The Slump – (originally posted February, 2013)
I hate slumps. Seriously, I hate them. Nothing will shake your confidence more than an extended slump. As I write this, I am smack dab in the middle of one. Ten trips it’s been since I’ve caught a fish. Ten trips of fishing my butt off, trying to land a giant bass. The only thing I have to show for it is a sock tan and wallet draining receipts from the gas station.
I’ve fished 4 different bodies of water in the span of this slump, and haven’t figured out a bite on any of them. I figured that perhaps seeing new water would freshen my approach, tackling different conditions would stimulate my mind into gear. Nope. I suck. I have all the tools at my disposal, high end tackle, the hottest swimbaits, prototypes that nobody has, custom colors, etc. etc. etc. Hasn’t mattered, I have caught as many giants as I would have if I had stayed home.
I talk to friends of mine about it, and they try to reassure me and boost my confidence. “You’ll get ’em this time”, they say. “You’re due”, says another. I think to myself, “I’m bound to just get LUCKY at this point right?” I appreciate the pep talks, they type of people are who I surround myself with for a reason. We want to see each other succeed at the same thing we’re all passionate about, catching giants. So I shake it off and prep gear, I spool fresh line, I change out dull hooks, I customize some baits and I plan my attack strategy for the day ahead. 8 hours later, still nothing. 130 miles driven, $65 spent in gas, $20 in entry fees later, and I have nothing to post to Instagram. Wow.
The smallest lure I have fished in this stretch has been a 7″ Mattlures True Trout, which is the last bait I got a solid bite on. Of course I missed that bite. To me, a 7 inch lure is a “tiny” bait, as all of my rods and reels have 9″-13″ baits on them at any given moment. The old adage of big bait-big fish has generally held true for me. I did a lot of damage on 11″ lures in 2012 alone. Still, fishing a 7″ highly detailed and great swimming True Trout was a sign of my desperation to just get bit by a descent 7lb fish again.
I used to complain about “pesky” 7lbers to my friends. In 2007 alone, about 70% of the swimbait fish I caught were 7lbs and some change. It drove me crazy, every swimbait fish is supposed to be over 10lbs right?! So anything less, and I felt cheated. It’s a lot of work to catch a swimbait fish most of the time, and a 7lber caught on any other technique would be an AWESOME fish. Not on a swimbait, not for me.
Last year I had an incredible run. 7 weeks of fishing hard, and I had 17 largemouth 10lbs or better. Throw on top of that all the 6-9.99 pound fish and the numbers are mind boggling. I did it on multiple bodies of water, it seemed I could do no wrong. 10 and 11 pounders became the new 7’s after a while. My confidence at this point was at an all time high. I’d go out knowing I’d catch a good one on a swimbait.
What would it take to catch a true giant?! In southern California that’s pretty much a fish 14 pounds or bigger, and it seemed like that class of fish has been rather rare for the last decade. I missed the gold rush of the 90’s at world class fisheries like Castaic, Casitas, Perris, etc. I’ve become so fixated at hooking and landing a true giant that I’ve become unappreciative of so many quality fish I’ve been fortunate to land. I’ve lost perspective, I was jaded.
Catching 7lbers meant I was doing something right, which would lead to catching more double digits, and finally last year to my first teener landed, a 13 pound 5oz largemouth. I need to start catching pesky 7’s again, and enjoy each and every one of them. I didn’t know it at the time, but those fish gave me my confidence in my attack. I desperately need that back right now if I am every going to reach my recent goal of a 15+. My girl tells me I’m stubborn, hard headed. She’s right, because after I’m done writing this piece I’m gearing back up and heading back out. If I skunk for the 11th trip in a row, doesn’t matter. You know why? Because for a solid month before I went on that tear, I was in a “slump” and all it took was a 7 pounder that ate a Jerry Rago 9″ SKT Swimmer to start an incredible experience. An experience that culminated in this-
A 5 fish limit that weighed 56lbs, anchored by two new personal bests. First fish of the day was a personal best 12lb 8oz bass, 25 or so minutes later I broke it again with a 13lb 5oz PB.
I’m on a mission, to do bigger and better things with my fishing. Skunks and slumps be damned. I’m due.