UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Eufaula

Do You Have The Four Cs?

Do You Have The Four Cs?
David Dudley

(Editor’s note: Greg Lahr is a retired Special Forces soldier who fishes Walmart Bass Fishing League events near his home in North Carolina. The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)


What makes Greg Hackney so good? How can David Dudley be so consistent? How does Mark Rose keep sponsors happy for years? What does it really take to be a top-100 pro?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these types of questions, this article might shed some light on the subject, while at the same time giving us mere mortals some valuable tools to add to our mental tackle boxes.

Many of us would like to think that Hackney and his peers were born knowing how to flip and pitch, talk to sponsors, and handle the pressures of competitive bass fishing, but the truth is they weren’t. As with all sports, the true professionals had to dedicate themselves and master the basics before moving into the big leagues. But no matter how diligent Rose was, and how early Hackney hit the water, they were doomed to stay at the local level until they acquired what I call The Four Cs: Concentration, Consistency, Confidence and Character.

Allow me to talk a little about each of these and their dynamic interaction, and then you decide for yourself if there’s more to being a top-100 pro than luck, a hot lure or a cool boat wrap.

 

Concentration

The ability to truly concentrate is the cornerstone of The Four Cs. Once you hone your ability to concentrate, all of the other factors will follow suit. For an example of concentration, watch Hackney when he’s on the water, or a baseball pitcher in the groove after seven innings. Or look at the face of a cliff diver when he pushes off the Acapulco rocks. These professionals have the ability to wipe everything else from their minds except for the task at hand. That sounds like an easy thing to do, but it’s the greatest single factor that separates the pros from you and me.

The pros have bills, backaches and family problems just the same as we do, but the ones that are most successful have trained themselves to lock onto the task at hand and turn the other static off.

Before you can learn to concentrate you should be aware of what the main distracters to concentration are. The most common are:

  • Bills
  • Self-imposed pressure
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Too much time on the water
  • Boredom
  • Lack of Confidence    

The first step to improve your concentration is to identify your distracters and then deal with them before you get on the water. If that’s impossible then train yourself to separate or mentally put these issues on vacation while you’re on the water. Years ago when I was in the Army going through Special Forces training, a master sergeant told me that I needed to build a box in my brain and put my family and all problems in there, then close the box before I deployed … “And don’t open that box until you get back home,” he added. One or two lapses of concentration in our sport might not get you killed on the battlefield, but it will cost you that split-second reaction needed to set the hook.

So, if those are the distracters to concentration, what can be done to increase our ability to stay focused for eight hours on the water? The first thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep, which is sometimes difficult when you are up with the baby at 0230 and have to get up at 0330 to get to the ramp. Hey, I didn’t say it was going to be easy!

The next step is hydration. Most of us keep water on board because we know it’s important, but when we get to the ramp at the end of the day there are usually only one or two empty bottles to throw away, right? We get moving so fast and we’re so worried about getting to the next spot that we completely forget to drink water. I’ve never heard of a boxer or a marathon runner that didn’t need to hydrate before and during competition. Our sport is no different. There is a reason CamelBak hydration systems have sold millions of units in the past few years. Athletes and soldiers need water to perform at their optimal level. As important as water is for your body, it is even more important for your brain. Study after study has clearly demonstrated that as the body becomes dehydrated, mental acuity drops. You have to hydrate before, during and after every day on the water to maintain your edge.

You have to think of concentration like a muscle. The more you exercise it the larger it gets, or in this case the more acute it becomes. About the only time the average angler exercises his concentration muscle is the 10 minutes after he puts a fish in the boat. Think about it. After you catch a fish your adrenaline goes up, you get that little high and your next five casts are perfect. You can feel every pebble on the bottom, and the world is perfect. What you have to do is replicate that level of concentration even when you haven’t caught a fish. When you start out don’t try this technique for an entire day but rather for 10 minutes and then take a break. The more you do these drills the longer you’ll be able to maintain it, and you’ll also be able to turn it on and off at will.

I’ll bet most of you have had days on the water where you could say you were “in the zone” or had your “game face” on or that you were “dialed in,” right? Days like that usually equate to a lot of fish in the livewell and a good time. But what you didn’t realize was that you actually had a very good day of concentration, and if you can repeat that level of concentration you’ll begin to be more … consistent.

 

Consistency

Webster defines consistency as “reliability or uniformity of successive results or events.” Huh? We all know that when we go fishing we naturally do the same things many times, such as casting and retrieving our lures. What I want to talk about is being consistent at doing the critical tasks. These are things like concentrating, keeping the lure in the strike zone, having the right line for the conditions, always fishing into the wind, keeping a positive attitude. If you’re always consistent with the tried-and-true principles of fishing your percentage of hook-ups will drastically increase.

But how do you really know what these critical tasks are, especially since there are no absolutes in this business? The best way to determine your personal rights and wrongs is to analyze every fishing trip by getting into the practice of sitting down and replaying your day on the water. If you’re honest this will help you identify what went right and what went wrong. Professional football players review film of every game, prior to starting the next week’s practice. This technique can help you too. No, you don’t need to film yourself on the water. As you mentally review your performance that day, try to highlight one or two areas to either reinforce or improve. An example would be: “Every time I bumped my spinnerbait into the boat docks I increased my catch ratio.” Or: “I’m not waiting long enough before setting the hook on my topwater baits.”

You should also do the same personal analysis for each season and each year. I know many fishermen (myself included) that are very good at certain seasons, but they struggle in others. If you take the time to analyze the entire season you might uncover the one or two areas that are holding you back.

If you can become your own worst critic – in a positive manner – you’ll become a more consistent money winner, which will in turn boost your overall … confidence.

           

Confidence

This seems to be the one trait everybody wants, Yet, few of us know how to get it, how to keep it, and, most of all, how to get it back. You might think confidence would be easy in a sport where you’re pitting yourself against a fish with a brain the size of a dime, no thumbs and no computer skills.

So how does a grown adult build confidence in his abilities on the water? How do you convince yourself that every time you launch your boat you’re going to get a limit? There’s no easy answer for this one and certainly no shortcuts to get there.

Gaining knowledge about bass is an often overlooked aspect, but it plays a vital role in an angler’s confidence. Ken Cook was a fisheries biologist for more than 10 years before turning pro. This knowledge helped build his confidence, which has been a tremendous advantage for him over the average angler. I’m not advocating that every angler get that educated, but too many anglers skip this step because they’re in a hurry to get on the water. Every soldier knows that the more you know about your enemy the easier he’ll be to defeat. The same adage holds true for bass fishing. Take the time to do your research and it’ll pay big dividends.

But what happens if you zero in your next three tournaments and your confidence level goes south? How do you get it back? The best thing you can do, if possible, is to take a break from fishing. Clear your head. Take the time to put your desires and aspirations into focus and get back to square one. Stop listening to dock talk, and go fishing by yourself the way you like to fish on a body of water you know. It’ll come back when you make it easy again.  

 

Character

So now you have the concentration of a snake charmer and the consistency of the sun, you’ve read every book on bass habits and you’re chock-full of confidence. You’ve got it all, right? Wrong. Anybody can work hard, become a student of the sport and start winning, but if you want the full package you need true character to see you through the tough times as well as when you’re in the winner’s circle.

Our sport is growing faster than many ever expected, but if we’re not careful we could well end up with something we don’t recognize anymore. The only way we can keep this sport from becoming like “professional” basketball, where fights and thugs are all too common, is to reward bass fishing professionals who have character. Individual character is harder to build than confidence because it’s a way of life.

A fisherman with true character:

  • Promotes the sport
  • Teaches others to fish, especially the young anglers
  • Respects others anglers’ water
  • Understands what a no wake zone is
  • Knows what it means to be gracious in winning, as well as when bringing in an empty bag

Character is one of the main reasons sponsors hang onto the likes of Mark Rose for as long as they do. They want their products associated with a professional who exemplifies character.

So the next time you meet a pro and think, “Dang, he’s no different than me when it comes to fishing,” you’ll be wrong. That’s because most pros have a clear understanding of The Four Cs, and they know how to use them. If you take the time to study The Four Cs and try to inject them into your fishing strategy I think you’ll see strong results.

Tags: greg-lahr  blog 

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