Few anglers use this tool, despite it being more important than any lure or technique.
There are many ways I can describe the importance of mindset, but this story does it best.
The darkness of early morning stood at the windows, and contrasted with the bright fluorescent lighting overhead. In front of me, the surface of an Olympic-sized pool sat glass calm. Soon, that mirror surface would be broken.
Myself and other NCOs had plans to fill the pool with half-drowning men. It would become a frothing pit of fear and determination. We were going to crush their balls and only a few would be worthy to move to the next stage.
“Bring them in.”
An awkward silence permeated the pool as we looked down at them. A long line of Marines filed in, mostly young PFCs from the School of Infantry, but a smattering of older fleet Marines as well.
They wore olive drab PT gear. Ours was black.
They were here because they wanted to wear the black PT gear, and that journey began with the Recon Screening.
If they passed, they could go to Recon Indoctrination Platoon and, if they didn’t drop out, would leave for Amphibious Reconnaissance School and, if they graduated, would get to become Recon Marines and spend the rest of their career getting kicked in the balls every day.
I had already been through the process and, that morning, we were screening Marines. Part of that screening was the pool. After all, it is amphibious reconnaissance, not “I get to be on land and walk everywhere” reconnaissance.
The men at the side of the pool, were to complete a series of exercises to demonstrate their swimming ability.
You could feel the tension rise as they donned their utilities and entered the water, one by one. For me, that tension was invigorating.
I stripped down to my UDT shorts before hopping in, feeling like an alligator jumping into a catfish pond. I was swimming “slick” as a safety swimmer.
Five minutes later, Marines were dropping like flies. The water broke them.
A mere fluid obeying the laws of physics weeded out the quitters. No quitters allowed in Recon.
The screening progressed, and more quitters crawled out. Only a handful remained for the final evolution: the crossover.
This consisted of a 25 meter stretch they had to swim, underwater, on one breath, wearing utilities.
Few people have the aquatic prowess or, if they don’t, gumption to finish the crossover. That little stretch sent most men to the top gasping for air.
They began the crossover, one at a time. I swam just above and behind them, as a safety measure, in the event they blacked out.
But it never happened. Either they made it or, more often, I’d hear them resist the urge to breathe, *umph!* *umph!*, as they clawed to the surface.
But this time, a Marine did something I had never seen any of them do before.
He was halfway there when I heard his umph. But he didn’t come up, instead stroking harder for the finish line, burning the rest of his oxygen. He only had five meters left, but he didn’t make it.
He stopped, as if he fell asleep, and his body went limp. I immediately grabbed him and shot to the surface, where other RIP instructors helped drag him out.
“DOC!! We need you NOW!”
The SARC went to work. Seconds were terrifyingly long as I was sure someone died on our watch. His body was just laying there as Doc hustled, working his magic.
Amazingly, the young man came back to life, coughing up pool water before looking around.
“Did I make it?”
“No, but we’ll take you anyways.”
Yes, the guy sucked at swimming and couldn’t complete an underwater crossover.
Technically, on paper, that would disqualify him. But we were looking for something more important than swimming prowess.
The guy had balls. Huge balls of steel and would die before he quit. That kind of attitude is golden.
I’ve watched athletic gym nerds quit like sissies in the pool. Their abs of steel are useless when their minds bend like a reed.
We can teach anyone to swim. That’s not a problem. But mindset? That’s a little harder to come by.
The best lure, fanciest boat and cutting-edge electronics are all useless if the angler is a sissy.
I’ve learned it’s not their lack of skill, knowledge or even tackle, it’s their unwillingness to change their attitude.
I’m not saying one must be willing to die to make it to Stump Lagoon their first time. That’s ridiculous.
I’m just saying they should get over themselves and make the effort to go fishing with a positive angler’s mindset.
It’s the most important thing you have on your fishing trips. It’s a set of attitudes that dictate your actions.
A good mindset consists of qualities such as patience, courage, persistence, determination and more.
The number of anglers who don’t go fishing because of <insert petty concern> is mind-boggling to me.
So what if you don’t know how to fish the MRGO Rocks? Go anyways. It will be an adventure. You will learn and probably catch a few fish in the process.
Is there failure outside of your comfort zone? Yes. How an angler deals with it is a measure of his mindset.
Is there success out there? Absolutely!
It’s a true accomplishment because it was done without the “gutter guards” found in artificial means, like video games and even some sports.
Everything you want follows a good mindset, whether you are chasing limits or merely relaxing.
How can you enjoy fishing if you have a crappy attitude? How can anyone else on your boat?
Think about it.
This is why I have “Angler’s Mindset” as a category on this blog. With a good mindset, everything else will follow. Without it, an angler is doomed to fail.
In fact, you can scroll to the bottom to use the category menu and read more about Angler’s Mindset, or any category you wish.
Devin is the founder of Louisiana Fishing Blog and enjoys exploring new fishing spots on Louisiana's coast. He prefers using artificial lures and casting tackle, but won't hesitate to break out a popping cork when the time is right.
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