Opinions & Philosophies

Why is Burnout So Common in Bass Fishing?

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I made a U-turn with today’s feature, if I’m being totally honest with you. I was going to publish a late-summer bass fishing article but after a Facebook post I made to our page a few days ago, I decided to shift gears and shoot off the hip for this particular article. Hang with me for a second and I’ll explain what I’m talking about. This one is going to be a lot like you and me hanging out at the boat ramp after a day of fishing, leaning over the gunnel of my boat and sharing a beverage together.

I shared a link about bass fishing tournament lessons I’ve learned over the years. Long story short, I used to fish a bunch of derbies but they started stressing me out. I’d be spun out for most of the week just for the possibility of winning a few hundred dollars and I got tired of it. The gig wasn’t fun anymore and I quit messing around with the tournament scene. Some folks love it and some folks don’t; I just got burned out, I reckon. So I quit that particular game and I haven’t looked back much since.

So when I posted that article on Facebook, I started reading the comments; I also started getting personal messages from total strangers about it. Whenever that type of engagement happens on a post, I’d like to think it resonated with folks pretty well. I couldn’t believe the number of folks who are totally burned out with bass fishing. I stayed up pretty late a few nights and thought about why this might be the case.

Why in the world are people getting so put out with such a fun hobby? It seemed like something I really needed to think about. I ended up calling several buddies who are both tournament and recreational anglers. I asked them their thoughts on the topic and we came up with some fairly legitimate theories, if you ask me.

Let’s dive in and see what we can come up with.

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What you see on TV doesn’t give you the whole view

To be clear, the major professional tournament leagues do a great job at providing quality and honest television coverage of their tournaments; I’m not talking or hinting about that whatsoever. But as a friend of mine brought up a few days ago, let’s examine what we really see when we turn on professional fishing on a Saturday morning. 

First of all, the fields are big and there are a bunch of people fishing these tournaments. But you have to remember that the camera crews are only with the guys who are really catching ‘em in the tournament. So as folks sit there, eat their cereal and drink their coffee without much context behind what they’re watching, tournament bass fishing looks like a heck of a time. Folks are catching them, you see lots of hooksets and life is good. It looks like the dream hobby and the best way in the world to make a living. 

What we don’t see, however, is the rest of the field that’s simply not catching ‘em. Again, that’s not a slight to anyone because I’m sure they’re better anglers than me. But there are a lot of guys out there who are stressed out about a paycheck and are worried about their next mortgage payment. But we don’t see that on TV because of course, people want to watch the guys who are catching them… not the guys who happen to be struggling. It makes total sense when you sit back and think about it. 

The problem, however, is that this can give a misconstrued perspective to some folks about bass fishing. I don’t care if you’re the best angler in the world; you’re going to struggle. Bass fishing is a lot like baseball because you’re going to struggle and fail much more than you’ll succeed. Heck, a guy who bats .300 in baseball is considered to be a stud. But dive into it a little more and you’ll also learn that those same guys fail 70 percent of the time. So when you see the top-10 guys catching ‘em in a televised bass fishing tournament, there are a bunch of guys who aren’t doing very well. 

You’re not going to go wreck ‘em every time you go fishing and if you have that perception, you’ll be sorely disappointed and are much more likely to get spun out and run out of patience after a tough spell of fishing. I think that’s a big reason you see so many guys selling 2-year-old boats, rods and reels on your social media feeds. It’s important to keep a realistic perspective and understand that it’s not as easy as the TV makes it look. 

You’re going to suck sometimes. We all do. Don’t compare yourself to the top-performing pros you see on televised fishing tournaments; there are a bunch of dudes out there struggling to get a bite. It happens to every single person who has ever held a fishing rod. 

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Jumping too quick to the front

I used to fish as a co-angler when I was younger. For whatever reason, sometimes that’s looked down upon but I’m dang proud of it. I got to fish with a bunch of good folks, make a little money and learn the ropes before I jumped into things head-first. During this time period, however, I noticed that a co-angler would have a good year and decide it was time to buy a boat, tow vehicle and whatever else with high hopes of wiping the table with the competition. 

I admire the courage and the gumption to make that jump but I would also caution people to take it slow. The fish ain’t going anywhere, the tournaments ain’t going anywhere and your opportunity to wreck ‘em ain’t going anywhere. Before you make the jump to the front of the boat, I strongly urge you to take your time. 

When you jump into the boater-side of things, there is a lot more to manage. Not only do you have to find the fish and (sometimes) take days off to practice for an event but you also have to worry about a lot of mechanical stuff… batteries, big motor, trolling motor, gas money, oil money, electronics and any other mechanical issues that may arise. That stuff sneaks up on you quick and can honestly affect how you fish. It did for me, at least. 

If you make the jump too quickly, you can get burned out in a hurry. The aforementioned mechanical issues or simply not catching ‘em can totally spin you out and make life miserable on the weekends for you. Again, that’s why you see a lot of new fishing boats and equipment for sale. You can only get your tail kicked so many times before it gets old and it’s time for another hobby. 

So just don’t rush the process if you’re a tournament angler. Go through a few seasons in the back of the boat and learn everything you can. It’s a natural progression and it’s one I’m glad I stuck with. Am I a pro? Heck no. But I believe being a co-angler for a few years helped me learn a lot. 

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Log off social media

It’s strange to me how much the world has latched onto social media. I guess I understand it but heck, it just ain’t for me and it probably never will be. But in the fishing community especially, it seems as if the desire for likes and affirmation trumps the fun of bass fishing. This has created an environment in which people can catch one bass, take nine different photos with it and repost it over a span of a week or two. When this happens, it gives the illusion that everyone is always catching ‘em. So when you’re not catching ‘em, it makes you feel like crap and leads to burnout.

Maybe you have a few KVDs on your timeline. But I’m willing to bet you don’t. People aren’t catching fish everytime they get on the water. Social media has given people the ability to manipulate self images however they see fit. Don’t fall into the trap and get discouraged from a fishing standpoint.

I’m willing to bet that if you took a few-week hiatus from social media, you’d immediately enjoy bass fishing more. Don’t worry about posting photos, looking at other photos or any of that. Just get out on the water, put your phone somewhere other than in your pocket and enjoy yourself. Always remember that comparison is the thief of joy. 

I’ve preached this in the past and I’m totally okay with saying it again: It’s just fishing.

If you’re not having fun, you need to change something. There shouldn’t be any pressure on you to go spend thousands of dollars on boats or any other gear. If you’re enjoying yourself, that’s all that matters. Don’t let the things we discussed dictate your joy in fishing. 

Have fun, smile and relax. 

My final two pieces of advice would be the following:

1) Don’t compare your reality to someone else’s highlight reel on social media.

2) Don’t sell that fishing gear. Your wife might find out what it’s worth and that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms we don’t need to open.