MDJ – Don’t Shy Away From The Struggle

At the highest level of competitive bass fishing, you hear a lot about momentum. Usually, this buzzword accompanies someone who is fishing well; an angler who gets on a roll for multiple days or even multiple tournaments in a row. Positive momentum is a very real thing in tournament fishing and as an angler it can make you feel as though you can do no wrong. Difficult decisions become easier, fishing days feel longer, and things just start to happen in your favor.

But what about the flip side of positive momentum? The tournaments where it feels like you can’t do anything right, no matter how hard you try. Fish that should come into the boat throw the hook or break your line, time flies by, and everything that can go wrong usually does. Then one bad event turns into two, and no matter much you obsess over it, you can feel the train sliding off the tracks.

In fishing we call this demoralizing phenomenon a slump, and anyone who has fished more than a handful of tournaments knows exactly what I am talking about.

Team Toyota pro Mark Daniels Jr. has proven to be one of the best anglers in the world throughout his 9-year professional career but so far, his 2023 season has been a dictionary definition of the word “slump”. MDJ put up a YouTube video this week addressing his struggles in 2023 that we could all learn from, whether you fish tournaments or not.

“No one wants to talk about the tough times on social media but one of the reasons I started a YouTube channel is to teach people. Whether we like it or not, we often learn the most through adversity,” reflected MDJ. “I’ve been on both sides of the coin in my career. I had to struggle a lot early on and I’ve been blessed to experience a lot of success the past nine years. But right now, I’m in a terrible slump and man, it sucks.”

Most anglers, even your professional heroes, treat slumps like they’re taboo. They shy away from acknowledging they are in a downturn like ignoring the negative stops it from being real. But neglecting the 3,000-lb gorilla on your back doesn’t unburden the weight from your shoulders. In fact, ignoring the issue could very well rob you of a valuable lesson and growth.

MDJ isn’t afraid to address the elephant in the room and you have to respect that. Instead of giving his followers the typical “on to the next one” response, he is showing his vulnerabilities. That takes courage. His season has been plagued with solid practices but some of the worst finishes of his career. Lost fish, mental errors, and a couple bad decisions (in retrospect) have cost him thousands of dollars and lots of points in the Bass Pro Tour AOY standings.

Fortunately for MDJ, he’s well established in his career and isn’t going anywhere. He very well may win the next tournament he fishes, and this slump will be nothing but a distant memory. But I asked MDJ what advice he would give to someone aspiring to make it to the next level of fishing who is experiencing a similar funk.

“You gotta trust the process and stay the course,” said MDJ. “Take time to reflect on the bad events, learn from them and keep going. You’ve got to tell yourself the promise land is over the next hurdle, because it very well might be. Crazy things happen in bass fishing, man, the biggest win of your career could come after a 100th place finish, or vice-versa. A lot of people will pack it up when the going gets tough, but if you’re going to make it in fishing, you can’t stop.”

There is a lot of truth and some great lessons laid within his response. Tomorrow MDJ will start competition on Lake Eufaula in central Oklahoma for the third stop of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals. He had never made a cast on the massive fishery before this week and said it seemed to be fishing super small and relatively tough throughout practice.

Not exactly the tailor made slumpbuster he may have hoped for, but regardless of how he finishes this event his mindset sets him up for success soon. No matter what you’re struggling with if you work hard, continue learning, and keep the faith you can rest assured that good days are ahead.

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