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Fighting for inches: The mental game & Okeechobee

Todd Hollowell searches for a Lake Okeechobee kicker. (Photo by Brett Carlson)
19.Feb.2014 by Todd Hollowell

(Editor’s note: Starting immediately, FLW Tour pro Todd Hollowell has agreed to make regular blog contributions approximately once a month on FLWOutdoors.com. Going forward, bass-fishing fans will be treated to a wide array of blogs from a host of different FLW Tour pros on FLWOutdoors.com leading up to the 2014 season and beyond.)

Our first FLW Tour event from Lake Okeechobee is now in the books, and the season is under way. When I received my text from FLW with the results from day one showing me in 142nd place, it was obvious that it wasn’t exactly the way I had envisioned my season starting off. I lost one big fish early that morning that would have put me in the top 25.

After finishing 117th at Okeechobee in 2013 and having missed qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup by only 14 points, I realized that one more fish last year would have made all the difference. Suddenly, I was facing the fact that Okeechobee may sting me again in 2014. The mental game of fishing plays a tremendous role in why some anglers succeed consistently. There’s not a worse feeling than having to return messages, calls, and e-mails to family, friends, and supporters after a bad day or a bad event. The feeling that you have let them down and disappointed them sometimes even embarrasses yourself. So what thoughts go through your head when this happens? How do you bounce back? Can you bounce back? Will you bounce back?

A few months ago, my brother and fellow FLW Tour Pro, Troy Hollowell, shared with me a speech from Al Pacino in the movie “Any Given Sunday” that talked about football being a game of inches. That really hit home with me, and I’ve been able to relate that speech to fishing and to life as a whole. Every day, we are faced with challenges and adversity. And in this sport of professional bass fishing, the competition is fierce and the margin for error is razor-thin. It’s the toughest game I’ve ever played – mentally speaking. One missed bite, one broken line, one wrong decision – they can all be the difference between getting paid and going home with nothing. So you have to be ready for opportunities, and you have to trust that those opportunities will come to you.

On day two, I made a commitment to fight for every inch I could. With about 90 minutes of fishing time left, I had a stout 8-pound limit and was facing another poor finish on Okeechobee. I had scrambled around trying to make the right adjustment, and it finally happened at 2 p.m. that day. I moved to an area where I had caught some keepers in practice but hadn’t visited on tournament day. And on my first cast I landed a 7-pound fish on a River Rat Tackle Swim Jig that changed the course of the day. I caught two more key fish in the next 30 minutes and made a move to 77th place overall, sneaking away with a check and some valuable points. I packed up the Red Gold Tomatoes truck and boat and headed to practice for the next event at Lake Hartwell – it’s what we do.

Sometimes, some of the smallest victories are the most important – and recognizing those victories can unlock the key to allowing more victories into your life. Life is indeed a game of inches, and so is fishing. So as I reflect on the first event, I know that I fought for those inches. I believe that at the end of the season those inches will make the difference in qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup.

Don’t underestimate the power of the mental game of fishing and of life. It can make all the difference in the world.

Todd Hollowell has fished as a pro on the FLW Tour since the 2012 season and is currently the host of the Bass Dr. television show on the World Fishing Network (WFN). To read more about Todd Hollowell and his latest exploits, check out his website toddhollowell.com.



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