I strongly believe that there is nothing more important and indicative of success when tournament fishing than confidence. It’s a given that every one of the anglers on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit knows how to cast at a high level, break down a lake and expertly select the correct lures to catch the biggest fish in the lake. The difference comes down to the mental side of the game, where split-second decisions can make or break your tournament – and even your season.
We’ve all been there. You had a bad pre-tournament practice and the stars aren’t aligning. Maybe you’re even having equipment issues and you just don’t feel prepared or optimistic. That mental negativity is enough to throw off your whole tournament.
In times like that, a positive attitude can carry you a long way when things aren’t going your way.
This year, I’ve chosen to home in on trusting my gut, even with tough practices. I’m happy to share that I rarely have a practice that’s worth writing home about. It’s just the way it goes, and I’ve learned to not let the discouragement affect the tournament.
This year, I’ve been able to fish with more confidence than in prior years, and it’s paying off for me. I’m currently sitting in sixth place overall in the Pro Circuit standings after the first three events. I was thrilled to start off the year stronger than in previous years. I have made the correct decisions this year when it comes to deciding to stay in an area or to pick up and move, and I strongly believe that having the confidence to trust my gut is critical for making smart calls on the water.
Gaining confidence on the water and in tournaments doesn’t come naturally to many. It takes time, experience and, unfortunately, often hard lessons learned.
Let me give you an example: Last year, I won the Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) event on Oneida Lake and then followed that up by winning the Bassmaster Open on Oneida. It was extremely tough to get bites in both tournaments. From my years of experience fishing that lake, and from the practices, I was able to develop two different patterns, which allowed me to locate numerous spots on the lake and run different water in both of those events. I wasn’t catching numbers, but I had confidence that if I stuck to my patterns and ran them all day, I would get the quality bites I needed to win.
Another very important part of fishing with confidence is having a handful of baits that you truly believe will catch fish anywhere in the country, whenever you pick them up. My number one go-to is the Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer. I’ve caught more fish – and bigger fish – on a ChatterBait than any other bait on the market. This is a great bait for learning new water, or improving confidence, because it allows you to cover water and catch size at the same time.
Another favorite lure when I slow down or I just need a bite is the Hayabusa Brush Easy jig head in 1/10-ounce with a Z-Man Finesse TRD. This bait is a confidence-booster that just straight up gets you the bites. A great example of this was last week at the Chesapeake Bay when I was fishing a grass bed with a bunch of boats on it. The pressure got to the fish and they slowed down biting reaction baits. That’s when I dug out my Ned rig and caught fish for the next 15 minutes. Here is a link to that 15 minutes of action.
The bottom line is: If you’re not getting the bites you anticipated and know you should make a move, do it. Tournament days are short enough. Listen to your instincts and not to who else is fishing around you or what you’ve done in the past. Every angler and their strategy is unique, and delaying a decision on the water could cost you the tournament. No matter what level you’re fishing, or even if it’s just for fun, build your confidence with experience each and every time you’re out on the water to put the most fish in the boat.