It’s three hours into your fishing trip and you still haven’t set the hook. Your casting arm is showing signs of fatigue and your mental outlook on the success of this day is diminishing quickly. You wonder to yourself, “Can this day be saved? How can I get my mental game back on track?” Your mental toughness on the water is one of the most crucial aspects of finding success and propelling your angling skills.
How to Fish With Mental Toughness
It happens to the best of us from time to time, from the weekend angler to the seasoned tournament pro. Some tournament anglers have even sought out the advice of coaches, who helped them hone positive mental outlooks and taught them how to fish in the moment.
No matter who you talk with in the fishing industry, anyone will tell you a negative outlook always compromises your angling and eventually sends you back to the ramp in frustration.
Looking on the Bright Side
Over the years, I have tried to train myself to focus on the positives when I’m on the water and always look for the good in every situation I face. It still can be a challenge at times, but I know how to recognize that initial moment when my mental game begins to fade. It’s really about knowing when to check yourself and get yourself back into fishing in the moment.
You need to concentrate on each cast, not on the entire trip as a whole. With each cast you make, you have the ability to turn your trip or your tournament into a success. Sure, your tackle is also critical and using quality equipment is essential to having confidence in catching and landing fish. But nothing can get in your way on the water when you’ve combined mental toughness and quality tackle.
Learn Mental Toughness from the Pros
If you watch the Bassmasters or FLW you will hear the announcers talk about anglers grinding out the bite. You’ll see that anglers with little to no fish in their livewells are still in the game by the end of the tournament. Right up until the last minute of the tournament, they are casting at potential targets that might be holding fish. They are slowly eliminating water and grinding through the water to find the bite.
Countless professional anglers have had great success in the last minutes of tournaments, where they have caught winning bags of fish to bring back to the weigh-in. If this teaches us anything, it’s that you never know when your luck can turn around. Just applying a never-give-up attitude and fishing in the moment can produce big results.
Angling Under Pressure
Every time I fish my home waters I anticipate getting out there and having to grind out the bite. Living in Northern New Jersey, we are faced with some of the most over-fished conditions in the coastal U.S. On any given day, waters like Hopatcong and Greenwood can see a lot of angling pressure.
Chances are, whether you live in New Jersey or any of the surrounding states, you are also faced with tough conditions at times. But you’ll reap the rewards if you apply a grinder frame of mind.
Best Bass-Catching Baits for Difficult Conditions
Here are a few baits that really should be in your grinding arsenal that can cover water effectively and efficiently.
This bait excels in shallow water conditions and can really prove to be a heavy hitter when it comes to finding the bite. It’s a three-in-one combination with the body of a jig, the vibration of a crankbait and the flash of a spinnerbait. The Z-Man Chatterbait should be implemented in waters 10 feet deep and shallower. It’s great around docks and over grass, rocks and shallow flats.
Spinnerbait works great in many situations and also can be used in deeper depths. Working the spinnerbait over open water humps and rolling it along the bottom water column can trigger strikes. Whenever you’re faced with wooden structure, the spinnerbait deflects around objects and puts out flash and vibration.
This is a great bait to choose to cover water quickly and grind out a bite. Whether you’re targeting open water grass or scurrying it along rip rap, the lipless crankbait is the tool of the trade when it comes to grinding. I prefer to have a lipless crankbait that has rattles inside it because I feel it gives the bait that extra noise factor that can send fish over the edge to strike it.
Flipping Jig with Beaver Trailer:
Nothing picks apart a section of boat docks or floating pockets of weeds better than a flipping jig. My go-to size would be 3/8 flipping jig in Black and Blue, Green Pumpkin and Brown. My beaver trailer will reflect the color of the jig I choose for the conditions I’m faced with on that given day. If the water is murky, the black and blue would be the color I would choose because I feel it would stand out better and offer a more solid profile.
In clear water conditions, the greens and browns will work better. Also apply MegaStrike fish attractant to your jigs; it will make the fish hold onto the bait a few more seconds longer and allow you to feel subtle strikes. That really matters when you’re fishing jigs and grinding out a successful pattern.
Mental Toughness Is a State of Mind
Now back to the fine grind and how to implement it in your season this year. You have to remember that you control your mental awareness and mindset when you’re on the water. Negative thoughts can easily make your fishing trip take a turn for the worse. Try to stay hungry with every cast you make, and keep that fire burning in your belly. Fishing in the moment is so important and should be practiced by every angler hitting the water.
As humans, we sometimes over-complicate our fishing trips by over-thinking situations and not being open to making adjustments that could save the trip. As you practice your mental awareness techniques and become a strong grinder, you will be on your way to more productive fishing whether you’re a tournament angler or a weekend warrior. I have become really good at rolling up my sleeves, getting my grind on, and finding tough bites—and so can you!
Grinding it out makes fishing feel like work, but the rewards can be great. | Feature photo: Richie Moschella