Resolve to be good at something

I was really good at being a bad guy.”- Ric Flair

So how many resolutions have you already broken in this new-born new year? I resolved some years ago to stop making resolutions. THAT’s one I can keep.

But I do reflect, at the top of the year, on how things have gone; how they might have gone otherwise – you know, just the way we do on a long drive home from a tournament we didn’t win.

When it comes to fishing I think of what worked well, what didn’t, how the weather played a role. I assess my strengths and my weaknesses. I might worry for 5 seconds about my weaknesses. Then I embrace my strengths.

At this time of year when others are saying ‘correct your flaws’ I encourage you to do just the opposite. Identify your strengths and hone them to a razor’s edge. A competitive edge.

You can spend all your time doing damage control or you can invest in your strong suit and make a statement. Be known for something, like winning, for instance. You rarely win by being average at a bunch of techniques. You win by being outstanding at something and then recognizing when there’s an opportunity to push that technique.

How many times have we heard a winning angler say ‘I just fished my strengths’.

You’ll likely have to grind your way through a slow bite with ‘Plan B’ or even ‘Plan C’ in any tournament. After all, Denny Brauer and Tommy Biffle both have used topwater techniques when bass were not tight to flippin’ cover. But when your bite turns on you need to cash in on what makes you unique – that one thing you do better than anybody else.

Often it’s others who notice. When a partner asks, “How do you get that fluke to stay down while working it so fast?” or “How can you skip a lure that far back under there on baitcasting gear?” or “How are you seeing those fish in these conditions?”, such statements are strong hints at strengths you should explore.

As a radio show host once said, nobody ever wrote a book titled ‘Great Moderates in American History’. We respect the bold. For better or worse, we remember the exceptions rather than the rules, especially exceptional performances.

Instead of losing 10 pounds, I say ‘go add 10 pounds to your bench press max’. That means you’ve got to eat. And workout. And so it goes with your fishing. Figure out what you’re good at and get better at it. Be the absolute best there is at it.

If it involves a certain lure, fish it on all kinds of line, especially one you never thought you would. Topwater plug on fluoro? Absolutely, if only to rule that out. Fish it in water that is too cold or too shallow for it. Tourneys have been won on buzzbaits in winter and deep cranks in 4 feet of water. Find quirks that nobody else has. That’s what makes it your thing.

If your strength revolves around a presentation skill rather than a particular lure, say, pitching for instance, then try it with oddball lures. I have caught good bass flippin’ a swimbait into thick reeds. When working quickly and closely to a line of targets such as laydowns some guys have been known to pitch a squarebill crankbait the way others would a jig. I knew a guy who caught fish behind Gary Klein by flipping a spinnerbait into brush.

Perhaps your strength is simply the efficiency and fast pace with which you work. That’s the case for guys like Kevin VanDam and Bryan Thrift. Figure out which lures and techniques can catch fish at warp speed. Forget the rest. You’ll be bored with them and your performance will suffer. Stay on pace and odds are you’ll find some fish.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve got the patience of Job. Like watching cob webs form between your rod and line? If you have that unshakeable faith that you can wait ’em out until they bite then you indeed have a strength few others possess. It’s a great way to catch big fish.

If sight fishing is your thing then you’ll cash in during bedding season, but find opportunities to do it outside of the spawn so you can play to your strength year-round. Bernie Schultz once told me how he watched wolf packs of bass swim around a shallow point and just threw a Senko out in front of them. Did he catch every one he saw? No. But he caught enough. And that’s the point of having a strength. You’re never going to catch all of the fish anyway so just figure out what brings you the most joy on the water.

And be great at it.