Winning a WalMart BFL was a goal that I had set for myself many years ago. I’ve had success in club tourneys and team events, but never a BFL. I had heard from past winners, that it can be a very challenging goal to reach. As I sat behind the wheel on my long drive home from my first BFL victory, I had plenty of time to replay the day’s events in my mind. "The area that I had found practicing the weekend before, actually held up," I thought to myself. But I guess that makes sense. The river level was about the same on tournament day as it was last week and the water temperature actually dropped a degree or two. Since I was pretty sure these were pre-spawn fish just waiting to move into the adjacent spawning flat, the drop in temps might actually have put even more fish into this location. Weird that I had had so few bites today, though, I considered. Last weekend I got a ton of bites. Maybe there were in fact more fish, but the unstable, cooling conditions caused them to be less aggressive. That would explain why the swim jig and spinnerbait that had caught quite a few fish a week earlier really didn’t produce today. Today, even a pitching jig wasn’t getting bit. I think the reason I got the few bites I did, was because I went super subtle–not necessarily finesse tactics, but subtle. I used a texas-rigged, slug-o-style, soft plastic stick bait, the same way I would normally use a pitching jig to pick apart the cover. I’ll admit this is a tactic I have been using for years and have a lot of confidence in when conditions are tough. I was still able to use the fairly stout equipment the cover and current required, but I could present something slow and easy to catch. That makes sense, I concluded.
Suddenly, Siri alerted me to an upcoming turn and temporarily pulled me away from my fishing thoughts. Certain that I was on the right track, my mind went back to La Crosse.
I can’t believe I had left my wallet in the truck, only realizing it minutes before launch. We rushed back through the crowd, ran to the truck, and made it back in line with plenty of time to spare, but I hated to put myself through the unnecessary extra stress. Anyway, not a problem. Oh, and then of course after the tournament launched and we made it to the end of the incredibly long no-wake zone, I put my hand in my fleece pocket and realized I still had the envelope with five-dollars in it that was supposed cover the parking fee. I wondered how much that ticket was going to be, but quickly convinced myself there was nothing I could do about it. I put the boat up on pad, headed to my first spot and never thought about it again. "Well done, Kurt," I congratulated myself. There were actually several weird little things that happened that day. They were exactly the kinds of things that would normally have derailed me, but not today. Then a really weird thought occurred to me.
Alright, I’m going to interrupt my own story right here. I want to let you know that I understand what I’m about to say is going to easily be perceived as either crazy, or me trying to sell a few books. I promise you that’s not the case, but I totally understand if you’re not interested in reading any further. I’ve talked about the mechanics of what it took to win that day, and if that’s all you’re interested in, I understand and I thank you for your time. Oh, I forgot to mention that the lure was black with no flake. Just black. Okay, now that’s everything about that. Back to my story.
Then a really weird thought occurred to me. I had basically written the events of this day, and the three months leading up to it, in the book I had written a year earlier. For those of you that have read my book, you’ll pretty quickly see what I’m talking about. Please bear with me for a second while I try to get those who haven’t read it or didn’t even know I wrote a book about fishing, up to speed. The book is called Personal Best: fishing and life. It is completely fictional but it’s definitely based on my experiences as a passionate weekend angler. In the story, the main character loves tournament fishing, but struggles with inconsistent and less than great results. He realizes that maybe it’s not a secret lure or spot that separates him from the top performers. Maybe just like in most other competitive sports, your mental conditioning is just as important as your physical conditioning. Golfers know it. Olympic athletes know it. He thinks it makes sense as a competitive fisherman to consider it, but finds that there is very limited information about the mental side of fishing. He does his homework, and formulates a regimen of meditation, visualization and general well-being. If you haven’t read the book and might be considering it, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but as you would probably guess, it works for him.
Over this past winter, as I considered the 2014 season, I decided that I would follow the “advice” of my own book and started my own mental conditioning program. The things I did are literally the same things the character in the book did. Again, this is not a commercial. Please stop reading if you don’t want to hear it. But, I believe that my life has changed in many positive ways as a result of my practice. And in the end, my actual tournament day happened in many ways like the big tournament day I imagined and wrote about in my book. Just like in the book, my bites were few and far between. The day was loaded with weird little examples of the kind of events that make it tough to stay focused and confident. At one point, my line broke mid-retrieve–no bite, no snag, just no lure. After I caught my third keeper, my scale somehow mysteriously switched to displaying only kilograms. I accidentally leaned on and broke my boat’s windshield. I struggled with the voice in my head all day. "Now that you’ve got two good ones in the live well, all you need is any three keepers to not look bad," I gave myself an easy out. But then I quickly cut those thoughts off and instead told myself, "But why settle for not bad, when three more good ones could be my personal best?" At one point mid-day, I did scramble looking for a way to just not look bad, but drew upon the mental strength I had been practicing to quickly get back on track, and instead catch the biggest bag possible that day. I was able to nullify, or at least minimize, all of the negative things and focus on what would actually get the job done. And I’m only sharing this with you because I think it’s pretty amazing. I promise that I never had a conscious thought about my book as the day progressed. I wasn’t saying, “Be like the book. Be like the book.” Honestly, the similarities never occurred to me until I was half-way home. It was a weird realization, but pretty cool. Then I remembered seeing all the pictures of Chris Lane’s melted boat all over Facebook, and laughed to myself because I realize that is certainly a coincidence, but still really weird (you’ll understand, if you’ve read the book). On top of that, when I finally got home Saturday night and saw that Rick Clunn actually had a good shot to win the Elite tournament the following day, I got chills down my back (yep, you’ll have to read the book).
Again, this is not a commercial. I’m not even going to tell you where to get the book. If you’re interested, you’ll figure it out. I just wanted to share what I thought was a fun, cool story and give you some insight into how a guy like me was finally able to accomplish one of his most exciting goals. At the risk of sounding too corny or mystic-y, I sincerely hope all of you are able to find the path to your personal best.
And, as always, Keep Fishing Forward!