Growing up in the Keszler household exposed me to tournament angling at a very young age. I never fully understood what was involved in competing, but I was curious and anxious to give it a try. When my Dad asked me if I wanted to enter the 2002 Angler Young Angler Tournament in Pine Falls, I absolutely said yes.
It was a very windy day and I remember having to fish within the river. On previous fishing trips I would put my feet up on the side and take breaks or naps, but not today. I wanted to try really hard it was my first open-water tournament and I was so happy and excited to be there. By the afternoon I’m sure Dad had enough of, “Are we doing good and are our fish big?” He never once hinted that we were having a really great day, he just replied, “I’m not sure, our weight could be better.” The day came to an end and everybody was standing around talking, waiting to see the results. It felt as if it was forever waiting to see how we did amongst everyone. When they announced the winning team of the 2002 Angler Young Angler Walleye Tournament I was in shock. It was us! We won a boat, motor and trailer. It was an adrenaline rush and a feeling that can’t really be explained. I know one thing…if I could bottle up that feeling and sell it I would be a wealthy lady! This is the day the passion ignited for me to want to fish tournaments, and I have been competing ever since. Tournament angling has undoubtedly made me a better angler. I was given the knowledge and tools to catch fish from my Dad at a very young age and competing has extended that knowledge in so many ways.
Preparation is one of the biggest keys to success. Whether it is a one-day or three-day tournament, you need to be ready to change gears and adapt to the ever-changing conditions of angling. Usually you have approximately eight hours per day to get the job done and although it seems like enough time to catch a limit, once you try it you realize it goes by faster than any other day out on the water. There are so many variables and only having a few hours to figure it out will put your skills to the test each and every time. When I pack for a tournament I consider all different possible weather patterns like what lures I could use if the wind really picks up, if a storm comes in the fish move down from the shallows how can I trigger them to bite, and so on. I pack enough tackle for every presentation I know how to use. Even if you don’t have to use it or think you won’t have to, it will be there just in case.
Losing a fish while fun-fishing, no big deal! Hooking a big fish in a tournament and losing it however, is one of the biggest learning experiences out on the water. A few weekends ago Logan and I were fishing in the Falcon Lake Walleye Masters Cup and I hooked into a huge fish. I could barely lift it off in the bottom and it wasn’t putting up much of a fight but my rod was bent over to the point where I thought it could break. We managed to see the leader, but the jig popped out before we could see what it was. I took a quick moment, a few deep breaths and kept fishing; you can’t let it distract you from the rest of the day. It may not have even been a Walleye it could have been a big Northern Pike. Instead of dwelling on losing fish, think of why you lost that fish and turn it into a positive learning experience, not a “what if”. Did the line break, knot slip, hook bend or did you give it slack? You learn quickly from your mistakes and eventually you will find out what type and strength of line to use, which hooks keep fish on the best and how to fight your fish to net without losing them, etc. The teams who do well consistently in tournaments have figured out all the small details and when they hook the fish they need to win, they get them in the boat. Entering one or two tournaments per year would be a great benefit to somebody who wants to expand their knowledge of fishing.
Another reason I enjoy attending fishing events is to connect with other anglers that share the same passion. I have made so many life-long friends from around Canada and the United States that I keep in touch with. Knowing I am heading to a tournament to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a year is a great feeling and just another reason to be excited. There are usually rules meetings and angler dinners where you can talk to everyone, share stories and it is a great place to ask other anglers questions you may have. The fishing community is full of amazing people.
Before a tournament I make sure I am hydrated and rested because angling isn’t just sitting there in a chair holding a rod, your body is constantly moving all day and the last thing you want to be is tired or dehydrated. I’ve talked a bit about the weather, equipment and preparation but the biggest obstacle out there is you. The real battle isn’t against the fish or the other anglers it comes from within. You need to be mentally prepared and have confidence in your abilities. Go into the tournament with an open-mind, ready to change your tactics at a moment’s notice and be adaptable to catch the fish you need. Believe in yourself and that you can win, get rid of any negative thoughts you may have it will only affect your success. The fish are out there, it’s up to you to find them.