With everything that's transpired since last fall, I didn’t expect to be able to catch up on everything that I'd hoped to accomplish both on and off the water. As fate would have it, the unexpected and quite surreal public health emergency that we are now facing with COVID-19 has upended the tournament schedule, leaving an indefinite amount of time to catch up on my to-do’s and reflect on the season thus far.
With four tournament already under my belt, which include three FLW Pro Circuit events, and a Toyota Series derby, I have some thoughts on my season to date, including some weaknesses that need to be worked on.
Overcoming the 'Sophomore Slump'
Despite falling flat on my face for the final two regular-season events of the 2019 Pro Circuit, I've felt I've been competing very well overall.
Leading into the 2020 season, my sophomore year on the Pro Circuit, my focus was to learn from my most recent mistakes and carry over the confidence I've been building for several years now. So far, 2020 as a whole has gone very well despite a little toe-stubbing at the most recent Lake Martin event.
The season opener on Sam Rayburn ended with an 18th-place finish, which was a major triumph for me considering how challenging that event was on and off the water. I then followed that up with a 6th at the Harris Chain, and then immediately turned around and with only a half-day of practice finished 22nd in the Toyota Series on Lake Chickamauga.
Despite being a fairly lucrative quarter, it was also a good time to prove to myself that my success in my first year at the top level of FLW hasn’t been stopped in its tracks by the fabled and infamous “sophomore slump.”
That being said, there is still more than half the season ahead of me, and the 90th-place finish I threw on the scoreboard at Martin is a reminder that I still have some weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Close, Yet So Far
If there's one thing I am good at in tournament fishing, it's grinding it out in tough events where just getting bites is a tall order. Conversely, my biggest weakness has got to be the slugfest events. You can see that as clear as day if you looked at my stats over the years. I flat-out struggle in those events where bites are fairly easy to come by, and the difference between a good finish and a terrible finish is simply targeting those slightly larger than average fish.
I honestly don't know exactly why this is, but it's something that I hope to correct with time and more experience on fisheries like Champlain, Guntersville, Chickamauga and Martin.
At Martin, every single angler in the field caught a limit every day. I’m not sure I can remember an event that had that statistic, but it certainly goes to show that catching a limit wasn’t an issue, but catching 2-plus-pounders was the difference between success and flat-out failure.
Packing up and driving away from Wind Creek State Park, I found it very easy to criticize myself on my game plan and guess at what I did wrong. However, when I got home and started watching the FLW Live coverage of the event, I realized that everything I was doing was what the majority of the guys who finished at the top were doing as well – almost to a T!
Ultimately, I've come to the conclusion that the reason some of my peers succeeded doing what I was doing as well came down to getting key bites in the boat and doing a better job during practice of finding productive areas and eliminating “dead water.”
I did a terrible job at both on both of those, with losing a half-dozen key fish over two days as well as not using my practice period as wisely as I could have, forcing me to fish new water each day and wasting time in areas that had either already been picked over or were unproductive to begin with.
That’s the beautiful thing about a poor finish: It gives you a wake-up call on some of the weaknesses that need to be honed. Hopefully, I can translate this stumble into some positive growth and get right back into the mix in the Angler of the Year standings.
Despite the fact that I, like everyone else, really am not stoked about this unscheduled time off, it certainly is a great opportunity to work on some things other than preparing for the next event.
For a few days I've given myself some time to be “lazy,” but now it's time to start being productive and focus on things such as social media content, chores at home, spending quality time with wife Katie (and Doppler), as well as diving back into doing some artwork. In fact, I have already started my very first oil painting, which is coming along quite nicely.
In the end, as much as the world is struggling with this crisis, I feel that this time of reflection and opportunity to catch up on chores pushed aside during the hustle and bustle of a normal year will ultimately prove to be positive.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an FLW Pro Circuit competitor and the 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).