget to make time to take your kid fishing. Always remember, having fun and improving your skills are the most important parts! Most of us will never make a living fishing.