It is a great theory but doesn’t always hold true. As fishermen, we know all about all of the variables that can make or break a successful tournament day. On Saturday July 19th I competed in the Tennessee Kayak Anglers Tournament on Old Hickory Lake. I had high hopes for this tournament. After all, this was a tournament on what I consider my “home lake”. I have had many successful fishing outings on Old Hickory. My opportunity to pre-fish ahead of the tournament came two weeks prior. Two weeks is an eternity when it comes to fishing patterns and the changes they go through as each season progresses. Never the less, this was my opportunity and I had to take advantage. I had a successful day and my confidence was running high as the tournament drew near.
The one concern I had about my pre-fishing success was that it would lock me into preconceived notions come tournament day. This was especially concerning due to the fact that it was unseasonably cool on the day I was able to pre-fish and had been for a few days prior. However, as tournament day approached, we had another prolonged period of cooler weather so I felt like the pattern I established in pre-fishing might just hold up. As I headed to the lake on tournament day, I felt like this could be my day. I have struggled quite a bit this tournament season but knew that I had successfully patterned and caught fish in this area in previous tournaments and in preparation for the current tournament.
I knew of and prepared for the grand possibility that what worked two weeks prior would not get the job done on tournament day. However, I found it difficult to give up on what I knew had worked for me before. Cast after cast came back empty and the anxiety began to build. I had a game plan of where to fish that consisted of three different areas. I had a primary route, a plan B and plan C. The hope going into the day was to not have to go beyond the primary route. With about two hours of fishing time to go, I found myself on plan C.
Oddly enough, it was an area where I had caught fish in a tournament earlier in the year back when the fish were still actively spawning. I really didn’t expect that the pattern that worked back at the end of April would produce fish in mid-July. However, to my surprise, using this seemingly out of season pattern was exactly what produced my first and unfortunately only fish of the day. It was nothing like the pattern I found in pre-fishing and not what you would expect for the time of year.
I fell victim to the curse of pre-fishing. This curse is not about superstition but about having your mind made up before you even hit the water. I waited too long to respond to the clues that were right there in front of me. I thought I had prepared for it but it got the best of me. The pull of trying to dictate the pattern that would make for a successful day proved to be too much for me to overcome. I tried the same things that had worked two weeks prior when in reality, I should have been doing what had worked three months prior. More than anything, I needed to open my mind before hitting the water and to be prepared to make quick changes in response to what had changed on the water since the time I had pre-fished. Hopefully next time, I can beat the curse that pre-fishing sometimes becomes.