MLF pro Jason Lambert fishing on Lake Kissimmee during Stage One. Photo by Josh Gassmann
By Mason Prince - April 15, 2019
TULSA, Okla. – A minor setback for a major comeback: that’s what MLF pro Jason Lambert hopes is the case for him after a difficult start to the season. The setback for Lambert has been four missed Elimination Round cuts through the first four stages of the Bass Pro Tour. Not only has he been below the Elimination Line, but he hasn’t finished higher than 35th in his group of 40 this year.
“It’s just fishing,” Lambert said. “It’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Finding the Problem
There have been some bright spots for the Tennessee pro this year. Lambert caught, weighed and released a 4-pound, 8-ounce bass during Stage Four on Lake Chickamauga, the largest he’s put on SCORETRACKER™ all season. Still, as we’ve moved from late winter to now early spring through four stages of the Bass Pro Tour, the fish we’ve seen have been around their spawning windows. That is something that Lambert admits he’s struggled with not only in MLF, but throughout his entire career.
“The weakest part of my arsenal has always been fishing around a spawn,” Lambert admitted. “Unfortunately, we’ve had four straight events that are either in the middle of a spawn or moving into a spawning period. I’m just not geared to fish that way and slow down.”
Eyes on the Future
As he looks ahead on the Bass Pro Tour schedule, Lambert is quick to highlight a couple of events where he thinks he can really do some damage. As the temperature rises with every passing stage, so too does Lambert’s confidence.
“Anything pre-spawn or post-spawn is where I feel comfortable,” Lambert detailed. “That allows me to be able to power fish, throw a moving bait, and wind it back. I’ve never been a good bait-dragger, which is what I’ve struggled with this year. I’m really looking forward to Stage Six at Table Rock Lake and Stage Seven at Grand Lake because both of those should be offshore, structure-type tournaments.”
No Time for Changes
Many anglers on the Bass Pro Tour are new to the MLF format, but have excelled through the halfway point of the season (Jared Lintner, Jacob Powroznik and Jeff Sprague just to name a few). Lambert, though, is not new to MLF because he comes in with experience from fishing the Selects. Although he hasn’t had the results he prefers, he has no plans on changing his game for the final half of the season.
“I don’t think you need to change your style of fishing in this format to be successful,” Lambert emphasized. “I’ve won a lot of tournaments in my career and every tournament that I’ve won in a five-fish format, I would have won in an MLF-style format except for one.”
Snapping the Slump
Lambert is a confident professional angler, but just like any other athlete in any other sport, there is a mental aspect to fishing as well. No matter how many tournaments you’ve won—in Lambert’s case, seven—doubt can always creep in.
“It’s like Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees going through a 0-for-36 streak last season, anyone can have a slump,” Lambert compared. “The problem that people don’t realize about bass fishing is that it is just as much mental as it is anything. When you’re struggling, it can get in your head and you start to feel the pressure.”
Lambert doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself or make excuses after another missed cut in Stage Four, nor does he want to. Instead, he is choosing to focus on the back half of the season and doing what he needs to do to qualify for some cup events, and the Redcrest at season’s end.
“Moving forward, I know exactly how I’m going to fish the next four stages,” Lambert predicted. “I’m going to power fish and I’m going to fish my strength. If you are fishing your strength, it doesn’t matter what body of water you are on, you can line it up and win it all on any given day. If I want to make the Redcrest, I’m going to have to try and win every event so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”