Oh, the shame of zeroing 

It doesn’t matter how good you think you are or how many tournaments you have won, there will come a time when you just can’t figure the fish out and you come to the scales with nothing. This is the number one fear amongst all anglers who fish in tournaments. Anglers will literally wake up in a cold sweat at night when they have this nightmare. But let’s take a deeper look at the psyche of what goes through an angler’s mind as the day unfolds and they come in with no fish in the live well.

Very few times an angler left the ramp on tournament day because he did not feel good about his game plan. Most anglers usually have a good idea about what and how they’ll catch them on that particular day. But as the day unfolds and the clock is ticking, if an angler does not have fish in the live well by 10:00 AM, at some point he starts to second guess his game plan. He starts thinking (which is usually not a good thing) about how he should have started out deep rather than shallow, how he should have thrown a topwater bait early instead of a worm. Maybe he should have run up the lake instead of staying on the south end or how he should have fished the grass instead of the bushes. But no matter what, pressure starts to build especially when the clock strikes one o’clock with no fish in the box and a weigh-in time of three o’clock. For me, I tell myself, “If I’m going to catch them, I’ve only got two hours to figure them out!”

The next thing you know it’s two o’clock and you still have nothing to show for all the casts you’ve made. It’s at this point most anglers start to panic and start to visualize coming to the weigh-in with a big fat zero. You start to fish too fast and make bad casts, you get hung up more often and have to go and retrieve your bait in places you can’t get to. So, then you end up breaking off whatever bait you’re throwing, with the internal clock in your head moving faster, as you waste even more time looking for another bait and having to re-rig. It’s during these high-pressure times that you backlash a reel so bad that you have to put it away so that you can cut the backlash out when you get home. Then with only minutes to go, you hook the fish of a lifetime, only to watch it come off and swim away right before you get ready to swing it into the boat. A fitting end to a very frustrating day!

Then it’s time to head for the weigh-in and you hope everyone is gone by the time you get there…but that’s never the case. It’s funny how when you have twenty pounds of fish in the live well, no one ever asks how you did. But when you have zero, it seems everyone in the tournament, including their grandma, wants to know what you’ve got. But oh, the shame and embarrassment of having to say, “Zero!” It just doesn’t get any worse than that! So, it’s at this time you head straight for the boat ramp, load your boat, tuck your tail between your legs, pull your cap down low so maybe no one recognizes you, and head home. If you want to see who did not catch fish that day, watch the parking lot at the ramp and see just how fast an angler can load his boat and get out of there.

Hope you enjoyed hearing about the misery of what an angler goes through on those days when he just doesn’t catch them. But the thing that’s great about the end of a tournament is it means there’s an opportunity for redemption at the next event. Forget it and move on because that tournament is over and there’s nothing you can do to change the outcome of that event.  Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget your sunscreen.

Steve Graf 

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