Perhaps the greatest quest in angling is the endless search for an X-factor. Here at Balog’s Bass War, we often bring such a quest to fruition by getting to know those who seem to make it look easy. While many of us struggle in the tournament bass fishing environment, a handful of pros roll on, oblivious to the pressures and struggles of such a life, collecting five-figure checks at nearly every venue they visit.
At the pinnacle of success lies an even smaller group with an uncanny knack to seal the deal. While no pro wins every time, these men seem to put themselves in position far more often than the rest, frequently coming away with the champion’s trophy.
We’ve seen it through the generations with numerous anglers on both major tours. Today, we’re seeing it in Mark Rose.
With his recent FLW Tour win, Rose propelled his career FLW earnings to over $2 million. He’s won at every level of the FLW game: BFL, Costa, Series and Tour. Supposedly a one-trick pony living off magic spots, Rose’s latest win came around the bank, on one of bass fishing’s most pressured lakes.
So what’s his secret? What has taken Rose to the level where he can roll into a lake like Guntersville, grab a crankbait, hit some rip-rap and come away with $125,000? Can we piece together his personal X-factor?
To understand, perhaps we need to retrace Rose’s steps. Originally a shallow-water specialist growing up on the Mississippi River, Rose tore through local events armed with a spinnerbait and a flipping stick, earning small sums along the way. Upon graduation to the pro tour, Rose struggled a bit at first, but later found his niche fishing offshore structure.
Rose’s progression as an angler corresponded directly with similar advancements in technology. The advent of side-looking sonar was imperative to his achievements.
“There is no doubt, that was the No. 1 factor in my early success” Rose commented.
Still, there has to be more to it than that. With nearly every national competitor now well adept at using such sonar technologies, Rose went old-school at Guntersville and came out on top. I asked him, point blank, for his X-factor. His answer was short.
“Faith. And wisdom.”
Let’s start with wisdom. Rose explained that, in the early stages of his pro career, he needed time to learn and expand beyond his initial fishing approach. That took 6 or 8 years, and was accomplished through nothing more than hard work and determination. “I was Pete Rose. I just worked hard,” he said.
Time on the water gave Rose a better understanding of his quarry. However, it should also be mentioned that Rose is a fanatical woodsman, spending thousands of hours outdoors, firmly believing that all of God’s creatures fit together in one complex puzzle. “Every time I’m in a deer stand, I feel it helps my fishing.” Rose said.
Turning to faith, here we again explore the possibility of inner confidence leading to fishing success. Does God look down on his most devout supporters and reward them with bass-tournament glory? Maybe.
Or maybe the faith in a higher power, or “peace,” as Rose puts it, leads to an inner feeling of security that corresponds with solid decision-making, later materializing in measurable success. That’s up to you to decide.
In any case, one factor seems to always repeat itself when I interview championship fishermen immediately after a big win: a gut feeling.
Rose’s Guntersville win is a case in point. On the final day of competition, Rose found himself “feeling in his gut” that he was just short of a winning string. With 20 minutes remaining to fish, he had a “gut instinct” that told him to move. Moving away from a close locale to his best spot down the lake, he found a local fisherman there; as a backup, he quickly hit another area until the angler left.
Once on the honey hole, Rose switched to a crankbait, stating he “had a feeling the other guy wasn’t throwing one." The result was a tournament-winning 5-pounder on the first cast.
How does that happen?
Risk. With just a few minutes remaining, Rose risked falling from a locked-up 2nd-place finish by making a bold move farther from the ramp. He risked coming back empty-handed, or not coming back at all, leaving a secure area that was known to be a community hotspot. And he risked trying a crankbait in a shallow, grassy area rather than fishing a more reliable, efficient lure.
When I interviewed Rose, I pressed him on his development as an angler. Is he simply better now than he was 2, 4 or 8 years ago?
“I feel more comfortable than I did years ago. I have more experience, more wisdom,” he said.
Was he better than the other anglers in the field? Is he able to succeed fishing behind others pros?
“I feel comfortable fishing behind other people. I don’t like it, but I feel comfortable.”
Do these decisions come easier now that Rose is a champion angler with a supportive bankroll?
“I’m more comfortable financially. If I don’t get a check at a tournament, it’s not going to be career-changing any more”
Evidently, Mark Rose is comfortable. With such comfort comes confidence. And confidence breeds success.
Rose reflected that this most recent win may have been his sweetest. “I’ve said for a while that before I retire, I’d really like to win a tournament shallow.” He said that shallow water, though the source of his bass-fishing roots, has been somewhat intimidating from a tournament standpoint. Competing against some of the best shallow-water anglers in the world always left Rose feeling like the best he could do was just scratch a check.
Not so anymore. At Guntersville, Rose “got back to fishing shallow, and got the confidence I can win there.”
Confidence. Comfort. Faith. Wisdom.
Shallow or deep.
I’m glad I’m not competing against Mark Rose.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)