April 14th hits, and you guessed it. The Buckeyes are back on the road! This trip takes us to Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. I’d been dreaming of this lake ever since I saw the FLW College Northern Qualifier schedule. And when I say dreaming, I don’t mean good dreams. More so did I have nightmares leading up to this event, as if I already didn’t have my REM Sleep schedule fully booked of that haunting 5th fish at Kentucky Lake that never joined my ride to the weigh in on day 2, edging me just outside of a National Championship cut in my first Collegiate tournament.
The vivid nightmares consisted of spinning rods littering my deck, my flipping stick seeing no sunlight, and worst of all, being able to see the head of my Fortrex as it powered through the 20,000 acres of water presented by Fiji. As dreams turned to reality, I slid into the water on Friday and went out to prefish with a team member, Jaycen Newsome.
Fortunately, we adapted to the clear water and actually whaled on ’em during the day of prefishing. After setting a limited amount of hooks, we landed over 17lbs of our best 5 fish on a fluke and flipping style baits. In the backs of the pockets, we found slightly stained water and the fish were flat out there!
Unfortunately, when I left those cuts, the fish did too. Boat 26 of Jacob Miller and myself walked across the scales around 3pm April the 16th with two little largemouth weighing in at a hair above four and a half pounds. When upwards of 11 pounds was the qualifying cut for these bath tub gurus of Virginia Tech, Liberty, and a few other local colleges, that’s when I felt the almighty slap to the face sending me all the way back to Thornville, Ohio and even further than that, it sent me back to reality.
The worst thing that could possibly happen to myself would be to fall into a rut after that terrible finish. From my competitive back ground in sports, to the way my family has raised me, failure is not an option. So how do I trip and not fall? How do I get the ball rolling again? It’s a multistage process for myself. First and foremost, regain total mental confidence in myself on the haul home. Accept you’ve gotten beat, but don’t necessarily accept those guys were better than you. If you don’t have the mental confidence that you can hang with the best of ’em, even on their home lake that you’ve never seen before, how in the world are you going to win? Even though I took a hard loss, I have to take the lessons out of that butt kicking if I want to kick butt next time I’m in that butt kicking clear water.
So after my miniature mental press conference assuring myself I don’t actually just flat out stink has finished, it’s time to get physical and get back out there. So what did I do on Monday? I went to Rush Creek Lake by my house and absolutely jacked some big mouths! Caught the biggest bag I had ever caught in there and also the biggest bag I had caught in Buckeye state this year. And now that my confidence is charged up, it’s time to pay some money and fish a Tuesday Night Tournament.
Jay Gramlich and myself pulled the Triton to Burr Oak. A lake he had never been on, and a lake I had only fished a hand full of times in 2015. It’s crunch time now, show up or blow up. Fortunately, we decided to show up and grab 2nd place! That 2nd place was much deeper than a wad of cash to myself though. That proved to me, mentally and physically, I really did just have a bad tournament in Hokie country. That simple Tuesday Night Tournament picked me up and sent me back rolling down the track I started the year on!
To sum up my advice: regain positive mental attitude, stay confident yet humble, take the good out of the bad, and last but not least, go straight up jack ’em somewhere you have confidence in!
Thanks for reading!