With several years of success after teaching myself how to fish for bass, I found I was having an extended drought. It didn't seem to matter what the environmental conditions were, which lures I tried, or how I changed up my retrieval. Months passed with no fish caught, or fish so small they didn't count. This made for long, frustrating days that began to feel like the time warp in the movie Groundhog Day. It just kept repeating, over and over again.
I will admit that prior to this famine I had spent about a year and a half concentrating on exclusively on fly fishing, my preferred target species changing from bass to trout. I was having success in my quests for rainbows, browns, and brooks, but when tournaments started rolling around (with more taking place in Kentucky now than ever before), I was coming up empty-handed. My confidence was shattered.
I think once you've lost your confidence, it seems to feed on itself. I found myself trying "every lure in the box" instead of falling back to the go-to baits that were tried-and-true producers in the past. One of my "old faithfuls" was the Carolina rig, yet I let several months pass without picking up the glass beads and getting that rig tied up for presentation. I was rushing my retrieves simply because I didn't think a bait was going to be productive, not realizing that by rushing I was defeating the bait's purpose by sabotaging the action for which it was designed.
The Hobie Bass Classic at Kentucky Lake last spring is what finally put me back on course. Actually, it was my cousin Chris Funk, whom I'd never met before that weekend. As we relaxed by the fire the night we arrived, I told Chris about the "Funk" (pun intended) I was in. I hadn't caught a bass in quite some time and was only at the tournament because Chris had driven up from Alabama, and because it was the first Hobie-sponsored tournament in our area.
The next morning, with the tournament in full swing, Chris and I started fishing. He handed me a package with some of his favorite soft plastics from Net Bait (I will not divulge what they were). My second cast hooked a bass. Not huge by any standards, but at least it was a bass, followed quickly by a second, then a third.
Wow! That was just about all it took. I was catching bass all day. Enough were caught that I was still in the top ten or twelve by the end of day one. I was thrilled with that! At least I hadn't been skunked or embarrassed myself, even if day two wasn't quite as productive.
Chris taught me a valuable lesson that weekend: try not to let yourself get more and more frustrated and frantic trying to land a fish. Go back to the basics - back to what you know and what has worked for you in the past. Don't be afraid to change it up a bit, but don't get caught up rushing to try all 57-plus lures in your tackle box. Take a deep breath, and think. Think about water conditions, presentation, changing up retrieval rhythms, and doing what you know. You'll have your mojo back before you can say “Fish on!”