Boyd Duckett – Handling success and failure: Don’t get too high and don’t lose twice

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by Boyd Duckett

One of the keys to being a consistent, successful angler is learning how to handle both failure and success. Whereas you shouldn’t get overconfident during a run of success, you also need to get through failures without letting them wreck you.

There’s nothing original about that idea. It’s common sense, really, but it’s hard.

Every angler on tour struggles with the same emotions he did the first year he started fishing. It’s great when you’re catching them. It’s hard to handle when you’re not.

But you have to get past the bad days. When it comes to tournaments, if you have a bad one, there’s no need to lose twice.

We’re four events into the Elite Series season, and I had a great February. I had high finishes at Cherokee Lake and Lake Okeechobee, and I ended the month in the Top 10 in Angler-of-the-Year points.

March was the Bassmaster Classic. I did my best, but I didn’t sniff winning.

Then came April, and it sucked. I mean it really sucked. I finished so low at Toledo Bend and Ross Barnett lakes that I’m now 58th in points.

Whereas you don’t want to pout and get down on yourself when things don’t go well, it’s always a good practice to think back on tournaments and analyze where you went right or wrong. And there was a lot to ponder – especially after Ross Barnett.

I didn’t waste a lot of time reflecting on Toledo Bend. I had bad practices. I never got on anything, and I got smoked. If it had been a football game, I would have lost 40-7. The strange thing is that you usually just move on after that kind of performance.

If, however, you lose a game 30-24 because you fumbled four times and threw a bunch of interceptions, that game will haunt you. That was a description of my Ross Barnett event.

I failed because I made bad choices on Day 1.

I was boat 79, and I essentially had two choices. There was a stretch of water above the bridge that was going to give up most of the fish caught in the event. The right vegetation, a good place to fish. I knew from practice it would be a decent area.

But when I got there, there were 55,000 boats. It was one of those deals where you can barely get your line over the trolling motor.

The way this situation works in a tournament is that if you don’t get there early, the group doesn’t want you. They look at you, and they mumble and gripe and generally make it hard to work your way in. Sometimes you just can’t do it. The only way to penetrate the wall is to hang out and work the perimeter for awhile. And if you don’t cause problems, maybe they’ll finally let you in the herd. It’s not a great way to fish.

But… it’s what I should have done.

What I chose to do is leave the scene and take about a 45-minute trip through choppy water to Tallahachee Bay, because I knew I had about a 100-yard stretch of grass that would give me some keepers.

You can probably guess where this is going. When I got there, that 100-yard stretch looked like there was a fire sale going on. There were at least eight boats on it, and I don’t have the slightest idea how they got eight in there. No room for me.

So then I just decided to go fishing, which was also a bad plan. By the time three hours were gone, I hadn’t even dropped a cast in the water.

I’ll fast-forward to say it was that kind of day, and it never got better. And it was my own fault. I know for sure that it was my own fault because I eventually went back up to the herd, worked myself in, and in about two hours I broke off two big bass. One was, I believe, a five-pounder.

I ended Day 1 with one fish, less than a pound and a half. … On Day 2, I caught 15-9, which ended up being one of the biggest bags of the day.

So where does that leave me after four events? About where I’ve stood the past six or seven years after four events. I’m outside the Bassmaster Classic cutline, with a lot of work to do. I’ve fished good about half the time.

The idea now is to keep a level head, employ a solid work ethic, stay focused and fish smart.

A friend said to me the other day: “At least you can be thankful that you had the two good events early. You could be in a worse position.” Then he asked, “Does it help to look at it that way?”

The answer is no, it doesn’t make me feel better. I keep thinking that if I’d been smarter at Ross Barnett, I would have easily made the cut. And then I remind myself that it’s over. Learn from it, but don’t dwell on it.

No need to lose twice