Understanding fish behavior and learning specific fishing
techniques and tactics are obviously important. But, there’s
another part of the equation most anglers overlook - the mental
Top tournament anglers have developed tremendous positive
No matter what the conditions, they believe that the fish
are always biting somewhere. After all, we’ve never
seen a tournament weigh-in where no fish were brought to the
scales. There’s always fish to be caught.
With only a few days of practice to locate fish, these pros
are convinced they can catch a limit every day. They’re
mantra is they never get skunked....they just run out of time.
“I love bad weather,” said Tom Keenan, 2003 Champion
of the RCL Walleye Tour. “Bad weather, big blows, thunderstorms,
and half the field is already out of it. They are mentally
destroyed because they think they can’t catch fish.
Thunder? I hope they’re really big boomers.”
Think of the last time you pulled up to a ramp at a strange
lake. Maybe it was one the size of Mille Lacs or Lake of the
Woods. You look out and see miles and miles of nothing but
water. You’ve got to believe in yourself that you can
meet the challenge. Otherwise, it’s probably not even
worth launching the boat.
Jason Przekurat, 2003 RCL angler of the year, noted other
ways to build confidence.
Start by cutting the lake or river down to size. Eliminate
unproductive water before you launch by getting a lake map
and applying what you know about walleye behavior at that
time of year.
Check with bait shops and state fisheries biologists about
where fish are located and what others are doing to make them
Have a game plan about what structure you plan to fish and
how you plan to fish them. Make adjustments on the water by
taking factors like wind direction, water clarity and light
penetration into account, he said.
Concentration is the key. Visualize and believe that there’s
a trophy walleye eyeing your bait every moment.
Pay attention to detail. When the first fish bites, ask yourself
what it’s told you about location, depth and action.
If you were jigging, how deep was it? Were you popping it?
Dragging it? What color did they bite? Were you using a big
minnow or small? If you were trolling, how fast were you going?
Were you on an edge or just off the structure?
As you catch more fish, begin to put a pattern together. But,
don’t rest on your laurels. Keep experimenting to see
what you can do to trigger more and bigger fish.
“I’m always paying attention,” said Keenan.
“If I’m catching four fish an hour, I wonder,
‘If I tried this, would I catch eight fish an hour?
What if I did that, would I catch 10 fish an hour?’
While trolling, if I get one fish on, I wonder what I can
do to get a double or triple or quadruple. I’m always
thinking four or five moves ahead, like a chess game.”
“Never, ever give up,” Keenan said.
||Don’t be afraid to make a change.
On the fourth day of the RCL championship, Keenan decided
the fish on the spot that got him into the finals were
too small to win the event. Maybe they’d be enough
to get him third place, maybe second. But, he was sure
they wouldn’t get him to first. And, that just wasn’t
good enough. He went to a brand new location. The result?
A $300,000 win.
Consider the 1998 Professional Walleye Championship at
Bismarck, ND. The two previous year’s tournaments
were won fishing under bridges, which were popular spots
the third year as you can imagine. But, someone took the
risk of crossing a large, shallow, sand flat that was
the only access to an entirely different feeder creek.
The water was so shallow and full of stumps that he feared
his boat would become mired entering and exiting the small
Missouri River tributary. But, taking that risk to avoid
the crowds resulted in a big win for Ted Takasaki.
The moral of the story; don’t psyche yourself out.
Psyche yourself up. Pump up an attitude and win.