Even when you are fishing good, sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.
To me, “fishing good” just simply means that you're able to make the best decisions and maximize your success with the cards you're dealt.
With a newly adopted simplistic approach to my tournament fishing, and a renewed confidence in my decision-making, I believe that I am in fact fishing welll, but as is evident in the results at a recent BFL Super Tournament and a Bassmaster Open, sometimes that’s not enough.
Doing it My Way
After the first Central Open on the Arkansas River, I learned a valuable lesson about knowing who I am as a competitor.
If you recall, on day 1 of the event, I made a decision, driven by the fear, that my favorite area was going to get pounded by heavy fishing pressure. I decided to take a major gamble doing something that I knew, deep down, wasn’t the right move, all because I listened to “dock talk” rather than my gut.
I caught one fish. The very next day, with nothing to lose, I went out and fished the way I feel most confident, and enjoy the most, and the result was bringing one of the biggest bags of the event to the scales.
Since then, I realized that looking back at my worst finishes, they all had the common thread of me trying to fish like someone else, or make decisions I normally would not make.
Now, I’ve decided to keep things simple in my tournament fishing by only focusing on the techniques that I do best, regardless of how a fishery traditionally is approached.
So far, that approach has made it easier to be decisive under pressure, and I find myself enjoying the process more.
BFL Super Tournament
Since I was already on the road traveling throughout the South for the final two Central Opens, I only found it appropriate to find another tournament to fish, and a 2-day BFL on Lake Eufaula in Alabama fit my schedule.
I arrived in Eufaula with no information about how it was fishing, and I had only been on the lake 1 day a few years prior, so I was practically going in blind.
Despite giving myself 2 days of practice, I ended up getting sick as I got into town, and with a pretty intense fever in brutally hot weather, I spent more time in the hotel room than I did on the lake. I probably had about 4 hours of practice time, but I found some areas that fit the way I like to fish.
The first day obviously went pretty well because I ended up catching just under 16 pounds, and to my surprise ended up leading the field going into day 2.
To catch my weight the first day, I found a strong frog bite in the morning, which produced my biggest fish of the day, and as the day wore on, I discovered a mediocre punching bite, flipping a Z-Man Turbo CrawZ, which filled out my limit and culled twice.
The second day didn’t go as well. I knew it was going to be a struggle to follow up the first-day performance with another good bag, not to mention a limit. The small creeks I had fished the day before I knew weren’t likely to replenish, and they didn’t. I ran a bunch of new water and the frog bite that was hot the first day was completely nonexistent.
I ended the event with one fish on the final day and slipped to 9th. I had made good decisions based on the water I was fishing, but in the end, I just wasn’t on enough to claim my third SuperTournament win.
I’ve never burned so much gas as I did during practice for the Red River Bassmaster Central Open.
It was apparent the very first day of practice that fishing was “off” and I found myself running hundreds of miles of the river to find a few bites. With as much running, and feeling as though I wasn’t getting anywhere, I nicknamed it “the Treadmill.”
During the 4 days of practice I only had about seven or eight bites, with only one fish over 2 pounds. I knew it would be tough, but I wasn’t sure whether or not the whole field was struggling as I was.
Fortunately, I had found a good area where I knew I could catch a small limit each day up near Shreveport, but I knew that I needed at least one area where I could go catch a kicker – which in that event would be anything over 2 pounds. I ended up finding a backwater area that I could do just that on the final day of practice, but I wasn’t sure of its true potential.
My game plan was to go catch my limit by noon and then spend the rest of my time trying to catch my kicker in the backwater.
The first day things went to plan, as I quickly filled a limit full of 12- to 13-inch fish by noon flipping a tube to a very specific type of isolated shoreline laydowns, which had to have very bushy branches in shallow water.
I ran to my backwater with a couple hours to go, and despite fishing slow and clean, I couldn’t catch a fish where I thought I could. With a minute to go, I made a cast with a Z-Man Saw Tail WormZ to a lone twig off of some rip-rap and ended up setting the hook on my kicker – a two and a half pounder. I ended the day in 47th with my 7-07 limit.
The second day I knew that my game plan was working, and if I were to catch another fish the size of the one I finished my limit with on day 1, I would be sitting pretty.
Once again, I made the run up to my numbers area and once again caught my limit by noon, but this time I was in the second-to-last flight, so I had over 4 hours to fish in my kicker area. Confident that I could catch my much-needed kicker, I ran to the backwater, only to spend 4 hours working meticulously to catch one 13-inch rat to cull out an even smaller fish.
I ended the day with 6 pounds even, and despite fishing clean and having few regrets, I finished 42nd, which put me two spots out of the money.
Needless to say, with those kinds of weights “the Treadmill” did not give the best first impression, but I’ll be back!
Keep On Keepin' On
Despite falling short in both of the recent events, I honestly can’t say I’m disappointed. Sure, I always want to make a check, and I always want to close out a win when I’m in contention, but sometimes that’s just not in the cards.
Part of me wishes that I'd tried going out of my comfort zone to find a pattern that could have pushed me over the top in both events, but then my gut kicks back in and says I did the right thing under the conditions.
Maybe the way to be consistent in between wins is to recognize when you’re not meant to get a royal flush, and instead, you should play the hand you’ve been dealt to the best of your abilities to stay in the game.
We'll see what kind hand I get at the Atchafalaya Basin for the final Central Open.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an aspiring tour pro and co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).