Mental Fishing – Developing Mental Toughness Make your Mind Over the Matter

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MentalBlogA local sports psychologist conducts a Mental Toughness Boot Camp. I find that both comical and spot on! His program is a 10 week journey that hopes to graduate folks decidedly more mentally tough. I don’t think you need a Boot Camp to make you tough, maybe enlisting in the Army and going to Basic Training will suffice.

All kidding aside, gaining mental toughness on the water is a necessity for tournament anglers and can greatly benefit the part-time competitor or recreational angler. During last year’s BASS Elite Series, one of my clients had a goal during a tournament that related to being more mentally tough. He simply wanted to have a plan, stick with it, and never doubt it during the time on the water. I told him that if he did that and did not catch a single fish he was successful that day in growing his mental toughness.

Another client, known for following his hunches and running all over the lake during competition made a goal to limit himself to a portion of the lake and not give in to the urge to cover the whole lake. Both anglers benefited greatly from the exercise. They each caught more fish and better fish by limiting themselves in one way or another.

Tip #1: Build toughness by limiting yourself in some fashion. Use non-competitive days on the water to draw lines for yourself and don’t cross them. For instance, limit the time, space, techniques, lures, or the speed of the retrieve just to see what happens. Take a specific type of crank bait and see how many ways you can fish it and catch fish. If you love fishing shallow, take a day and only fish deep structure or suspended fish. I cannot describe all the emotions, thoughts, and insights you will have coming away from that approach.

Mentally tough anglers can maintain their focus and concentration for extremely long periods of time. They make excellent use of a greater percent of casts than do other anglers.

Tip #2: How many accurate casts and quality retrieves can you make in a row? Demand more out of yourself and measure how you are doing. A quality associated with professionalism is dependability and durability. In a sense that is what I am looking for with this drill. How many times in a row can you make an accurate cast, retrieve the lure as well as you can do it, and repeat this over and over again. Can you get to where you can maintain the highest quality effort you have for an hour? Two hours? Most of us would be good to get fifteen minutes under our belt.

Mental and emotional toughness is directly related to nutrition, rest, and physical conditioning. One pro I work with has some real challenges physically. Sport-related injuries have him in chronic pain and great physical conditioning and proper diet minimize that impact the injuries have on his angling. But a couple of nights without good rest and he is a basket case. Stack a few tournaments on top of each other and he doesn’t have time to recover mentally or physically.

Tip #3: Exercise regularly and do so with a plan and a purpose. Eat right and get a proper amount of sleep. These things will most definitely help you on the water. The mind (your decision making and emotional control) begins to weaken thirty to forty minutes prior to you sensing hunger! Anglers are notorious for skipping meals and downing caffeine and sugar while on the water. Nothing could be worse for you. Drinking water and snacking regularly on properly balanced food items (like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or nutritional bars) will do wonders for your mental toughness. I point out to clients on a regular basis how circumstances they were not aware of probably contributed to a breakdown they experienced in competition.

I consider the “mental game” to be controlling those things over which you have control. Rest, nutrition, and exercise fall under your control. You can train yourself to be more mentally tough on the water. You don’t have control over the fish but you have control over you. Take full advantage over what you can do to improve and I promise you will improve.

Make your plan –