Understanding the Slump

This isn’t the first… not even the second, but maybe the third or fourth poor tournament in a row! Missed bites, poor execution, or worse yet, just a lack of bites! Nothing seems to go right… what could these fish possibly be doing? Could this be the dreaded “Slump”?

Does this sound familiar? One thing that all anglers have experienced at one time or another is a slump. Slumps can come in many forms and mean different things to each individual. Some may consider a slump not cashing a check over an extended period of time, while others may consider a slump not catching a limit over a number of tournaments. Still others may consider themselves in a slump because they have not caught fish of a certain size in a while or because it has been a long time since they have been in contention to win an event. Regardless of how one defines a slump, no one is immune to having them.

There is no telling how long a slump will last and there is no simple answer to how to overcome a slump, and that is why they are so frustrating. As I sit here writing this I am going through a slump of my own. I have not performed to what I believe is my potential over the last several tournaments. Like any other competitor or fisherman, I have thought about it long and hard and talked to many people to try and figure out what the problem could be. Hopefully the information I have gathered will help not only get me back on track but also help others understand how to shorten the slumps they may find themselves in.

There are many fishermen out there that have the knowledge and the skills to win or perform at a high level. The difference between those that do perform at that higher level and those that don’t is the mental part of the game. While doing my research on slumps everything that I have uncovered points, not towards skills and lack of knowledge, but towards the psychological aspects of the sport. We have all heard the saying…”To win an event EVERYTHING has to go right.” This doesn’t just mean on the water. Mentally we have to be in the right place as well. It seems there are consistently three factors that lead to slumps: lack of concentration, lack of confidence and lack of comfort.

As avid anglers we typically think and strategize about fishing all week… while we are driving home from work, eating dinner or during any other down time we may have. This helps “keep our head in the game” so to speak. It enables us to perform while on the water rather than trying to strategize the morning we get on the water. At times other responsibilities and situations take away time and the ability to concentrate on the sport, such as work, family, health and financial worries. We then don’t think about the tides, the weather conditions, seasonal influences, techniques, etc. until actually getting on the water. Sometimes even then these other “Life” issues remain in our heads while we are out trying to participate. Don’t get me wrong, these “Life” issues are often much more important than the sport we participate in. What I am saying is be aware of this and it will help you understand why these difficult periods of fishing are happening.

Unfortunately less attention to the sport can lead to less confidence on the water. However, there is also a psychological effect here as well. When things are not going right at home or at the office, for example, we sometimes get pulled into that feeling of, “why can’t anything go right?” There goes our confidence right out the window. We end up approaching things conservatively instead of with confidence. When you are unable to do things with confidence, mistakes are made. Look at those that are at the top of the sport, both regionally and nationally. One thing that is common to them all is their confidence.

When we spend less time concentrating on the sport and we are lacking confidence, it then becomes uncomfortable when on the water. Things to ask yourself are: Are things coming as second nature to you when you are out on the water? Your casting, retrieves, boat driving, is it all fluid and unforced? Do you make changes just because it feels right? When you make that move can you do it comfortably without questioning whether you should do it or not? Do you feel at home when you are on the water? If the honest answer to any of these questions is no, then you are not in a comfort zone when you are out there.

To become comfortable we need confidence. To become confident we need to concentrate, and to concentrate we need to be comfortable. So how do we accomplish this? It is different for each individual. Everyone has a different situation and needs to deal with it a different way. Put your priorities in the right place with your health, family and your job and the slumps will end eventually.

Hopefully understanding the factors that cause slumps will enable us to fish out of them quicker. Whatever your situation, just remember that we participate in this sport because we love it. It is a good day anytime the line is wet.