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Big Fish and Mentality

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April 4, 2014

Big Fish and Mentality

As a young angler, fishing was simple. It was a matter of getting my chores done so I would be granted a few hours at the local pond. It was a matter of scrounging up enough change to buy a can of sweet corn and a root beer. I didn't need to choose a specific lure or color pattern. All I needed was my Zebco and some hooks and sinkers. I caught many carp and the occasional channel catfish. The most important factor for catching fish was simply being able to go fishing. These days, things have grown a bit more complicated....

Last week, I found myself somewhat stressed as I sat in the blue glow of the computer screen. My mind was filled with dozens of questions pertaining to my decision of going fishing on the weekend. The pure excitement I once felt while planning an outing had been replaced by anxiety. I was researching my past trips, reading water temperature reports, debating lure choice and trying to balance other responsibilities with my obsession. Even on the water, I felt pressed for time and pressured to 'make something happen'. I wasn't concentrating on fooling a big fish or enjoying my time outdoors. I felt like I had to cram catching fish into my schedule or I wouldn't feel satisfied. At one point, I stopped casting and let out a sigh. I realized I was doing my favorite thing in the world and I wasn't having any fun.

I've had the same feeling before while fishing tournaments. That moment when you are not having the best of luck and you see someone on another boat hoist a big fish in and let out a celebratory howl. You start re-thinking your whole game plan. You start switching out lures or moving around to different spots. You lose confidence and without realizing it, the enjoyment of the sport diminishes. More often than not, the negative mind set leads to catching less fish. Instead of thinking that you did what you could, you think about what you didn't do, you question yourself. Looking back on these moments, I've realized despite the many decisions one is faced with when fishing...there is one factor more important than all others...confidence. If you don't believe in what you are doing, you won't give it your full effort.

A few years back, I remember standing in the pre-dawn darkness chucking lures into 30 mph wind gusts. It was early spring and I felt a little crazy but it felt good. I wasn't worried about the fact that most fishermen were tucked in bed asleep, waiting for fairer weather. I wasn't worried about whether or not I caught a fish. I just wanted to fish and I was enjoying it. I had selected a lure that made the most sense to me and I was confident in my choice. If I didn't catch anything, I would at least get to say I was hardcore and have the bonus of learning from being out on the water. As luck would have it, the largest pike I've ever caught slammed my crank right at my feet. Moments later, I lifted the toothy giant from the net and held it up for the camera. I didn't catch many fish that night but it was one of my most memorable fishing trips. I could have sat at home debating whether or not to go until was too late. I could have read the weather report and tucked my tail. That night I didn't let negative thinking stop me from catching the fish of a lifetime. I didn't debate which lure to throw. I was decisive and I fished with confidence. Ironically, most of my best fish came in situations when one might not expect to catch a big fish. No amount of consideration for the various factors that lead to success would've helped me. It was very simple, I decided to go fishing because fishing is fun and I ended up being rewarded in a big way.

One of the largest bass I've landed in recent history came on a windless, cloudless summer day with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. I started the morning casting a hollow body frog and doing well with it. In the late afternoon things had slowed down considerably. I was enjoying the lazy day on the pond and chatting with my fishing buddy while my frog sat a few feet from the boat floating idly. Suddenly, a giant bass came up out of 8 feet of water and crushed the frog. The fish put on a hell of a fight before I pulled it in. The behemoth weighed 7 or 8 pounds and bit in conditions most would consider unfavorable for the application. Once again, I would have never planned it to happen that way. I caught that fish simply because I was out fishing and enjoying myself, not because I had been tediously debating the perfect plan of attack. I'm not saying it's bad to think about how to fish. I'm saying that fishing should be fun. I'm saying that it can be simple and I'm saying that one who fishes with confidence and without regret will end up catching more big fish.

Here is one last story to illustrate my point. Last summer, in the middle of the dog days, my brother and I decided to paddle up a local river and fish for catfish. We knew there were big fish in the river and we chose our gear and bait accordingly. We didn't know what our chances of hooking a big catfish were but we knew we would have fun nonetheless. We fished in areas where we knew big catfish liked to hang out but we didn't know if there were any around. We didn't read fishing reports or base our decisions on the weather, we just went fishing. On our very first trip up the river, my brother landed a giant blue catfish that weighed in excess of 80 pounds! It was fish of a lifetime for him. We didn't expect to catch that fish but more importantly we didn't expect not to catch that fish. Some people would doubt their chances of a huge fish like that and not only be unprepared but never even try. We spent several more days soaking baits in the river and catching nothing close to that size. However, a couple weeks later I hooked another giant! This fish weighed over 75 pounds! I must admit I had a bit of doubt we would catch another fish in the size range of the first one but more importantly I still tried!

After all, one of the things that makes fishing the most fun is never knowing what will happen. It really is as simple as it was when I started. You just need to pick a your lure or bait to the best of your knowledge and go fish. You won't catch anything waiting for the perfect moment and often enough the big fish come at times when you least expect them to. Be confident and enjoy yourself, learn to take something away even if you blank on the fish. If fishing becomes stressful you are doing something wrong. Keep the obsession fun and you will catch more big fish. Tight lines!

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