There have been so many occasions in my life where everything comes down to the final minutes, do or die time or the preverbal final stretch. So often, in those moments, I would go into panic mode and start fishing fast and desperate, and start thinking of excuses as to why it did not happen. These are perfectly normal thoughts but not for the Elite Series pros who rise to the top. They are different in so many ways; however, I have learned that their psychological approach is much different from your average angler.
Case in point. Carl Jocumsen at the Arkansas River fishing to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
I have learned from the best that fishing at the highest level is much more than the ability to catch bass. It’s a business and must be approached with the proper model. This model consists of many components such as physical conditioning, appearance and your ability to promote yourself as a brand, sponsor acquisition, equipment maintenance, study and so many more. However, mental preparedness is at the top of the list and should never be overlooked.
Carl was new to the U.S. and living with my family in Frisco, TX when he was not traveling to tournaments. He and I spent tons of time hanging together just doing the fishing thing. Hours and hours were devoted to just talking strategy. We often talked about how his moment will come and it may not come if the hard part of managing that moment is not practiced. The hard part we practiced was this. The final day of the final open was upon us. We had a limit but it was small and there was only an hour to upgrade but fishing was tough. How this moment plays out is critical. It could go bad or good.
Our practice approach for this moment was as follows. First, we memorized the sequence of events and the positive result that will be necessary to qualify. Second, we focused on positive experiences that have occurred throughout our careers. Catching a giant on your last cast, pulling into a pocket and catching 3 that were bigger than anything in your live well, slowing down knowing there is a bass on a particular log and finally getting him to bite were some of the positives where you know “I am a fisherman and I catch fish”.
The second exercise was to understand what will physically and psychologically happen and how to overcome the negative parts. With one hour left and not having the bass to qualify, it would be easy to speed up your approach, find your heart rate escalating, doubt creep into your mind and eventually panic will set in.
We practiced the positive. Slow our heart rate, know that we are fishermen and that we will upgrade, put yourself in the best place to execute and visualize the next hour of execution. We practiced that moment every day.
The final day of the tournament I was in a lock heading back to weigh in. As fate would have it, Carl entered the lock and tied up to me. He said he had 5 fish for about 8 pounds. My comment was that it’s going to take 12 but he knew that. The lock took about 15 minutes so we took the time to goof around and laugh as we usually do. My co-angler interrupted us and said, “How can you two be laughing at this moment considering so much is on the line”? Carl calmly looked at him and said “Mate, we have been practicing this moment every day for two years. I’ll see you at weigh in”. As Carl left the lock I told my co-angler to appreciate this moment because he is witnessing a moment of greatness and that he will qualify for the Elites.
Carl went up the river, calmly caught three bass that would upgrade his limit and handily qualified for the Elite Series. He told me that if we did not spend the time practicing that moment it would have turned out very different.
Whatever your moment is, practice it every day so when your opportunity comes you will own it.