For the last week and a half I have been prepping for a tournament on Gull Lake in south west MI. I studied maps, I spent time just driving around scanning the lake and yes I fished it some as well.
During this time the smallmouth spawn was going on and tournament after tournament was being held. The first tournaments winning weight was 22lb of smallmouth. As the week progressed the weight needed to win dropped to about 18lb. Beds had been picked over and those that didn’t bite moved off the beds.
I didn’t think going into Saturday’s tournament based on what I had found I could get 18lb, I felt as if I could catch 12 to 15lb and still be in the hunt for a check. I was confident that I could catch that kind of weight. I had a few high percentage areas I felt like I could land a big one and then catch a few keepers to help my bag.
As with all best laid plans it seems it didn’t work out. The first spot on my list never produced a fish that went longer than 13.5 inches. I honestly thought most of my weight would come from that spot, I was wrong. I struggled for 6 hours to catch 7.5lbs, just half of what I thought I could catch.
I know where I went wrong, I kept basically one rod in my hand all day. The rod and bait I was sure were going to catch me some giant bass. I never made the adjustment I should have or tried something else when the one lure I though was going to work didn’t work as well as I had planned.
Plans are one thing, but as anglers we need to be willing to ditch a plan in an instant if it’s not working for us. We have to read the water, the conditions around us and adapt to them. We can’t force feed a bass something they don’t want to eat. I struggle with this very concept as I think many anglers do from time to time. We have to be willing to adjust we can force the fish to. That was my problem not adjusting like I should have.
Adjusting on the water is what separates those who cash checks and those who don’t. I’m not saying I would have made the right adjustment, I think I know what I should have done as I look back at the day but I can’t guarantee it would have worked. Even if I had made an adjustment and it didn’t work I would have been better then never making one in my mind.
I know the areas I struggle in. I struggle when it comes to changing the game plan I have in place when a tournament starts. It hurts me every time my plan doesn’t work because I struggle to put away the lure or lures I am using and switching to something else. As anglers we all need to be willing to give up the game plan we have. We have to be willing to work on areas we struggle with. We have to force are selves to grow as anglers. I should have put the rod down and not allowed myself to pick it up the rest of the day or even put it back in the rod locker so I was forced to fish something else.
I had rotated through all of my spots halfway through the tournament and had 3 fish. Yes I had caught them on the plan and bait I thought I would, but when things slowed down I tried to force the lure and presentation I wanted. I didn’t listen to the fish.
The next time you are out fishing a tournament or even fun fishing for that matter if your game plan for the day isn’t working don’t be afraid to change, maybe doing a 180 is the answer. We have to be willing to adapt and change at a moment’s notice. When we don’t we are left regretting what we didn’t do. As much as I personally hate change, when it comes to fishing change is a good thing.