I've never been one to get too focused on one particular style of fishing, or on individual lakes. To me, one of the most satisfying aspects of tournament fishing is getting out of your "comfort
zone" and being forced to figure out how to catch fish under a multitude of conditions and in
vastly different types of fisheries.
Looking back at the places that I’ve called home for the last decade – Florida, Alabama,
California and now Tennessee – maybe that desire for learning new skills is a product of
necessity, since I never had an opportunity to get too comfortable.
This eclectic approach to my fishing has never allowed me to dominate on any one lake, but has
really helped me be able to stay competitive almost anywhere I go.
My recent move to Tennessee is furthering my education, and I believe that the Volunteer
State might be my biggest challenge yet, while possibly being my biggest catalyst for growth.
My decision to move to Florida in 2006 was highly influenced by the fact that I had seen a
pattern of many anglers stating that the Sunshine State was the chink in their armor and that consistency there was difficult to achieve. It turned out to be a very shrewd decision because I generally do well on Florida fisheries now, and the experience I accumulated there has translated to many parts of the country.
I can’t say that the move to Tennessee was part of some elaborate plan to improve specific
parts of my fishing skill set, but like the move to Florida, Tennessee is proving to be a crucial
step in my learning process.
Tennessee fishing has been some of the most difficult I’ve experienced, and as a
whole, it's outside of my comfort zone, with deep, clear, fisheries accounting for most of the
state’s venues - not to mention the presence of some smallmouth fisheries.
Since I value a good beat-down in the name of learning new styles of fishing, I figured I should
probably stay away from entering events on lakes I know well or that fit my style. Instead, I
decided to focus on lakes in Tennessee – most of which I've never seen –so I decided to fish
both the Volunteer and Mountain division BFL events this year, on top of competing in the Bassmaster Eastern Opens.
I knew that competing against the best locals would be tough, as it is in every division, but so far I've found that both of these divisions may me the toughest competition I’ve ever faced in the BFLs.
At the first event on Norris Lake, I learned a lesson in doing your homework, as I showed
up for a half-day of practice with little pre-tournament research, caught a couple largemouth and decided I was good to go. I figured that I could just make things up as I went during the
event. That approach resulted in a single green fish brought to the scales.
Turns out, Norris is a strong smallmouth fishery, and events that time of year usually are
dominated by brown fish. If I had done my homework, I would have known that.
After Norris, I've taken my preparation more seriously for every event. I still gather less
information than most people do, but I'm putting in my due diligence and getting general and
essential information for each lake.
I’ve had three events since Norris and the results continue to get better. I've had two
events on Dale Hollow that weren’t spectacular, but in each I finished only a few spots out of
The last BFL I fished got a little better yet, with a 13th-place finish on South Holston Reservoir
on the Tennessee/Virginia border.
Each of these events have required me to step slightly out of my comfort zone, but I have also
found I can utilize certain aspects of what I consider my list of strengths to be able to approach
each situation differently than other competitors.
Sure, I admit that originally the reason for moving to Tennessee was the fact that it was a good
centralized locale for my tournament fishing and for filming the Sweetwater TV show. However, since my wife Katie and I moved here in September, I've seen that there will be long-lasting benefits to living here.
Though I'd really like to be back in Florida, fishing in shallow water and breaking down large
expanses of grass flats, if I had moved back down there instead of Chattanooga, my growth
would happen much more slowly.
For that reason, I'm very glad to be outside of my comfort zone, and happy that I now call
(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).