“Should I stay, or should I go?” This line of lyrics from a song by The Clash runs through my mind far too often on the water bass fishing. Unless an angler is having one of those days when bass are seemingly jumping in the boat, I am sure everyone has the same problem. We have all had those moments when, after fishing a sure-fire spot with a never-fail lure, we think maybe another place or other bait might perform better. However, in the back of our mind, we fight yet another thought, to stay where we are and just be patient! To say our mind is our own worst enemy, may be the understatement of an angler’s year. The bass fishing mental game is one we don’t think about often. I am going to cover some tips I use to help me keep my mind on the right path throughout the day.
The Bass Fishing Mental Game – Assess the Situation
When a plan fails the first thing I do is asses my situation and think about what I am dealing with. These factors include, but not limited to, weather, seasonal patterns, cover, bait, etc. I know those sound obvious, but just think about how often we completely disregarded most or all these factors simply because we caught bass at a particular spot in the past. For example, I was fishing a local lake late last summer with plenty of deep cover and I believed it held bass. However, because my strengths favor fishing shallow, I chose to fish the shallow backwaters I found holding bass earlier the previous spring. In the spring I found plenty of cover and baitfish. I was positive I could scratch out a reasonable limit there even though it was summer. After a few hours and catching several smaller bass, I realized I was not seeing the bluegill I expected to see. So, I motored out to the main lake, where I should have been for a summer pattern, and started scanning deep weed lines. It didn’t take very long to not only find quality fish, but they were grouped up in schools.
In this scenario, I messed up from the start by fishing an area based on history. While I knew the summer heat should have most of the bait and quality bass in deeper water, I chose to go to a place I was familiar with even though it didn’t fit the seasonal pattern. It sounds utterly apparent when I type it out, but it would have taken a mallet to my head to make me see it clearly at the time.
The Bass Fishing Mental Game – Do What You Do Best
Now, everything I’ve said so far leads to this next part. Sometimes, a bass angler must fish with what they know. Meaning, when I know I am around bass, and I just can’t seem to make them bite (no matter what practice/history or conditions dictate), I will leave them and the frustration. I’ll go somewhere allowing me to fish to my strengths. For some bass anglers, fishing a strength might be a wacky rig around docks. For others, it could mean dragging a football jig on ledges. Personally, I am going to find some shallow water and power fish with lures fitting the situation.
I was recently on a lake in the middle of July. Both, seasonal patterns and history told me I should find big bass holding around deep milfoil. This lake is also full of shallow docks. However, I felt like the dock bass would be a grind to catch, and these bass would probably be smaller than bass living in the deep grass. As the day started, I scanned those weed lines and found multiple schools of bass holding around pods of bluegill. However, try as I might, I could not get them to bite. In the meantime, I kept eyeing those docks. I couldn’t shake the feeling they just looked “right.” This feeling kept getting stronger as the day went along. At around noon, I abandoned the deep grass bass and headed to the docks. In the first 10 minutes, I had my first bass of the day in the boat; a chunky four and a half pounder. Before the day was over, I had sacked 20-pounds all from underneath those docks.
The bass fishing mental game can boil down to being confident in a presentation. I attribute my success that day to knowing when to fish my strengths. I am sure an angler very good at fishing offshore grass lines would have figured out how to catch those deep bass. However, I have fished tournaments there enough to know, my 20-pound bag would have been hard to beat by even the best offshore patterns.
The Bass Fishing Mental Game – Take a Deep Breath
Sometimes the bass fishing mental game is simply maintaining control. When things aren’t going my way during a day of fishing, frustration can start to kick in. Mix in the world’s most massive backlash while fishing a spot I counted on for the tournament but can’t buy a bite. Top it all off with watching other anglers catch them, suffice it to say things can spin out of control in a hurry. In my case, the best thing I can do is to stop what I am doing and just take a moment to calm myself.
While I’m not necessarily the type who gets overly angry on the water, I have had a couple of “Going Ike” moments. To alleviate this, I will just sit down in the boat, maybe take a drink, and just try to puzzle things out. The best description I can give is the same way one would deal with small children when they have pushed too far. Nothing is accomplished by kicking and screaming, and it’s no different when fishing.
The next time a bad day on the water twinges the last nerve, give some of this stuff a try before deciding to throw all of your gear in the lake. Worst case scenario, maybe I just saved you a ton of money!
If there are any questions about this article or fishing in general, feel free to contact me on my Facebook page at Steve Basinger Fishing.
Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.