Confidence, A Competitive Edge

By Jerry Drazer


As tournament anglers, most of us are always looking for an edge on the competition.

For some anglers the edge is in horsepower and boat length. There's no doubt that a longer boat with a wide beam, handles big water much better, and is much safer than a smaller version. However, in order to propel that big boat efficiently you’ll need an outboard that can handle that boat, and at the same time cut down your running time between point A and point B. Thus, the emergence of the 20' boat and 200 + horsepower outboards. While rigging that 20' boat you'll also need a trolling motor that has enough muscle to maneuver that twenty footer easily, and you might as well invest in some high-tech electronics and a GPS system. The total cost of this edge is probably well over $30,000 and some change. This is a very good investment, if you have the money.

For other anglers the edge is in getting the best information available before they even get on the water. Most all of us have solicited information for a tournament at some point and time in our careers from someone, but some go above and beyond simply soliciting a little information. One touring pro I know, has over 30 contacts for each lake he fishes, and gets information from them all before he even leaves the driveway.

Others find an edge in hiring 3-4 top-notch guides, and gaining their sole confidentiality or use the Internet and other information systems. The total cost of these edges can range from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars depending on the extreme. They are all good investments, and give you an edge, if you have the money and make the time.

Another tournament edge, and probably the toughest to attain is sponsorship. If you have several great paying sponsors you can easily have access to all of the above, and more.

Confidence As An Edge

Now, let's look at an edge that doesn't cost you an arm and a leg, and that edge is confidence. Some anglers may have confidence in certain areas or creeks of the tournament waters. Others have extreme confidence in a certain lure or technique, and they’ll fish it regardless of the conditions. Yeah, they'll get burned off and on, but contrary to popular belief, and conventional bass fishing wisdom, these "one lure" anglers can inflict a lot of damage to a standings board. How? Confidence, in their own style, technique, and abilities. While fishing, they won't play around changing lures, they simply keep their line wet.

They 're true masters of their technique, and are very aware of all subtleties that their technique employs. They're also keenly alert to any changes in vibration, feel, or sound. When ideal conditions for their lure or technique prevail, you had better be ready to "weather the storm", because they’ll catch their share and might even get on a roll. I can think of several anglers just in Indiana, who fish in this manner. Examples of this type of confidence are further illustrated time and again on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.

Here are a few examples, see if they revive your memory: Kevin VanDam with the Sluggo and jerkbaits, Tommy Biffle and Denny Brauer with jigs, Hank Parker and Jimmy Houston with spinnerbaits, Larry Nixon and Woo Daves with plastic worms, Guido and Dion Hibdon with finesse baits, Fish Fishburne and Shaw Grigsby with sightfishing, David Fritts with crankbaits.

There is absolutely no substitute for confidence. When conditions put bass in a very negative mood, where nothing seems to produce a strike to help formulate a pattern many of the top touring pro's rely heavily on their pet lures or techniques. Some refer to this tactic as "fishing their strength" or you'll here them refer to this as fishing their "confidence bait".

Most tournament anglers have developed at least one "strength technique", in which they have a lot of confidence.

One of the greatest attributes about confidence in my opinion is that you can’t buy it, and the fact that it’s not readily visible to the competition. Now you may be asking; How does an angler get confidence? It's simple really, practice, practice, practice. You can read all the books and magazines in the world, to build your foundation skills, but there is no substitute for time on the water. Confidence, will ultimately come with experience.

Developing Your Confidence

If you desire to develop your confidence and have a trademark strength, one of the most important parts of the puzzle, is to simply enjoy fishing with that particular technique or lure, and having success with it. I've never heard anyone say; "My strength is jerkbaits, but I hate to fish them". Time on the water will ultimately be the best teacher, for all the subtleties. Most of the top pros on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail have little subtleties that they employ whenever they fish their "strength technique".

My former bass fishing mentor, and retired touring pro, Dusty Pine, once told me many years ago: "It’s the little things that make the big difference". He’s so right. No two anglers can work a lure identically to one another. They can come very close, but there are still variations above and below the water. Some are conscious variations others may remain unconscious variations.

Time on the water, and trial and error are very good teachers. After you have put your time in, and reaped the rewards from using your confidence, your confidence will become stronger with every cast and/or fish.

So, before you go out and "plunk down" your hard earned cash for an expensive edge on the competition, try increasing your confidence in a technique, lure, or even a new area of the lake.

Once your confidence is fully developed, success will be more frequent, and your bank account might increase a little too. But, more importantly, you’ll have fun using it.

By Jerry Drazer
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