Fishing the Moment
The 2016 season is finally here, I want to first say thank you to all my sponsors, friends, family members and followers who have helped me out chasing my dreams each season and wished me words of encouragement. I am very grateful for everyone that supports me and the great responses that I get from my articles that I post now and again. Speaking of that I often get asked why I have not printed an article in a while, well here is the simple reasoning. Each article I write is obviously related to my fishing experience and life on the road during the tournament season. But I also try to tell a story about life in general to inspire, motivate or maybe just put a smile on someone’s face. I realize not everyone is an angler or may not even like fishing so many of my articles include life experience. Most of my writings are developed as I lay in bed and try to drift asleep each night. Thoughts run through my head, sometimes I will wake in the night and write down and idea to save it for a later time. I normally do not write the story until it continually resurfaces in my thoughts several times.
I have been in Law Enforcement for the last 17 years and I have seen plenty of negative things that I just assume forget, but on the flip side there are plenty of great memories that are burned into time which I will never forget. The same thing reflects on my fishing adventures. I have spoke in the past about goals, dreams and challenges all of which make life interesting. This week’s topic I want to reflect on the moment and how it relates to all of us, including myself and how I approach tournaments each event.
Moment- a brief period in time often related to something of importance. When you sit back and think of that definition as a sportsman there is great significance to that definition. All of us can reflect back to that particular moment in time as an outdoorsman you will never forget, like a small movie clip forever etched in your memory.
Every tournament I fish I have an angler fishing with me out of the back of my boat. Many times I do not know the person other than we both share a common passion for the outdoors. An 'ice breaker' question I often ask to that person is “What is the biggest fish you have ever caught?" The question also has a hidden agenda. Many of the times I will get a short story from that angler about their trophy catch, they are describing a moment burned in time they will never forget. The thing many outdoorsmen do not realize is they might have only caught or harvested a few trophies but their mind is filled with personal trophies that they are unaware of. The question usual continues in a conversation about other great catches and outdoor experiences that person might have had. What we fail to recognize sometimes is for an outdoorsman a trophy is what you make of it during that moment. The moment for me as a person and a professional angler has multiple meanings and I cherish each and every moment I live and breathe.
As a tournament angler the moment is as important for me as the lures attached to each and every line I throw. Arriving at a new body of water and having never fished it can be a real task to overcome to locate fish quickly in a limited amount of time. The moment I pull up to the launch I am reading every period in time as I take steps to locate and catch fish. What are the factors I have to consider? Sun, wind, rain, time of year, fishing pressure, habitat and forage in the system that I am fishing. Are the fish deep, shallow, suspended are they active or are they inactive? A small glimpse into a huge group of things you must consider. Some of the best anglers in the world are that way because they have become better than everyone else at living the moment and making adjustments in the fishing style to make sure they put fish in the livewell each event. It was not until last year that I have been able to somewhat come to terms with learning to fish the moment and as a result my season finished far better than I ever would have in previous years.
An example I reflect back on was the final FLW event at Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio. I went there with expectations of being able to land giant bags of smallmouth because that type of water fishes to my strength. Day one and two of practice quickly came and went and I never landed a fish. This event was important to me because I sat ranked in position to make the Rayovac Championship for the second time in my career. Day three came and once again did not improve as I had one keeper smallmouth and it was obviously a random fish and it was likely I would not find another fish at that location. Day four practice arrive and I realized I was not going to make the Championship with only a few fish and I needed to do something different. I decided to go and fish for largemouth, stupid I thought to myself why would I fish largemouth on one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the country but I had no choice. I figured I need about five fish at least during the two-day event in order to make the championship that would give me enough points to qualify.
I pushed into the break walls and back Marinas in search of largemouth on one of my last full days of fishing. I quickly found fish although they were small averaging two pounds. I fished through the rest of the day locating a fairly big group of small fish which boosted my confidence. I finished up the next half day of practice graphing and just looking at some other potential locations to catch some largemouth.
Day one of the event came and as I launched my boat and reflected on that very moment I knew I was in trouble. A strong North wind had moved in and was blasting the area where I had been catching fish. I knew I would have to make some changes in my techniques but still tried to remain confident I could go to those locations and catch what I needed. I arrived at my location and met three other boats in that small area, it was obvious they also had a hard time finding the giant Lake Erie Smallmouth. I put my head down and went to work fishing the conditions that were dealt to me, boats came and went. I stayed thinking I would get my bite to work but it didn’t. I knew my day was slowly crumbling and I had to stay in that moment and make something work. I told my co-angler we were done with largemouth and that we were going smallmouth fishing. I can’t imagine what he was thinking when I pointed to where we had to go especially since I had not caught any during practice. I still had confidence and I knew how to catch smallmouth as good as anyone else in deep water.
I fired up the big motor and nosed the boat toward the middle of the lake and headed out, the conditions were rough and it was noon when we arrived at a potential spot. It was nothing I had ever fished just a potential area where some fish may or may not be. Within a half hour I boated the first fish about three pounds. Confidence was rising and I was reading the particular moment in time like a mind reader telling you your fortune. As quickly as that came it went as another 45 minutes passed without a bite. I drifted along hoping to run into something. The feeling of failure started to sink in and I knew it was time to shake it off and move and make that momentum come back. I began just idling along looking for something special and trying to read the moment to the best of my ability. As I am trying to make something happen I pass over a large rock in 30 feet of water with one big "mark" or fish sitting on the back side of it. I dropped a waypoint and wheeled the boat into position. My first cast I watched my bait on the graph hit the bottom right in front of the mark. I clicked the bail over and the fish was on a nice four-pound smallmouth. The next hour my co-angler and I went to work and put a few fish in the boat. I ended that day with 3 smallmouth weighing 10 pounds 4 ounces. I fell two short of a limit but it was obvious I was on quality fish.
That evening I was somewhat disappointed that I did not figure Lake Erie out like I thought I would be able to. But I also had a huge confidence going into the second day. I told my wife that day two was going to be a huge comeback and that we were going to the championship. Day two came with similar conditions to the first day and I started where I left off with the smallmouth. My first cast never hit the bottom and I was hooked up on a 5.5 pound beast. Our day came and went boating fish after fish. I hit the scales and dropped 18 pounds and 8 ounces which moved me up to the 42 spot. That finish also ended my year in the standings ranked 24th overall out of 187 anglers and secured my spot to the Championship later that season.
Reflecting back on those moments I realize that without being comfortable and making adjustment throughout the practice period and the tournament I would have never had such a successful season. Although that bag of fish was not the heaviest catch I had ever caught or was that 5.5 pound fish in my mind they are personal trophies burned in a memory at that moment in time that I will forever cherish.
I wrote this story back in December of 2015 and never shared it, saving it as a reminder to myself as to what I had to do during the 2016 season. I recently returned from the first Northern Costa Series event which was held on the Potomac River in Maryland. That event proved to be again a mental challenge for me. My practice period was great and I was able to locate better than average fish and I was confident going into that event that I would do really well.
Day one of the tournament came and as I fished my location I quickly learned that my fish had changed and they were not biting, and after spending five hours fishing that area I was unsure if they were still there. I had wasted five hours of my day doing exactly what I said I would never do again, not fish the moment and let the fish tell me what was going on. I made a move late in the day and I was able to scramble and catch three fish. It seemed what I had figured out had disappeared and that Day Two looked like it was going to be a real challenge. The only promising thing was that I left an area at the end of the day with a strong frog bite going on.
I returned to camp that evening and re-tied for a topwater grass bite and I was going to work that area hard to make a comeback and get some points in place for the 2016 Championship. As I finished getting ready the park ranger passed by and told me that there were strong storms and a tornado warning for the evening and night. Right then the winds came along with a storm. I laid in bed that evening thinking my frog bite was probably going to be gone, just then this article came into my head and I reflected back at what I might have to do to catch fish tomorrow. I was not going to worry I was going to look at my areas and let mother nature tell me what I needed to do to catch fish.
Day two came and the water was turned up and looked like chocolate milk as I arrived at my frog spot, I could not even see the grass in the area which I knew was there. By looking at that area I knew the bite would be horrible, I also knew fish were still there. It was a hard decision but I left that area and started on new water where I thought I could catch fish. That day I never really produced a pattern. I just relaxed and fished. I was able to land four nice fish as the day came to an end. Each fish came on a different lure that I fished when the moment felt right. Catching fish on a horny toad, frog, chatterbait and a spinnerbait. I did not have the finish I was hoping to start my season off with in the first event but once again I taught myself something and each time I am able to learn something from an event it will only make me a better competitor.
My next Costa event is in July out of Clayton, NY and I look forward to fishing my home water chasing giant smallmouth!
Don't chase your dreams....catch them!!!
Chris Flint #UPNORTHOUTDOORS