How to Mentally Prepare Yourself for a Fishing Tournament
Success for many is driven by failure. Without defeat, the thrill of victory wouldn't taste so sweet.
If you want to succeed in the world of kayak tournament fishing, you must first be equipped mentally. Mentally prepared to accept the fact that you aren't always going to be the one standing with that giant check or that big bass trophy. That same agony of defeat is something we all can offset by preparation. Being prepared will allow you to compete at your highest level. Through my tournament experiences, I have developed my process of mental preparation. I take steps to help myself be more poised. Steps I would like to share that may hopefully help you be more primed and ready.
Step 1: First and foremost understand that kayak fishing is something most of us do for fun. We all started kayak fishing to catch more fish and see new places. Just because there is money involved does not mean you shouldn't enjoy yourself. If you go into the tournament with pressure on your shoulders, you will likely be extremely disappointed if the results aren't what you expected at the end of the day. Go into each tournament with the same attitude as you would if you were just out of the water fishing for fun. This isn't always easy and everyone wants to do well, but don't let that cloud the real reason for fishing. Embrace the camaraderie with your friends and other anglers. Enjoy the scenery, fish for fun, and I promise the overall experience will be satisfying, regardless the amount of fish you catch.
Step 2: Mental preparation starts way before the tournament. To be completely prepared to fish, you must first be ready to fish. By this, I mean check your gear. Organize the lures you intend to use. Make sure your line is fully spooled on all your reels. Check the eyes on your poles for dirt, cracks, and if any are missing the guide inserts. Always carry extra line and a back up rod and reel. You never know what might happen on the water. A reel seat might break or the bearings go out. One of your rods may break or you lose the tip. Your line becomes tangled and might have to be replaced on the water. If you have a backup plan, then the stress level of such unfortunate events will be less severe.
Step 3: You now have all of your gear in order and I stress that as step 2, so you can have time for step 3. Research and Study: It is very important to learn about the lake or river you will be fishing. There are many resources to help you learn more about that certain body of water, especially if it’s your first time fishing it. The internet is the first tool I use. Google the body of water and read everything you can find. Forage species, depth charts, launch points, take out areas, and any information related to that body of water. The smart phone is also a fantastic resource. Download apps like Google Earth and River App, so you can get a bird's eye view of that certain body of water or keep a watch on rising river levels. Lastly reach out to any of your friends who may have fished that lake or river. It may be frowned upon by many and of course don't ask other competitors for info, but you might know someone that fishes from a bass boat. That friend may help with small pattern details, like color or size. This step will insure you can be mentally ready for tournament day, no matter the weather conditions.
Step 4: Listen to your favorite music before the tournament. On your way to the ramp plug in the iPod or pop in your favorite CD. I will sometimes carry my headphones and listen on the water while I'm paddling to my spot. This is going to release those feel good vibes to keep you calm and ready to do battle.
Step 5: The previous step leads right into step 5. Stay calm on the water. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. You will lose fish and you will have knots fail. I vividly remember my first victory and this step was key in that victory. There was 20 minutes until check in and I really needed to cull my short fish. I set the hook and get the fish in the boat. I thought to myself “YES!” It is the fish I needed to cull. I’m getting anxious, and before I have a chance to get a visible picture, the largemouth does the Houdini off the hawg trough. I immediately think, “I can still win this thing”. On the next cast I hook up again with the same exact size fish, but this time I stayed calm. I secured the fish on the fish grip and prepared my trough and phone. I took a few deep breathes while the fish was catching hers. I patiently lifted the fish from the water and placed her on the trough and got the picture. I did win that day and I won by the fraction of 1/4 inch. It was kind of unbelievable, but if you stay calm, focused, and composed, good things will happen.
Step 6: Last but not least believe in yourself. Confidence is essential when it comes to fishing. Fish your favorite lure, carry your lucky memento, follow your ritual. Don't bring bananas on your kayak if you have that superstition. This may be one of the most important steps of all.
I hope you can use some of the steps I take in order to be more mentally prepared for tournament day. Whatever the outcome at 3 o’clock, take something away from the tournament. Each and every day on the water is a learning experience. Anything you can learn today will make you a better angler tomorrow.
- FishOn ProStaff