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Dudley debates: What makes a great angler truly great?

Castrol team pro David Dudley shows off his catch. (Photo by Rob Newell)
Castrol pro David Dudley weighs in on the relative importance of talent, confidence and mental toughness

(Approximately once a month, will be featuring the latest blog installment from Castrol team pro and three-time FLW Tour AOY winner David Dudley. Going forward, fans of will be treated to an array of blogs from different FLW Tour pros heading into the 2014 season and beyond.)

I did a survey recently on my Facebook page that I thought was really interesting, especially considering the responses that I got. If you get a chance, go visit and read some of the comments that people left - very interesting! The question was, "Out of 100 percent, what percentage do you feel that mental toughness, confidence and talent play in fishing?" The results were 47 percent for mental toughness, 31 percent for confidence and 22 percent for talent.

Even after a few days of contemplating the results I am still trying to understand why talent came in so low! How can people discredit the skill of skipping docks all day long and only miscasting 10 times, or casting a crankbait twice as far as the average person; or having sensitive hands to know when you get a bite; or the ability to feel what your crankbait is hitting while assessing whether you are bumping fish; or knowing how to work a square-bill through the tree tops without getting hung up; or fighting a fish with one hook in the skin of its mouth and not losing it? I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Castrol pro David Dudley waves to the crowd.

For me, there are three guys on Tour that come to mind who sweat these categories out of their body! Jason Christie is an athlete who has competed in sports all his life. He is one of the most mentally tough fishermen I know. You can see it in his eyes the way he handles himself. He is a treat to watch! Randall Tharp is the pure definition of confidence. He sweats confidence out of his body even when he sleeps! Andy Morgan is the very definition of talent. He is a master at virtually any technique. And don't let his flipping stick motto fool you. That man is a wizard with a spinning rod!

Here’s a brief story that will put everything in perspective. I was fishing the James River the other day and I pulled up on a hole where we caught 200 redfish, speckled trout and stripers in 3.5 hours! Needless-to-say, it was a 3.5 hour rush! (By the way, the training you get during that kind of outing is indescribable). Now, during that trip, there were a few other people in the boat with me. My dad, who is the toughest 72-year-old man I know on Earth, and James, an avid outdoorsman friend of mine.

In this example, the mental part of the equation played virtually no part because we all knew the fish were there. There was no second guessing that we’re in the right spot, using the right lure and correct color, or fishing the optimal tide. Now, all three of us have confidence. And our confidence should have been extremely high because we had everything going for us: the right lure, the right hole, the right rod … the right everything. Now, according to the survey, "talent" scored the lowest and therefore should be the least important factor. However, I know I can't mentally make a fish bite my lure; and no matter how much confidence I have, I can't say to the fish, “Hey fish, I squirted some confidence juice on my lure so now you will bite it!” To further emphasize my point, all three of us were using the same exact lure … and I beat them hands down. Now I’m not saying this to brag about myself. I’m saying this to prove a point: I think “talent” plays a bigger role in a fisherman's performance than most people think.

David Dudley by the numbersIn this situation we all had the same mental abilities and confidence, but one person prevailed. To take this analogy further, I can't mentally and confidently throw a football 100 yards – only talent allows you to do that. I can't simply use mental toughness and confidence to putt a golf ball in a hole; talent allows me to do that. I can't mentally and confidently hook a fish on my line without employing … you guessed it, talent.

Getting back to the survey, if someone were to ask me which order the three categories should fall, I would say: talent first, confidence second and the mental aspect third. And my reason is simple: Without talent you can't become confident. And once you are confident, then mental toughness follows.

So, in short, I encourage everyone to try and improve their talents as an angler. Use every opportunity to better yourself as a fisherman. Spend some time on the water fishing for something besides bass! You must train, train, train and train some more! Crappie fishing is an awesome training ground. Redfish and speckled trout fishing trips are great opportunities to hone your talents also! Go and fish with anglers better than you!

There are also plenty of opportunities to get with some really talented anglers, so take advantage of it! I do coaching trips myself so you might want to look into visiting Also, in the future, I will be doing more surveys on Facebook. So make sure to join my page and comment so we all can learn together!

For more crazy thoughts, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You also might want to consider a coaching trip to be able to help you see through new eyes how to make better decisions on the water.