Hunting Fishing

We all can learn something about reaching our pinnacle by watching the Winter Olympics

Coach Jan Tyssen encourages gold medallist Ireen Wust of The Netherlands during the women’s 1,500-meter speedskating race at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea.
Coach Jan Tyssen encourages gold medallist Ireen Wust of The Netherlands during the women’s 1,500-meter speedskating race at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea. Associated Press

Each time I watch the Winter Olympics I am inspired and taken back to my many years of decathlon training and competing for an Olympic spot myself. And each time I hear an athlete interview, I see what has driven them to this pinnacle of success. Here’s some observations that I think might carry over to fishing.

First of all, it is ludicrous to believe that such great success is purely accidental. Each great performance is intentional and there is very little improvisation. Luck is not the key factor.

Yet that’s what most folks are depending on to achieve greatness. Sure, accidental fortuitous situations occur, but often overlooked is that the achiever was already looking and ready for it when it happened.

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley. JOHN WALKER THE FRESNO BEE

I hear anglers say, “Yeah, he’s caught a bunch of big fish, but he’s just lucky.” I’ve had people tell me, “I sure wish I had as much talent as you! I could have done it, too! ” Right! They conveniently overlook the endless hours of sacrifice and hard training it took to make that stubborn “natural” talent pay off. It’s easy for many to discount the sacrifice and focused effort it takes to become an Olympian, and I suggest that it’s the same with successful anglers.

Another takeaway from watching the Olympics: athletes intently focusing on what their coach is telling them right before they compete. They are in a crucible of intense pressure, yet they shove all the distractions aside to listen to that one voice they know they need to totally rely on to succeed. I was truly blessed to have had three Olympic coaches train me during my career and I relied on them totally to guide and help me. I found that each had very clear and successful agendas they expected me to follow. These men knew what to do to prepare me mentally to win. You can bet that great athletes have someone they will credit with being their guiding light. I find that listening and doing what your coach tells you is a talent few have, yet is the reason many fail while others succeed.

So you watch an awesome performance and you wonder, “How did they do that?” Most of us will point to technical expertise, and that’s important, but look a little deeper and you will see a tough mental attitude that sets Olympians apart from the rest. Their approach, confidence and outlook are the key intangibles. It’s the thing they work on every day, in every practice. They know it’s the “X factor” that separates the medal winners from the others. Watch the athletes perform and after awhile you begin to see the subtle but profound differences in how they handle adversity and pressure. Where others “see” pressure, others see a chance to perform greatly.

I see that same mindset watching “Bassmasters” and I’m challenged to look at how I mentally approach my sport. Is the difference how great a new lure is? Or is it how I mentally handle the situation and adapt? Most anglers think it’s the new lure.

It’s easy for us to discount success as an accidental thing – it lets us off the hook! Yet we actually realize it’s not true. Mental attitude, coaching and a clear purpose are some of the key factors that separate champions from the rest, whether it’s fishing or the Olympics. It’s a choice!

Never give up!

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at,

at and @StriperWars on Twitter.