You've Got To Be Willing To Lose, To Win
By Bob Popp
I think every bass tournament angler out there dreams of winning the Bassmasters Classic. To get there is not easy as many anglers can confess.
Many Pros talk often about "Swinging for the fences" when fishing tournaments. But how many anglers listen to that advice? What does that mean? Its simple: To win at any level you've got to be willing to take chances! The big chance that you take is the chance of "losing"!
This whole idea of "swinging for the fences" is a mindset. At any level of tournaments we have to take what is given to us and take advantage of that opportunity. "Swinging for the fences" is fishing a tournament to win, not to lose.
That may sound confusing but it really isn't. It means when you fish a tournament at any level YOU NEED TO FISH THE TOURNAMENT TO WIN INSTEAD OF FISHING THE TOURNAMENT TO AVOID LOSING. Many anglers fish tournaments with the attitude of "I just want to catch a fish in order to weigh in and not come in last". When I hear that it tells me that the angler has little to no confidence in themselves and their ability. Another common situation is, after fishing 5 or 6 in a tournament without a bite, the anglers says, "You know it's just nice to get out on the water". Sound familiar, doesn't it?
Many anglers that fish tournaments are so afraid to "Zero" that they don't fish to their full potential. They have it in their minds that all I want to do is catch a fish to weigh in. To be successful at any level of tournament fishing you have to set yourself apart from the norm. Norm - meaning fishing conservatively.
All of us when we fish a tournament would love to fish our strengths, but how often does that happen? We have to take what is given to us and take advantage of that opportunity. This is when being a versatile angler comes into play. Take Barry Bonds for example. When he steps up to the plate most pitchers pitch around him. They don't give him what he wants. But Barry is a perfect example of taking what is given to him and "adjusting" to the situation at hand.
When we are fishing a tournament we have to take what is given to us! We cannot control the weather or water conditions but we do have to accept them. Adjusting to the conditions at hand is the name of the game. Adjusting not only to the fishing conditions but also adjusting our mindset. For example: Say in practice we located a group of largemouth that we know will win the tournament. In practice we caught them on topwater. When we get to our spot on tournament morning, nothing. This is when many anglers are sunk. The bass won't hit topwater so now what do I do? This is when visions of "Zeroing" come into play. What an angler should be saying to himself is, "Ok, I know there are fish here, all I need to do is find out the key to catching them." Remember we must adjust to the weather and water conditions and we must always keep that positive "Winning Attitude".
Being a tournament winner is a breed apart. We don't realize when we see an angler win two or three tournaments in a season what that actually means. You have to tell yourself: I am different than all of the other anglers in the tournament because I have a "Winning Attitude".
A "Winning Attitude" is described as having confidence in yourself and your ability. An angler with a "Winning Attitude" never loses focus and their concentration never leaves the task at hand.
Does that mean an angler with a "Winning Attitude" wins every tournament they enter? Of course not! What it does mean, however, is at the end of the day that angler can look back and say I fished to the very best of my ability. A "Winning Attitude" does not automatically make you a champion but it does make you a winner because you are setting yourself apart from the many anglers out there that never fish to their true ability because they are afraid to Zero. You may be thinking that this only happens at the club level, wrong. Recently at a Bassmaster Tour Event a pro was quoted as saying "I just want to catch a fish so I can go up on stage". Having a "Winning Attitude" will pay dividends when practiced tournament after tournament.
I said before in one of my previous articles that after about 4 years of tournament fishing that fishing a tournament is 80% mental. This holds true at every level of fishing. There is only one thing holding you back from having a "Winning Attitude" and that is YOURSELF! If you don't see yourself winning a tournament you probably never will! You can't worry about what someone else might think if you come in with no fish. The minute you start worrying about what someone else thinks your mind has already lost its focus and that focus is very difficult to get back. It is very difficult to compete in this sport very long by being conservative.
Remember some of the most consistent pros have never won a tournament in many years on the tournament trail. You and only you is holding you back from having a "Winning Attitude." But remember you must first be willing to lose in order to win.