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Professional Bass Fisherman Mark Davis Tells Us How to Improve Our Fishing

Learn Five Changes You Can Make to Come Out of a Fishing Slump with Mark Davis and See Video on What to Do When Your Bass-Fishing Pattern Is Blown

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Arkansas, had the worst year in 2009 of his fishing career. But this year, he’s returned to professional bass fishing with a vengeance. In the last two Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments, he took two 8th-place finish checks home with him, one at Clarks Hill and one at Lake Guntersville. Mark has made one of the biggest turnarounds in his professional fishing career that anyone has seen. All of us go through slumps. We all get down on ourselves about bass fishing. We’ve asked Mark Davis how he’s come back from a lousy fishing year to having a great fishing year.

Question: Okay, Mark, we still want to know how to make the best decisions on the water, and how to turn around your season. On the other end of the spectrum from you this year is Kevin VanDam, possibly one of the greatest bass fishermen that there’s ever been. He won the Angler-of-the-Year title in 2009 and the Bassmaster Classic in 2010. VanDam has almost always been in the Top 10 for Angler of the Year on the Bassmaster Circuit, and this year he’s struggling. We know that you and VanDam are the best of friends, but we’re going to ask you to compare and contrast your season with VanDam’s season this year. What’s the difference in you and VanDam this year?Click to enlarge
Davis: Kevin and I are completely-different individuals, and we have completely-different philosophies of bass fishing. Personality-wise, Kevin is a go-getter. He’s the epitome of a Type A personality. He uses that personality to fish very aggressively, cover a lot of water and catch a lot of fish. Kevin’s also very much attuned to fishing conditions and has proven that he can make right decisions on the water. Now I’m not nearly as aggressive on the water as Kevin is. I’m a slow-and-steady fisherman. I fish slower tactics than Kevin fishes, and I think that may be the best way to describe the differences in the two of us fishing.

Now some years, where the bass tournaments are held, the mood of the bass on the lakes that we go to will lend themselves more toward one style of fishing than another style of fishing. The mood of the fish varies from lake to lake and state to state, and sometimes one style of fishing will produce better than the other. Maybe this year, fishing slowly and methodically has been the tactic the fish wanted more of this season than they did last season. Don’t get me wrong. Both tactics will produce plenty of bass and win of tournaments. However, some years, some styles of fishing just seem to produce better than other styles.

Question: Okay, Mark, if I had a bad year of bass fishing last year, what five things can you tell me that will help me have a better season this year?Click to enlarge
Davis: Number 1: Identify the tactics, techniques and baits that you believe you fish the best, and then go with what you’re best at doing. As I’ve just mentioned, Kevin’s a powerbait, fast fisherman, and he’s won a lot of tournaments and been highly successful doing what he likes to do. I’m a slower fisherman, and I’ve been more successful fishing with slow fishing tactics than I have been with fast tactics. I’m not going to change and become a power fisherman. I’m going to fish the way I know how to fish to catch the bass on the baits I have the most confidence in and learn how to get better at the style of fishing that you like the best. Concentrate on the tactics and lures that you know help you catch bass.

Number 2: Go back to the basics. Regardless of how good a football player you are, you’ve got to have the fundamentals of running, tackling, blocking and the other key fundamentals of the game to be successful. In my opinion, the fundamentals are:
* learn how to find bass: and
* keep your bass fishing simple, instead of making it so complicated while you’re learning to fish every new lure and new style that comes into our sport every day.
If you’re fundamentally sound, with these two aspects of fishing, you can turn around your season. If you’re not, go back to learning to read a depth finder, learning where you should look for bass at certain times of year and spend time on the various lakes doing nothing but trying to find bass. After you feel like you can locate bass on any lake, then learn how to catch them with the tactics you already know.

Number 3: Keep all negative thoughts out of your mind. Negativity can slip into your mind like a thief in the night when you’re not even paying attention, especially on a tough day of fishing. If you’re having a hard day catching bass, you need to tell yourself, “Okay, conditions are tough. The other fishermen are faced with the same conditions I am. I’ve got to make every cast and every bite count and produce a bass.” Many times, one or two bites will make the difference in winning or losing by catching a big bass. At the end of the day on difficult fishing days, making those one or two bites count can help your season be more successful. Click to enlarge

Number 4: Realize there’s really no such thing as a slump in your bass fishing. We tell ourselves this to make an excuse for performing poorly. If you’re not fishing well, if you believe you’re in a slump, most of the time, the problem is between your ears, not out in the water. As human beings, we have the ability to choose to be happy or sad, to be positive or negative. You, not any one else, not any other circumstances, determine whether you’re going to be positive and believe you’re going to catch bass every time you wet a line; or negative, doubting that you’ll catch a fish all day before you even put your boat in the water. If you’ve prepared properly, if you’ve worked as hard as you can, if you know you can and will make right decisions, and if you’re tuned-in to the changing conditions in a day of fishing, and you know you’re tuned-in, then you’ll catch many-more bass than you will have caught if you tell your buddy when you get in the boat, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve been in a slump for the last 6 months.” Brother, that kind of talk will keep you in a slump.”

Number 5: Learn to listen to your inner voice, and be confident that that inner voice is telling you the right things to do. Don’t be out fishing during the day, make a decision on pure instinct, and 30-minutes later decide you’ve made a bad decision. One of the most-difficult aspects of fishing is to learn to follow your instincts (that inner voice) that are trying to guide you to success. Your brain is a computer. If you’re constantly pushing buttons, rarely will it spit out the right data. But if you leave the computer alone and let it do its thing, it will give you the right answers more times than it will wrong answers. A big part of following your instincts is not being swayed by the conversations you hear at the boat dock. For instance, as you’re getting in your boat, you know you should be fishing points and ledges with a Carolina rig. But some guy who’s just come off the water asks, “How are you going to fish today?” and you tell him, “I’m going to fish points and ledges with a Carolina rig.” He may say, “Oh, no. You need to be fishing buzzbaits in the grass.” You’ve got to listen to your own voice and not the voices of others who probably don’t know as much as you do. You’ll do a much-better job of catching bass by following your own instincts than you will following somebody else’s recommendations.

Now, just to make sure we’re clear, don’t turn-off your learning button. Learn all you can about bass fishing from everyone you can. But then when you get on the water, you’re the only one responsible for how you perform that day, and you’ll make better decisions than someone else who’s trying to make decisions for you. Coming out of a slump is a head game. Learning to go from negative to positive is the way to turn the handle and start the door opening to get out of the slump. The other suggestions I’ve made here will help you open the door wider, but you have to decide to walk through that door from a loser to a winner.

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Check back each day this week for more about "Professional Bass Fisherman Mark Davis Tells Us How to Improve Our Fishing"

Day 1: Mark Davis Tells the Importance of Making Even Small Differences in Your Fishing and a Video with Davis Shows How to Find Bass before a Tournament
Day 2: When Mark Davis Caught More Than 100 Bass a Day at Lake Guntersville and Davis’s Video Tells Three Favorite Baits for Fishing Clear Water
Day 3: Mark Davis Fishes the Rage Lizard at Clarks Hill and Davis’s Video Names Three Favorite Baits for Muddy Water
Day 4: Mark Davis Tells How He’s Improved His Bass Fishing in 2010 and Video Names Three Best Stained-Water Baits
Day 5: Learn Five Changes You Can Make to Come Out of a Fishing Slump with Mark Davis and See Video on What to Do When Your Bass-Fishing Pattern Is Blown


Entry 564, Day 5