Catching an hour or two of the U.S. Open golf tournament on television last weekend reminded me of the similarities between the way we keep score in fishing and in golf. To win a big tournament like the U.S. Open, you have to put three really fine rounds of golf together — maybe four. The same is true in an Elite Series tournament.
Yes, you can have a pretty average day and still win in golf or fishing, but you can't have a bad day. And getting off to a good start in an Elite event is even more important than in a golf tournament. Fishing has far fewer comebacks than golf, baseball, football, basketball or just about any other sport I can think of except soccer (almost no team can bounce back from a crushing 1-0 deficit).
In 2012, the worst the eventual winner has ranked after the first day is 17th place. That's where Alton Jones was on Day One of the St. Johns tournament. Everyone else was 12th or better.
So who's the best this year at starting strong? Who's the top Elite angler on Day One?
Here are the Top 5 and their scores that I'll explain in a moment:
1. Todd Faircloth, +32.52
2. Greg Hackney, +29.20
3. Bill Lowen, +28.67
4. Brandon Palaniuk, +28.23
5. Bradley Roy, +27.03
The number is a percentage of how much better they are than the average angler. For example, Faircloth is 32.52 percent better than the average Elite angler on Day One.
I have to admit to being a little surprised at seeing Palaniuk in the Top 5 here. He's a terrific angler and has already qualified for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, but except for his win at Bull Shoals, he's struggled, and he ranks 67th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
Turns out Palaniuk's been solid on the first day of competition, but struggled on the second. He's 28 percent better than average on Day One, but 22 percent below average on Day Two — a 50 percent difference! The end result is a lot of missed cuts.
Who's struggling on Day One? Here are the bottom five:
1. Brent Broderick, -50.19
2. Byron Velvick, -38.49
3. Bernie Schultz, -34.31
4. Kotaro Kiriyama, -33.70
5. Jared Miller, -30.15
Broderick is 50 percent worse than average on the first day of a tournament. That's digging a big hole!
Day Two might be even more important than Day One. After all, in 2012 every Elite winner but one has taken the lead on the second day and never looked back. The only one who didn't was Jeremy Starks at Douglas Lake. He was third after two days and second after three.
Day Two also seems like the day competitors make their big move, find out if their spots and patterns are going to hold up and generally jump not just into the money, but into the Top 12.
Here are the best on Day Two:
1. Brent Chapman, +49.76
2. Marty Robinson, +47.37
3. Jeff Kriet, +45.00
4. Matt Herren, +44.70
5. Ott DeFoe, +40.69
No surprise to see Chapman on top here. He's leading the AOY race for a reason and that's it. On Day Two — "moving day" in the Elite Series — he's catching half again as much weight as the average angler in the tournament! That's strong.
And here are the bottom five:
1. Chad Griffin, -55.73
2. Grant Goldbeck, -41.85
3. Brent Broderick, -40.74
4. Clark Reehm, -35.20
5. Bernie Schultz, -32.27
What does it all mean? Well, it might say something about an angler's practice if he struggles on Day One and has to use the first competition round to get on fish. If Day Two is a problem, it could mean he's misjudged what he found in practice. Either way, it takes a strong Day One or Day Two to make the cut and earn a check. Two strong days will probably get you to the final round. Two bad days have you shaking your head and waiting for the next event.