I hadn’t been on the lake for several days, work and family obligations kept me from the other passion in my life. We just had a nice three day warming trend and I knew the fish were about to crash the shallows. I couldn’t wait to make that first cast of the morning, I knew exactly what I was going to do and where I was going to do it. The anticipation of 4 pounders ripping through the water to get my bait would not stop playing over and over in my head. Something special was going to happen today, without a shadow of a doubt I was going to catch them.
There is nothing like knowing you’re going to do well and the feeling that you know what’s going on, that is what confidence is all about. But really how important is confidence and where does it come from? In my experience confidence comes from preparation and experience which becomes a positive mindset that is vital to a tournament angler’s success. Confidence affects your every move, from what you throw, to where you go, to what your next location is. It is an underrated tool in the world of competitive fishing that I think could be your most important asset throughout a tournament day or days. Let’s face it as much as we like to say it’s you against the fish or the lake, we all know there’s more to it than that. For some people it’s them against themselves and that can be the case more often than not.
Tournaments are pretty much a mind game that the results are based on decisions you make during the event and confidence plays a big part in what decisions we make. If you look at successful anglers at a local level and at the highest level, they will all be very confident in what they do. They kind of march to the beat of their own drum and do what they feel they should do vs what the crowd is doing. If we look at some of the runs in pro fishing where a guy seems unstoppable for a certain period of time, they are all doing their own thing. Most recently look at Jason Christie or Randall Tharp, they seem to be on an unstoppable roll. The confidence they have right now is building all the time and it seems to snowball until maybe they get too confident or satisfied, then it will start all over again.
We know what confidence is and how it feels, but how do you become that way. Like most things it’s easier said than done and some people are better than others at it. I believe you need to start small and build your way to it, just like anything else. You need a good foundation to make your confidence last over time, then you kind of create an attitude that is hard to shake. I have always believed you are better off to be real good at a few things than pretty good at a bunch of things. In my experience that seems to be true in fishing as well. Most of the best guys at fishing are pretty much known for one or two things and then build from there. Denny Brauer, my favorite by the way, is known for jig fishing. Arron Martens seems to be the drop shot master and David Fritts the king of crankbaits. This is certainly not all these guys do but it’s probably what they are best at and what they have the most confidence doing, it is definitely their base.
Without question my base is a jig and to this day I can base a good portion of my confidence back to the beginning of my competitive fishing addiction. My granddad (Paw Paw) and I used to travel to Chickahominy Lake quite frequently and Ed Allen’s Marina was always our place of destination. They had a pot at the marina that was $1. Every day you fished you added a dollar to the pot and the first fisherman to weigh a 6.5lb or better bass got the cash. I had no experience tournament fishing but the challenge was irresistible, one dollar for a shot at all that money. As we launched the 14’ jon boat I remember thinking, what would Denny Brauer do. I quickly tied my black jig on with a twin tail Yamamoto salt and pepper trailer and we immediately started flipping docks just down from the marina. I noticed one dock midway down had a piece of brush sticking up out of the water. I quickly flipped the jig between the brush and the dock. The hook set that followed changed me forever. A 6.75 lbs. bass, my biggest ever at the time, that is what started it all. That is also the base of my confidence that I have unknowingly built on for years and years. That one pitch and winning that $300 plus pot was all it took and to this day a jig is still my confidence bait and probably what I do best.
I guess what I can say is confidence is very important and has to be built over a period of time. Some people’s time period is much shorter than others just like with all things in general. I just can’t help but imagine what type of confidence level a Brandon Paulinick must have or one of the Lee (Matt or Jordan) brothers, that’s a scary thought to me with such youth on their side. It’s also something that will rise and fall throughout someone’s fishing career, but with a good base it can be a solid foundation in our mental preparations. Confidence is hard to come by at times, easy to lose, and even harder to get back. So try to build your confidence on a solid foundation and remember it’s a positive mindset that can be a huge asset.