Developing and Retaining Fishing ConfidenceDeveloping and Retaining Fishing Confidence Confidence in bass fishing can take years to build but only one day to break it down. Here's how to keep that from happening.
By John Neporadny
Confidence in bass fishing can take years to build but only one day to break it down.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chad Morgenthaler knows from his experiences on the tournament trail how building confidence is a gradual process. “It is just like anything else, it’s time and position,” he says. “It’s being in so many different situations across the nation at different times of the year. Then of course it is being around all of the guys I compete against. I have a great network with a bunch of friends. I pay attention to whenever I do badly in a tournament and they do well. I listen to how they caught their fish and what transpired.”
Morgenthaler then tries to figure out what he did wrong and what he could have done differently. “I just put all of that in the equation and then when that situation rolls up I have another trick in the playbook to try,” he says. “Whenever you do that and succeed at it, then you get (confidence).”
The Illinois pro suggests fledgling competitive anglers should start building their confidence at the lowest level (club and local tournaments) before making a jump to higher levels. “That is awfully important,” Morgenthaler says. “You have to not only build confidence but you have to see the success at the local level on a pretty consistent basis before you can consider going on to the next step. You have to pass junior college before you go on for your bachelor’s or master’s degree.”
Skill definitely helps tournament anglers catch fish, but confidence can make them winners. “Even the guys who fish only 20 weekends out of the year are more than likely going to have the skill needed to do it, but it is the confidence and the things that you cannot teach – that gut feeling of when to do more or try something else – that makes the difference,” Morgenthaler says. “That all comes with the experience and the confidence.
“As you develop your skills and your experience you feel like in some situations you can call your shot,” Morgenthaler says. “It is hard to explain without coming across as cocky but it is just a gut feeling that we get and it is more than an instinctual feeling.”
Morgenthaler recalls the 2013 Bassmaster Classic Wild Card event at Lake Okeechobee as his best example of how confidence helped him win a tournament. “I was confident months before that event ever came around,” he says. “I knew what I was going to do and I would live with the consequences of it. I liked that it was a smaller field and the time of year and where it was. I knew all I was going to do was flip mats. I didn’t know what the makeup of those mats were going to be but I was confident that’s how that tournament was going to be won. That’s exactly what I did and stuck to and that is how I won it.”
Of course victory is the greatest confidence builder in competitive fishing. “You just crave it more and it is hard to describe,” Morgenthaler says of winning. “Once you win you just can’t wait to do it again. It just pushes you harder.”
There is one caveat to winning though. “Once you finish first you don’t have but one place to go and that is down,” Morgenthaler warns.
Confidence can be deflated in a hurry, especially if you have a phenomenal practice but your pattern fails during the tournament. “That is when you are overconfident going in,” Morgenthaler says. “You feel like you are so dialed in that there is no way that something could change that could cause you not to place high in that event but something does and you can’t put your finger on it. It is a reality check and a confidence deflator. It makes you realize nobody is perfect and can figure it out 100 percent of the time.”
Dealing with highs and lows is a way of life on a major tournament trail. “It is hard, but that is just part of being a competitive angler,” Morgenthaler says. “That is just a part of competition and you have to realize that.”
Morgenthaler never sulks for long after a bad outing and tries to keep the low points in perspective. “It is not a life or death situation,” he says. “It is fishing for goodness sakes. I think that I just didn’t make a call that cost someone his or her life. I just made a bad call and it cost me some money or it cost me a championship berth.”
Confidence can be restored if you forget about those bad outings. “You just shake it off and go to the next tournament and do the best that you can,” Morgenthaler says. “You have to take a few lickings before you can keep on ticking.”
A victory and top 10 finishes in 12 B.A.S.S. events have given Morgenthaler plenty of confidence to keep on ticking in the Bassmaster Elite Series.
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