Duckett Perspctive- Confidence – Gain, Lose and Get it Back

Bucks Falcon Mercury

DuckettBlogOne critical part of what we do in competitive fishing is not difficult to explain. It involves whether an competitive angler is having success or not – and why.

Every pro angler will tell you that the most important part of catching fish – few other elements of fishing are even close – is fishing with confidence. As I said, this isn’t rocket science.

When people ask me, “What is the biggest difference when you’re catching them and when you can’t even find them, much less catch them?”

The answer is always the same. Confidence.


In these columns, I’ve talked about confidence quite a bit. When you’re confidence is high, your brain works better. Your awareness is better, your memory is more keen, all the sensory perceptions are heightened.

When you don’t have confidence, the opposite kicks in. You can’t see or feel and you can’t hear.

It’s like all sports. When Tiger Woods was winning everything in sight, he had the confidence that he just knew whatever he hit was going to be sweet.

When Michael Jordan had the basketball at the end of a game, there were times when everybody knew in the building knew that it wouldn’t matter if six guys were guarding him, he was going to take the last shot. And he was probably going to make it.

Look at our sport. Kevin VanDam finished 54th in the points. And whereas you know that everybody is going to have a bad year, that’s a shock. I had two years where I finished in 38th and 40th, I think it was, and I missed the Classic. I considered those really bad years because I missed my primary goal. Kevin finishing 54th is almost unheard of, because he’s still the best.

On the other end of the spectrum, Greg Hackney is fishing lights out. He’s always been a great angler, but he’s dialed in now. He doesn’t miss a thing.

Most high-level pros have been through times when their confidence allowed them believe they could win almost anywhere. Back in my days of fishing Opens, I fished a lot of team tournaments. In the 90s, Bill Champion and I won a lot of them, and that’s no small feat. You’ve got to catch big bags to get a W.

I remember a time when my confidence was so high that we were fishing an event down in Miller’s Ferry in South Alabama on a Saturday, then we turned around and went to Smith Lake in North Alabama on Sunday. No practice. We won back-to-back events. Confidence is a great thing.

That’s where Hackney is today.


So the obvious question is, when things aren’t going well, how do you get the confidence back. Why don’t you do things that will raise your confidence level?

The answer is that it’s just not that simple. Knowing you need more confidence is obvious. Getting it back is not.

When you get off-center, it’s almost never a single issue. When you quit catching fish long enough to affect your confidence, there are almost always going to be multiple issues to address. And most of the time you don’t even know the right place to start. So you have to take a shotgun approach. Just take aim one-by-one. Ask these questions:

  • Am I preparing my tackle right way?
  • Am I spending enough time on all preparation issues?
  • Have I done my research?
  • Am I organized?
  • Is my technique good?
  • Are my decisions solid?
  • Have I still got the drive and the energy that I need to succeed?
  • Is my head in the game?

You have to solve the problems one at a time.

That “head in the game” question is a big deal, and it’s a trap issue for those of us that have been doing this for a long time. We get comfortable and complacent, and it kills us when we go out there competing with young, hot anglers.

If an angler is young and hot, he’ll pack his gear in a truck, drive all night, sleep in his truck if he has to, and he’ll be intense when he’s competing. He wants to win. He wants to establish himself.

I’ll guarantee you that Brandon Palaniuk will do whatever it takes to win.

But that kind of drive can be a challenge for guys that have been around a long time. We get complacent sometimes, and we don’t even realize it’s happening.


I’ve mentioned before in this column how impressed I was with the Elite Series year Mark Davis had. He was in the hunt for angler-of-the-year for one reason. He rededicated himself to competitive fishing. He swore he was going to do the things he used to do. And he did.

He went the extra mile, spent days practicing when practicing was really inconvenient. He prepared tackle that he probably wasn’t going to need, just because you never really know what you might need.

When you do those kinds of things, success comes back, usually in little increments at a time.

Then before long you’re hearing the fish again.