Putting the wheels back on

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Dalton Tumblin

Chris Zaldain looked to bounce back at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake.

It’s no secret that my season started off about as bad as it can get. I finished 79th at the 2021 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River and 94th at the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Tennessee River.

I’m no stranger to bad events. Like every angler I’ve had my share, but I’ve never started out this far down in the hole. It hurt — my year and my ego. The wheels came off. There was no denying that. The issue was how to put them back on. 

The St. Johns River was just a disaster on my part. I’d like to say that there was a reason for what happened, but there wasn’t other than the simple fact that I fished poorly and made bad decisions. I’ll have more to say about that in a minute. 

The Tennessee River event was a little different. A perfect storm came together to destroy my performance. First, I lost fish. Some of them came off and others broke off. The coming off part happens. The broke off part was my fault. I was using line that was too light for the cover I was fishing. I hooked a big fish that would have helped me, but she took my lure into the cover. There was nothing I could do to get her out.

Another thing was all in my head. I was fishing an area and not catching them. Another angler was fishing the same area. He was about 40 feet in front of me, and he was killing them. That’ll get your attention; I guarantee it. 

The last thing was that I had a mechanical issue. It made real, effective fishing impossible. Our equipment is the best. Nevertheless, things that are made by man sometimes don’t work exactly right. You have to live with that on the rare occasions when it happens.

Now, I could have just said that I was in a slump, that it would work itself out over time. But, that is an excuse. It’s not a reason. I’m a professional. I’m supposed to do something — positive — about my poor performance.

With that in mind I went back to basics when we fished the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake. I’ve learned from experience that putting the wheels back on is a matter of doing the small things right. It’s about one decision and one fish at a time. 

I did what I could to improve my hooksets. I used the proper tackle for the cover I was fishing. I didn’t let what the other anglers were doing affect me. I fished the way I thought would be best. What they were doing was about them, not about me. I listened to my inner voice. I paid no attention whatsoever to where I was in the standings. It was all about what I was doing. 

It worked. I finished 31st. That may not sound all that great, but I consider it a win. The slump I was in wasn’t a slump at all. It was about me, and I broke the cycle. Things are looking up for the rest of the season. I’m going home in a good mood. 

If you’re having problems, I respectfully suggest you do what I did. Don’t blame a “slump” for your problems. Realize it’s your own fault and fix things one small issue at a time. You’ll be better off for it.