Tournament Decision Making, the Good, the Bad and Ugly….
Being my first post with Game Over Angling, I feel I should explain myself a little bit before diving into the details. That way, I can save you some time if you’re looking for a different type of article on tournament fishing.
By trade I am a computer geek, with an engineering degree (no jokes necessary, I’ve heard them all.) I guess you could say I am one of the typical, left brained, over-analytical types who tends to put a great deal of focus on the details. Because of this, my writing may lean towards things others usually disregard as coincidence, and it’ll be your option to do the same!!!
To give you an example, a good friend and great tournament angler Charlie Lynch and I were talking at the end of a long tournament day. I was in the middle of my analysis of what the fish were doing due to weather and fishing pressure when he stopped me about 2 minutes in. His eyes completely crossed with confusion and frustration he says, “Jake, if the fish were that smart, they’d be driving cars.”
Moving on, I write this article on the heels of winning a Big Bass Championship in early July. The fish that won the event was a 7.15 monster that ate a jig in the first 20 minutes of an 11 hour fishing day. You can imagine how I felt when I dropped it in the livewell, knowing you can’t weigh a dead fish…. I took better care of that thing than I do my children. I wouldn’t even touch it, let alone weigh it, but I knew its exact weight.
The weekend before, on a prefishing trip, that fish ate the exact same bait on the exact same hut. I was floored the first time I caught it because I knew that I had just “won prefish.” For those who don’t know, winning prefish is the plague of tournament anglers. Those who whoop up on big ones during prefish are said to have won the part of the event that doesn’t pay anything. Usually, prefish winners bomb the actual tournament.
It’s often said that fish don’t get to that size by being stupid. In my experience, that’s a true statement. To catch a really big fish, you need a reaction bite, or huge bait, or to pull them off a bed during the spawn. The odds of catching a monster fish twice, 5 days later, should have been in the single digits… low single digits.
So where am I going with this? In this particular event, prefishing was allowed the day before the event. On Friday, we fished as many beaver huts close to the creek channels we could find. On a completely different side of the lake from where we caught the big one, we had an amazing 6 hours of practice, shaking off multiple fish around 5lbs.
Fast forward to the tournament, and we’re waiting in line as the 5th boat out. The weather prediction was for rain in the early hours of the morning, then an immediate transition to high sun and high winds. That is what I consider a post-frontal weather switch. Something I’ll write about later, but for the time being, post-frontal weather is miserable fishing. I was once told by a very successful angler, that on post-frontal days, you’ll get the majority of your quality bites first thing in the morning… Then everything after that will be a grind. I’ve seen that come true more than I’d be willing to admit, and it sucks.
Weighing all the factors, I should have fished the opposite side of the reservoir from where I caught the big one the week before. I didn’t have much time before the weather would burn me, and the practice was so strong the day before. Some people call it their gut feeling, some call it “fishing unconscious” and some call it “living right.” I don’t care what you call it, but against all my logic, I ran for the lowest odd option knowing I was giving up the morning bite on a post frontal day. I’m not totally sure why I made that decision, but I chalk up those un-explainable successes as blessings and move onto the next fishing puzzle.
Thanks again to Mr. Hogue for building this site.