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Kats 5 pound 20 inch fish caught during the KBF tournament on Ray Roberts in 2019

Learning to Lose

For those of you who haven’t gotten the memo; competitive fishing is tough.

Really tough.

In a state like Texas??

Insanely tough.

So tough in fact, that some days it’s hard to remember why you bother tournament fishing at all.

2019 has officially become my “rookie year” – something I dove into headfirst [admittedly] as I do with most things. Like most people who get into competitive fishing, I didn’t get into it thinking that I was going to win them all right off the bat…but I also didn’t think that I’d be losing (not placing in) so many either. Granted, I have placed in, and even won a tournament – but the ratio of wins to losses isn’t exactly what you’d call “encouraging”.

Losing most of the tournaments that you enter creates a serious issue with confidence. You end up second-guessing your plans, your lures, your techniques, heck – even your line selection. You feel foolish and eventually end up feeling like a fraud; like you should hang up your rods and quit while you’re ahead…especially because all those tournaments and practice have cut into your time for your website – my apologies for the lack of content recently.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But it’s a cycle that can be stopped.

A wheel that can be broken.

And it all starts in your mind.

Every time you hit the water, tournament or not, you should be thinking about what you learned, not focusing on what you lost. When you shift your perspective about your experiences, you can learn quite a lot from the outcomes.

Rather than seeing a tournament loss as purely a bad thing, think about what you did on the water, and most importantly, why – find the lesson in the loss.

Were you dialed into the fish that day?
Or were you casting in all directions without really thinking?
What did you see [or not see] on your graph?
What kind of activity were you seeing on the surface and the banks?
Were you throwing your confidence baits?
Or did you switch things up to a style you’re not that comfortable with at the last minute because you heard someone talking about what they were getting bit on two days ago?

Were you really fishing?

Or just going through the motions?

Because the latter is extraordinarily easy to do – especially when the bite is tough, and/or you happen to get caught in the middle of a white squall. We’ve all done it at one point or another; the key is recognizing when your mind is all over the place and bringing your focus back to center.

When you feel yourself slipping down the rabbit hole, stop.
Stop switching baits every three casts.
Stop hopping all over the place at random.
Stop slouching in your seat and sit up straight.
Tell that negative voice in your head to shut up, and then get to work.

Think about what you’re doing and why.

But if you don’t overcome the challenges on the water that day or that weekend, after the tournament is over, always remember to keep it classy – don’t make a million excuses or blame other people for your losses. Accept that [for whatever reason] today wasn’t your day; then try to take the time to appreciate how hard those who did place must have worked to get there.

Congratulate the top finishers, and then ask them what they did. You’d be surprised at how much people will help you if you just take the time to ask! You shouldn’t ask exactly where their hot spots are (no one likes that guy), but you can ask what type of areas they threw in – were they fishing deep up north? Shallow in the south end of the lake? Mats? Docks? What were they catching on? Jigs? Swimbaits? Topwater? Ask them why they changed things up when they did – or why they chose to keep things the same – especially in a two-day tournament.

Find the lesson in the loss.

Is it always easy to do? Of course not. Some days, it’s downright impossible to think clearly right after the tournament is over – but try to get your mind there on the ride home. You want to think about the day while it’s fresh in your mind, not five days later, after you’ve been seething over the outcome for entirely too long.

When you think back over your track record, flip the switch on those less-than-ideal days, and remember what you learned from each one – then use that list for the next tournament you compete in. Leading by example, I’ll give you a few little blips from my own list:

Starting to get the idea?


Because tournament fishing is hard, and frankly, you are going to lose [probably more than once].

It’s what you choose to do with those losses that will ultimately influence your future outcomes.

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