July 4, 2014 by JT Kenney
Well, it actually happened. For the first time in eight years, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines at the Forrest Wood Cup. As I sit here and drink in the intoxicatingly sour flavor that this revelation has left in my mouth, somehow I find myself savoring the flavor. Perhaps that’s because it’s the flavor of something that I will never taste again. At least that’s how I feel, anyway; that’s how I’m taking it. Never again.
This game that we all play is one of the oddest forms of competition imaginable. There are so many variables that are out of our control. To some extent it’s almost as if it doesn't matter how hard you try. Take my year, for example. I know for a fact that I spent more time on the water this year than ever in the practice periods for the Tour events. All season, when practice was allowed, there was maybe an hour or two of daylight when I wasn’t on the water. The exception was a day at Beaver Lake. I hate that lake. I hope they drain it. Please don’t let any of that nasty water into any other lake because it’ll probably ruin it too.
I was more organized, more prepared and – or so it seemed to me – more ready than ever for this Tour season. I’m a veteran. I know what it takes to do well in this game. Yet I had my worst Tour season in a long time. As a matter of fact, I had an embarrassing season (40-something in the point standings) and would like to apologize to my sponsors and fans.
Now, let’s be honest here. When I say it doesn’t matter how hard you try, I don’t mean that literally. What I think I lost track of was not the hunger to do well. It was certainly not the need to make money or the desire to be the best at what I do. Rather, what I think I missed was the ability to let things happen and adjust accordingly.
That’s something I’ve prided myself on being able to do very well, and I preach it all the time during seminars. Maybe I should listen to myself instead of trying to help other people. I think being on the water as much as you can be is essential to doing well. But it has to be productive time on the water. If you practice for 10 hours a day and you’re very focused for all 10 hours, that’s great. If you practice for 14 or 15 hours a day, but are only focused nine or 10 of them, you’re just wasting that time and making it harder to be focused all day the next, and the next and the next ...
At the Tour level of this game, everybody out there can cast a crankbait a country mile or read a depth finder. At this level it’s what’s between your ears that matters the most. It’s the decisions that you make and how you let the day ebb and flow.
Some of the best fishermen I know are train wrecks on the water. I’ve seen Luke Clausen come in to the check-in boat at the end of the day with broken lines flapping in the breeze behind the boat, rub rail half hanging off, and more colors and sizes of lures piled on the floor and deck than I could count. I asked him what he did to make it look like a tornado just went through his boat. Oh, about 19 or so in the livewell, he answered. That tornado that went though his boat was a genius in disguise.
Don’t even get me started on David Dudley. Here’s a guy who can’t even remember to put oil in his boat while fishing a $500,000 Forrest Wood Cup (which he won, by the way) with the ceramic missing from his rod guide. Dudley is also a three-time Angler of the Year. Then there’s Steve Kennedy, who can pick up a jig with a rusty hook off the floor of his boat and win a tournament with it. These are the guys that are my heroes.
This year, that would not have happened to me because I wouldn’t have had a jig in my boat with a rusty hook. In fact there wouldn't have been a jig on the floor because it would have been put away in its proper place. Next year I’m gonna get back to fishing that way – with a little more chaos.
Well, let’s say organized chaos.