“Enjoy the Sunrise.”
Vance McCullough photo courtesy go FLWFishing.com
That’s Terry Bolton’s advice for anyone who wants to perform better, to perform from a place of relaxed confidence, of gratitude.
It’s the mindset that lead to a breakthrough season for the veteran FLW Tour angler who was seriously thinking 2019 might have been his last year on the Tour.
“I think it kind of seems odd for a guy who has done this for 24 years to say he’s forgotten how to have fun, but I kinda, sorta did. I took for granted a lot of things too, how lucky I’ve been to do this for so long, and I made fishing a job.
“The 2018 season, I just went through the motions. I had one of the worst years, if not the worst year, I’d ever had in my career. At the end of the season – when you don’t do well you critique everything – I didn’t really feel like I gave my best effort.
“Starting this season at the Sam Rayburn event, for some reason I had almost the mentality that ‘hey, this is probably going to be my final season and I’m going to enjoy every sunrise and sunset, everything there is about this because I got to do this for a long time’. I just kind of, I guess, relaxed more instead of being in such a hurry and a panic like I was the previous season.
“I just enjoyed things more,” Bolton summarized.
Remembering why he loved the game in the first place gave Bolton the fresh perspective he needed. “The reason we get into bass tournaments is we really enjoy it. You don’t start fishing professionally because you think you’re going to be wealthy. That’s hard to do. The reason you do it is because you love it and enjoy it. For some reason, I had lost that somewhat. This season I did a really great job of bringing that back and just having a more carefree attitude.”
Bolton has no intention of retiring from the sport any time soon. “Oh no, no. I’ve stated that I want to fish another year. I’ve ordered a new boat. I’ve started all the processes to fish the 2020 season.”
He says uncertainty and burnout are very real, very common enemies of many Tour-level anglers. “I’ve said this jokingly, but any professional fisherman that’s fished for any length of time, especially in the 15-to-20-year range, if they ever tell you they never thought about quitting, they’re lying.”
Bolton has never actually desired to leave the sport. “I think when I stated that I had considered not fishing professionally, 100,000 people came up to my wife and said, ‘you’re not gonna let him quit!’ I guess people thought that I wanted to quit. That’s not the case. I intend on fishing 2020 season next year.”
External factors a few years back caught up with Bolton and zapped a lot of his enjoyment, culminating in the unsatisfactory finish in 2018. “I don’t care what you do for a living, there are times when life gets in the way. Things are hard. I went through a divorce and my father dying all within a year about four or five years ago. I had to worry about taking care of my mother and a lot of things from the divorce and that took a lot of fun out of life.”
While Bolton says the divorce was bad enough to deal with, the loss of his father dealt a huge blow to the personal support system we all need. “The death of my father was the hardest thing. He was the person that, as soon as I weighed-in, I talked to on the phone. He was the person I talked to every day after weigh in. The years following his passing, I missed that.”
Aside from the heartache of losing his father, Bolton took on additional worries. “My mom is in good health and everything is fine, but I worry about my mom and I had a little more on my plate.
“That’s life. That’s what happens every day to thousands of people, and even worse, but that’s all just part of it.”
Bolton’s new approach this year led to some early success which, in turn, bred the confidence to continue to fish relaxed. He can count a few blessings right off the top of his head, “the 9-pounder at Rayburn I caught, the 9-pounder at Toho. I caught another, probably 7-pounder at Seminole. There were a lot of fish I caught that I shouldn’t have caught.”
Perhaps the power of positive thinking contributed just a bit more fortune in a sport where the margin between success and failure is often razor-thin. “Everybody who’s done this for a while can tell you that it can come down to one or two bites in a year as to whether or not you make the Cup, a Bassmaster Classic, whatever championship you’re fishing for. The difference between having a good year and a great year can come down to three or four bites. I had a lot of things go my way this year, some key bites and things that I know were really special, and that’s big too because I’ve been on the other end where you never get an opportunity. This year when I needed a big bite it seemed like I’d get it.
“I think I’ve finally learned to trust a little more in my ability – that I do make good decisions. I didn’t second guess myself near as much.”
Bolton points to the FLW Tour opener on Rayburn as an example of the improved decision-making that took place in his now quieter mind. “Winning the first event, knowing what I needed to do before I got to that event, knowing the lures I needed to throw in order to win and sticking to that plan even though I’d fish all day long and sometimes only find one place, one or two a day, I had the confidence to stick with it where a lot of people, if you’d have done that for four hours and not had a bite, you’d have said, ‘oh, I’m gonna go flip trees or throw a spinnerbait’. I didn’t do that.”
“I think decision-making is ultimately what decides the outcome of most tournaments,” Bolton reiterated. “This year I had a lot more faith in my decision-making.”
Bolton’s gut only led him off track for a single day across the entire tournament trail. “That was the first day of the FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton where I only weighed four fish for 6 pounds, and 3 or 4 ounces. I had gotten on such a good crankbait bite throwing a DT 10 and I got so committed to that pattern feeling that was the way to win, and Bryan Thrift did catch several of his key fish on a crankbait, so I wasn’t off base but I couldn’t make it happen and I kept forcing it. I didn’t do well the first day so the 2nd day I called an audible and went and threw a buzzbait and caught the 2ndor 3rd biggest stringer of the day to go from 44th to 19th but that one day of me being a little too hard headed and sticking to my guns and only catching four bass might have cost me fishing the final day at the Cup. That’s the only day I can critique my decision-making this year.”
Bolton says anglers tend to perform better in practice because they are fishing the moment without strong notions of what to expect. He says we’d do well to fish with a similar mindset even under the pressures of a tournament day. “On the day they were practicing they had no clue so they let things flow a little easier and then come tournament time you try to recreate that day you had which sometimes happens but 75-to-80-percent of the time it doesn’t unfold just like it did that previous day. I think the ability to just let yourself fish is a trait that takes a little time and a little confidence to develop. It’s almost like a willingness to maybe not do well, but I think a lot of time the greater outcome is you will do better.”
Regardless of the occupation, when someone loses the joy that first attracted them to their chosen profession, Bolton has some encouragement. “You can’t let life get in the way. After you go through some bad things and deal with life and death and sickness and divorce and some things like that, you know that’s pretty serious. Bass fishing’s fun. We’re not going to be here forever, so you’ve got to enjoy the time you have here and look at things as a privilege.
“This year was a phenomenal season. God blessed me and allowed me to have this season and I’m thankful for it. I went through a lot of rough times. I think anybody who’s suffering from the doldrums, when you get up in the morning, take a few more minutes to enjoy the sunrise and look and see how pretty it is and don’t let life get in the way so much – all the things you’ve got coming down the road later in that day, don’t let that get in the way of enjoying the things we