John's Journal...


Stay in Focus

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Arkansas, has won three of the five Bassmasters Elite 50 tournaments with the participants chosen from the top Angler-of-The-Year finishers on the Bassmasters circuit for the past three years, along with the top-10 all-time money Bassmasters winners. Bassmasters has designated these 50 anglers as the best bass professional fishermen in the world. The events of this type of tournament include competition among all 50 contestants the first two days. Then the tournament eliminates all but the top 12 fishermen, who have all their fish weights erased to allow all 12 to compete equally. The course, which originally has included almost anywhere on a lake, also changes. Bassmasters declares six areas off-limits, and the fishermen have to fish the final two days in each of these six areas. This Elite 50 competition tests all aspects of bass-fishing skills. For any one angler to win three out of five of these events, he has to know bass inside and out and be doing something different from the other fishermen. This week, I’ll pick Davis's brain to learn how he's beat the best of the best in three out of five competitions and how you can become the best bass fisherman you can.

The real secret to staying focused when you're bass fishing and not worrying about how many fish the other competitors have or haven't caught is your ability to learn to fish for fish and not fish the competition. If you're totally concentrating on trying to learn what the bass on the lake you're fishing are doing on the day you're fishing, there's no way you can be concerned about what the other tournament fishermen are doing in the competition. Remember, when you're competing, there's only you and the fish. Nothing else and no one else really exists during that competition, and Click to enlargeyou're wasting time and energy and losing the tournament when you spend your time being concerned with what another fisherman or group of fishermen are doing. You can know for certain that you'll drastically cut your chances for winning anytime the thought of another fisherman enters your mind. If and when that happens, just say to yourself, "I'm giving that other fisherman the tournament because he's not thinking about me. He's thinking of the fish he's trying to catch."
Killers in a tournament are these types of thoughts:
* "I'm behind 5 pounds. I have to put it in gear and catch up."
* "I wonder how many pounds Kevin VanDam has caught?"
* "I wonder what color crankbait George Cochran is fishing?"
* "I've got to catch three bass in 10 minutes, and I don't know how I'm going to do it."
* "I've got to catch a big bass on these next 10 casts, or I'll lose this tournament."
* "I've got a 2-pound lead, but there's still 1-1/2 hours until the end of the tournament. I don't have a bass in the livewell."

All these things are distractions that will keep you from thinking about what the bass are doing and what you need to be doing to catch them. So, as hard as it is, one of the real secrets of winning the tournament, especially a big tournament, is to believe that on that day, on that lake, only you, God and the fish exist. There's nothing more important than your paying attention to and listening to what the fish are telling you, whether they're biting or not biting, because if you don't maintain that level of concentration, I promise you the biggest fight of the day isClick to enlarge always going to happen just when you're worrying about how many bass Kevin VanDam has caught, how far you are behind in the tournament, or how many bass you need to catch to win.

Really and truly, winning a bass tournament is simple. You just have to think about one more bite, one more bass or one more thing you need to know that you don't know. Once again, nothing else and no one else really matter. Most of the time when a fisherman loses the tournament, if he's honest with himself, he'll see that generally the bass haven't beaten him nor the other competitors. He's really beat himself, because he's been thinking about something other than that next cast or fishing the bait from the time it hits the water until it's on the way back to the boat and then inside the boat. I try to tell myself, "Put your best foot forward regardless of whether:
* "the bass are biting or not biting”
* "the weather is good or bad”
* "you're leading or losing the tournament”
* "you feel good, or you feel lousy."

I know that if I don't give up on my area, if I don't run to the other end of the lake in a panic, and if I don't try to fish every lure in my tacklebox in the last hour of the tournament, I still have a chance to win. If I get frustrated on the water and catch myself about to Click to enlargepanic, I calm down and start fishing the lures and tactics that I feel I can catch bass on always. When crunch time or do-or-die time arrives in a tournament, you have to have a lure tied on that you know, regardless of what's going on in the world, that you can use to catch a bass. If you're fishing with one of your confidence baits, you'll fish slower and more deliberately, hit your targets better and fish with more confidence. I have about 24 baits that I call my confidence baits. However, if I had to narrow the field down to four, my four picks would be:
* the Strike King jig, either black-and-blue or some variation of brown and green;
* the Strike King Series 3 crankbait in a chartreuse, a crawfish color or a shad color;
* the 3/4-ounce Quad Shad spinner bait;
* a Carolina-rigged 3X Strike King plastic lizard in the green-pumpkin color.
When I win, I rarely win on any kind of fancy lure that you can't go to the tackle store and buy.


Check back each day this week for more about MORE ON MARK DAVIS AND HIS $100,000 WEEKEND

Day 1: Versatility, Adaptability and Reading Skills - Keys to Success
Day 2: Patience
Day 3: Know When to Hold 'Em and When to Fold 'Em
Day 4: Stay in Focus
Day 5: The Streak



Entry 301, Day 4