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Two weeks of fishing frustration

April 16, 2009 at 09:16 PM

Frustration, negativity, pressing: Bad combination, bad results

This last two weeks of my life brought back a painful memory – literally painful.

The memory was of a football practice when I was in junior high school. I was playing tight end at the time, and on this one particular play our quarterback threw a pass to me – and I caught it. We didn’t pass much, so it was really cool to have the football in my hands. I mean, it felt great. I caught the pass like a pro receiver, and when I cradled the football it looked like I had clear sailing. Nobody was going to catch me.

Nobody, that is, except the linebacker who was running full speed at me from my blind side. So less than two seconds after I caught the pass, right about the time I looked at my clear path downfield, that linebacker put a titanic hit on me. Perfect form, pads and helmet right in my rib cage. KABOOM! I saw stars.

Well, I kind of felt that way again the past two weeks. Blindsided and hurting is what I’m trying to say.

We had two huge tournaments during the first two weeks of April. Let me say right off that the second week wasn’t anywhere close to being as bad as the first week. The second week, in fact, I actually fished a decent tournament and had a chance to win. The similarity is that both tournaments started really well – but didn’t end the way I’d expected.

As much as it hurts to do this, I’ll describe what happened two weeks ago at Wheeler Lake.

I went into our ESPN Elite Series event on Wheeler in really good shape. I’d had a couple of decent tournaments, and I was 13th on the Angler-of-the-Year points list – close enough to see first place. It’s important to hang close to the top, because at the end of our season the top 12 anglers fish an additional two tournaments. The two extra events give the top 12 extra shots at accumulating enough points to be Angler-of-the-Year.

And at Wheeler, I did nothing but help myself on Day 1. I was in 17th place at the end of the day, I was on a lot of fish, and I was totally confident I was going to move up in the standings.

But here’s the reality. In one day – one sorry Friday - I went from 17th to 79th. Seventy-ninth. I actually went from hoping to win outright to missing the cut by 29 spots.

As you might expect, people came up to me afterward and said, “Hey, Boyd. Tough tournament. It happens.” And I get that. I’ve had plenty of bad tournaments – every competitive angler has. But this was different, waaaay different. I definitely hate that I finished 79th. But what I hate even more is that I have no rational explanation why, other than to say I just couldn’t catch any fish. They were everywhere – jumping, swimming. I could see them but I couldn’t catch them.

I can’t remember the last time I had a day so frustrating. Here are some highlights – or maybe I should say “lowlights.” I had five sure holes and a lot of other places on Wheeler that I know will give up fish. I went to all of them at one time or another, but I couldn’t catch anything. And, as I said, the fish were everywhere except in my boat.

Let me tell you how bad it was. It was early afternoon and I had ONE fish that weighed ONE pound. I’m aggravated, to put it mildly, that I’m no longer fishing to win. I’ve had to change everything I wanted to do just so I could go after a limit. I figure that if I got a limit of five, no matter how small they were, at least I’d make the cut and live to fish another day. So to catch my limit, I went into the back of a creek I had found. And when I got there, the fish were schooling - breaking the surface. Good, good.

About the time I got there Jason Quinn, a good angler and really good guy, also came into the same general area. And he immediately caught four fish. He already had his limit, and he was just looking to upgrade. But I can see that he’s catching them right and left.

He trolled over in my direction and said, “Man, they’re biting like crazy, but I can’t get anything big enough to help me.” He asked how I was doing. I told him I had ONE fish. All day.

You could tell by his expression that he absolutely couldn’t believe it. So he did something classy. He decided to leave the area just to give me room to catch my limit. On top of that, he offered to let me have the chrome and black Rat-L-Trap he was throwing. I said, “Thanks, but no need. That’s exactly what I’m throwing.”

Then after he left, I still couldn’t catch them.

It got worse, if that’s possible. I went into another area where a father and son were fishing near a bank. Not two minutes after I got there, that young boy, who probably was no more than seven years old, caught a four-pounder with a Zebco rod and reel. The kid was dragging a four-inch worm on his little Zebco and he caught a four-pounder. Just about any other day, I’d have been the happiest guy in the world for that young man.

So then I really, really started pressing. And, as most of you know, when things start going bad, if you start pressing things only get worse. You drop rods over the side, your propeller gets snagged, people are packed into every space you try to go. … Well, all of that happened. It was like a bad, bad dream, where there were happy people all around me catching big fish – but every time I cast there’s a big, dark cloud around my boat and my line.

It was the worst single day on the water I’ve had in years and years. And it’s amazing what can happen in a single day. In one day I put the rest of my season in jeopardy. I went from 13th on angler-of-the-year points to 34th. My goal had been to have eight consistent tournaments and to put myself in contention for angler-of-the-year. But angler-of-the-year is a long way off now.

So, in retrospect, what actually happened?

I wish I had an answer, but I still don’t know what happened. But what I do know is that I’m responsible for letting the downhill snowball get going. I got negative, and I can guarantee you that negativity always backfires. I was running around the lake in a panic, frustrated by what was happening and angry that I couldn’t change things.

So now I’m back in the same type of situation I found myself in the last two seasons. I need a comeback. Fortunately, I can take some comfort in knowing that after I hit bad skids in 2007 and 2008, I came back to have good seasons. And it could happen again. But it won’t happen unless I can put this frustration behind me.

OK, so quickly, let me tell you what happened last week at the Professional Anglers Association Tournament on Lake Neely Henry in Alabama. It was another big tournament: 145 good anglers from all over the country. A lot of Elite Series and FLW guys in the field. And I’ve still got Friday at Wheeler in my head.

Well, I led the PAA tournament after Day 1. I had more than 22 pounds, and my bag was nearly four pounds better than the next best. Another good first day. But I knew that I couldn’t coast. I needed big fish on the second day to win.

So on the second day I caught a limit of five, but they were small fish. I wouldn’t fish it any differently today - I did what I thought had to do. And before it was over I actually hooked a big fish – six pounds plus. But as I was trying to get him in the boat, he slipped off. … That fish would have won the tournament by several pounds. Of course, I’m sure a few other anglers lost tournament winning fish, too.

So I finished in fourth place. I suppose I should be happy with that.

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