Losing and Learning – A College Angler’s Advice
Hey there fish-fans. Today I want to talk about something that anyone who has ever fished a tournament can relate to, and that is losing. As anglers, and as competitors, we of course want to win every tournament that we enter. Or at least walk away feeling like we had the chance to win. But the reality of this sport is that in every fishing derby, there is only one winner and many more losers. Immediately upon signing up for a tournament, whether it be with a small local club or a big regional organization, the odds are stacked against you. Not only do you have to figure out a way to make the fish bite in any conditions, and execute when they do bite; but you also have to out-smart and out-compete the rest of your competitors as well.
This isn’t to say we should expect defeat, and I’m especially not saying that we should accept defeat. The drive and the will to win is what I believe excels the best in the world to their current status. But what I am saying is, you can’t dwell on the negatives and the emotions that come after falling short of a victory. Having a short memory when it comes to a tournament loss is extremely important for all competitive anglers. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a tour-level pro, you cannot beat yourself up (too much) over a poor tournament performance. I don’t mean completely forget about it, because we can learn a lot from our failures. But, there is no sense in messing with your mental game for the upcoming tournaments by focusing on the negatives from previous events.
This is especially important for anglers like myself, the younger generation of competitive anglers. Guys and gals, we are going to lose a lot more than we are going to win; that is the reality of this sport. So instead of whining, moaning, and making excuses about a bad performance; just learn from your mistakes, and move on to the next one. A quote I believe to be very relevant to fishing is, “if you’re not learning, you’re losing.” From us rookies to KVD, we need to be learning something new on every trip to the water. Whether we win, lose, or whatever the outcome may be; learn from it, and move on. Fishing is the most humbling sport there is. You could win the Bassmaster Classic one weekend, and blank in a small club tournament the following weekend. Whether we won or lost last week really does not matter, what matters is what we take away from each experience.
I’m writing this as advice for the younger generations and for all tournament anglers; but this is mostly stemming from my recent experience. A few weeks ago, we competed in the College BASS Midwestern Regional on Lake of the Ozarks. I always put a lot of pressure on myself for these events because this College BASS tournament trail is the only way for a collegiate angler to get a direct spot in the Bassmaster Classic. With it being such an important tournament, our club takes it very seriously and had four boats down in the Ozarks a week early to pre-fish. The conditions were brutally cold and windy, but my partner and I still got a pretty darn good pattern going. That is of course, until tournament day rolled around. Long story short, we fell on our faces during the tournament days and ended up in 34th place. Along ways away from qualifying for the National Championship, and even farther away from the victory that I wanted. As you could guess, we were very upset with how things turned out. I spent several days feeling sorry for myself and making every excuse under the sun as to why things turned out the way they did. “A front moved through”, “a big local tournament was going on”, “lock-jaw”, “the weather changed”, blah-blah-blah. Finally, it dawned on me how stupid it was to be dwelling on the negatives and making excuses. Doing this wasn’t going to change the outcome, and making excuses certainly wasn’t going to turn back time. In reality, we just got too caught up with what we did in practice and didn’t fish the conditions the way we should have.
So I looked at the tournament from a different perspective and simply just tried to look at the positive things we did, and then looked at what I would do differently. This made the tournament much easier to swallow, and put a positive spin on an otherwise negative outcome. From now on, this is how I will approach every tournament, or even every fishing outing. I’ll continue to go out and fish with intentions to win and leave everything out on the lake. But afterwards, I’ll think back and ask myself:
– What did you do right?
– What did you do wrong?
– What would you change?
– How can this experience help me in the future?
Asking these questions will help us take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Doing this at every level, especially for us younger anglers, will help us down the road without a doubt.
I hope this week’s ramblings passed on at least a little bit of good advice. I, myself, am still very much a work in progress. I am constantly learning, changing, and hopefully, improving. If you aspire to be a tournament angler at any level I think this approach can help you. As I said before, this is geared for you high school and collegiate anglers, or anyone just getting going in competitive fishing. Always learn from your tournament experiences, whether they are good-bad-or ugly. As we get older and have to fish more and more tournaments, these lessons learned early on will pay huge dividends in the end. Keep your head down, fish as hard as you can, and never stop learning. Thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes reading this today, hope you enjoyed it. As always, keep you baits wet and your lines tight!
Authored by Luke Stoner, visit the Illini Bass Fishing Club website: http://www.fightingillinibassclub.com and connect with Luke on Fishidy