We have all heard the cliche, "hindsight is 20/20," but with that being true, hindsight being 20/20 is only useful if we reflect with the intent of improving or making changes. Every single angler experiences some sort of high and low over the course of the tournament season. During this time while the weather is bad and most of us will take a couple of months off the water, it is important to reflect and prepare for the next season.
I spend a lot of my downtime reading Bassmaster articles, and between those articles and time on the water there was one very common thread...decisions, decisions, decisions. Yes, prepping your tackle, understanding different techniques, and time on the water are all important parts of the puzzle, but everything points to your decision making ability as being the make or break factor over the course of a tournament and AOY season.
There were three different occasions this year where my decision making saved my season. The first came on Cherokee at our second tournament of the year...we had a front rolling through and after the clouds and rain passed there were blue bird skies. We had been on a tight-line fly bite in practice and I caught one keeper that morning, but as soon as the clouds left, the bite shutdown. We went until noon before getting another bite. We pulled into a small cut just off the main lake and saw shad that had been pulled up by the sun starting to flip. At that point I changed the game plan and picked up an A-Rig...from that point it was lights out and I was able to finish out my limit in the last hour. That decision of changing depth and baits boosted me from what would have been tenth place finish at best, to a top five.
The next instance came during the out of town tournament on Chickamauga. We had been practicing for three days and the bite was getting tougher as the week wore on...the shallow bite was dying and the deep bite hadn't materialized. We decided to start the tournament on a shell bed down by the nuclear plant where we had caught our best quality in practice...by 12pm I only had two keepers in the boat for about 7 lbs. Instead of staying down lake and trying to grind out a few more keepers we made a move up the river past Dayton and stopped on a main lake point where we had caught keepers, but no quality. Within ten minutes, I caught a 5.5 lbs. and a 4 lbs. largemouth on back-to-back casts. That move and those two fish were what boosted me to the win.
The third occurrence came during our final night tournament on Watauga. The night started off extremely slow up shallow and when we made a move to some deeper channel swings, we began to get bit...but that wasn't the saving decision. I caught one keeper and a couple slicks on the tail end of two separate channel swings and at that moment, instead of doing what we would normally do and running new water to find similar places, we began to rotate those two channel swings and give them time to rest. I caught my second keeper with an hour left and I caught my final keeper on my final cast of the night.
Now, those are certainly moments that I would consider the high's of my 2016 season and while those moments were a blast, they are not the moments I will learn from the most. The most gains are made from looking at our failures and our mistakes. The main thing to adjust and key in on is your decision making ability this off-season. Look back at 2016 and think about decisions you made and how they affected your outcome in the tournament or even the season. "Did I stay too long? Should I have slowed down? Did I fish deep enough or shallow enough?" These are all instances that we ponder throughout a day and sometimes don't get answer to until we get back to weigh-in. These on the water decisions add up quickly over the course of a season. So while you have some downtime this winter look back on your fishing season and don't worry about the tackle or techniques...focus on the decisions you made and figure out ways to improve your decision making on and off the water. Every decision counts!
*Now lets talk about the important stuff that we should be reflecting on...not the missed opportunities for fishing, but the missed opportunities for being a witness. As 2016 comes to a close it is more important to think about how we can improve our Christian walk and grow closer to God. Everyday God gives us opportunities to be a witness and share the gospel, and no we are not going to be perfect, but I am sure we could think back to those moments that we went out of our way so that we wouldn't have to talk to someone about Christ and make ourselves feel uncomfortable.
Those are the moments when we really need to re-think our decision making process. God gives us those opportunities to not only glorify Him, but those moments are also meant to be a blessing to us. I know it is uncomfortable and sometimes we don't know what to say, but someone's eternity is hanging in the balance and we need to make sure that our decision making is God centered, so that we don't miss out on those opportunities!