(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Reigning Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle believes that every aspect of his equipment – from his boat to his rods to his line to his shoes – plays a valuable role in his success, but the difference between being an also-ran and an AOY is strictly between his ears. While he’s fished 15 Bassmaster Classics and is about to compete in his 16th, he believes that he’s learned more from his failures than from his successes.
For example, for a long time he was shackled with the backhanded compliment of “first angler to win $1 million without winning an event,” but gradually he’s learned to accept his limits and to push his strengths. He might not have a lot of 1st-place trophies, but a consistent lineup of checks and top 12s have added up to a tremendous career. “This sport will humble you,” he said, noting that even Kevin VanDam, the greatest of all time, has won less than 10 percent of the tournaments that he’s entered.
For many years, Swindle thought that by ratcheting up his intensity he could turbo-charge his results, but the opposite was often true. “I thought the madder I got, the better I was going to fish,” he explained. “That’s a direct ticket to disaster.” With the help of a mind coach and a substantial amount of introspection, he’s learned to control the amount of intensity he feels and shows, and thereby maximize its benefits to his performance.
Along the way, he’s focused on eliminating the negativity from his mind and endeavoring to smile even when things are at their worst. He’s also distilled the essence of a mentally grounded angler into four main components:
1. Are you content spiritually?
2. Are you happy in your family life?
3. Do you have well-defined goals?
4. Are you willing to accept defeat?
“When those things line up, that’s when you’re in the zone,” he said. Having your thoughts compartmentalized in that fashion also allows you to see the good in every situation. Even when he gets to his first tournament spot, the one he’s been waiting all week to fish, and it doesn’t produce, he views that as an opportunity rather than a complete disappointment. “If you go to your first spot and they don’t bite, you’ve been given a clear piece of paper.”
He also urges anglers not to let their emotions undermine their reputations. “The hardest thing to do on the water is to be respectful,” he said. “The most valuable thing on this jersey is my last name.”
If you want to understand more about how Swindle channels a positive mental attitude into his fishing – including how many positive thoughts it takes to get back to a good state of mind after a negative thought – check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.