Is there momentum in bass fishing?

About the author

Ken Duke

Ken Duke

Ken Duke is the Managing Editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and the author of two books on bass fishing. Follow him on Twitter @thinkbass.

At the Wheeler Lake Elite tournament earlier this year, David Walker picked up his first B.A.S.S. win after 75 previous tries. In the previous Elite event — just a week before — Walker finished 98th out of 99 anglers.

Mark Zona asked me if that was the biggest turnaround in Elite history. I could only admit that I didn't know, but that it had to be. Surely if someone had gone from worst to first, we'd have noticed.

I should tell you that sort of thing didn't do much to interest me, but I finally sat down last night and checked out the numbers. Sure enough, Walker's almost worst-to-first turnaround was the biggest in Elite history, eclipsing Dean Rojas' rebound when he won the 2008 tournament on Oneida Lake. Rojas finished 97th out of 106 in the tournament before that.

Here, then, are the biggest turnarounds in Elite champions' history:

Worst Finish before a Win 

Previous Finish Angler Event Won
98 of 99 (.9899) David Walker 2011, Wheeler Lake, Ala.
97 of 106 (.9151) Dean Rojas 2008, Oneida Lake, N.Y.
93 of 102 (.9118) Denny Brauer 2006, Lake Champlain, N.Y.
82 of 93 (.8817) Byron Velvick 2010, Clear Lake, Calif.
84 of 99 (.8485) Denny Brauer 2011, Arkansas River, Ark.


And here's the flip side of the same list — the anglers who had the best finish before an Elite win:

Best Finish before a Win

Previous Finish Angler Event Won
2 of 107 (.0187) Kevin VanDam 2008, Kentucky Lake, Tenn.
4 of 106 (.0377) Greg Hackney 2006, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
5 of 99 (.0505) Aaron Martens 2009, Lake Guntersville, Ala.
5 of 93 (.0538) Skeet Reese 2010, Lake Guntersville, Ala.
5 of 93 (.0538) Skeet Reese 2010, Smith Mountain Lake, Va.


So, how did the Elite champs do after they won an event? Well, here are the winners who slipped the farthest after winning:

Worst Finish after a Win

Next Finish Angler Event Won
94 of 106 (.8868) Kotaro Kiriyama 2008, Lake Erie, N.Y.
90 of 102 (.8824) Morizo Shimizu 2006, Kentucky Lake, Tenn.
95 of 108 (.8796) Tim Horton 2007, Lake Champlain, N.Y.
81 of 98 (.8265) Kevin Short 2009, Mississippi River, Iowa
85 of 109 (.7798) Paul Elias 2008, Falcon Lake, Texas


These are the winners who kept it going with another strong performance after a win:

Best Finish after a Win

Previous Finish Angler Event Won
2 of 108 (.0185) Derek Remitz 2007, Lake Amistad, Texas
4 of 108 (.0370) Todd Faircloth 2006, Table Rock Lake, Mo.
5 of 102 (.0490) Tommy Biffle 2006, Oneida Lake, N.Y.
5 of 93 (.0538) Skeet Reese 2010, Smith Mountain Lake, Va.
6 of 100 (.0600) Dean Rojas 2008, Oneida Lake, N.Y.


After checking those stats, I got to thinking about related things, most notably momentum or streaks in tournament fishing. Ask any Elite Series angler if there's such a thing as momentum or a "streak" in professional bass fishing, and he'll tell you, "Yes, there is — definitely."

They'll point to a stretch of tournaments where things went their way. Then they'll chalk it up to being on a good streak or maybe even "in the zone."

While I don't doubt the psychological benefits of such thoughts — you're bound to fish better when you have confidence — I have serious doubts as to whether or not anything like momentum really exists in the world of professional fishing.

For the full story, we'll need to dig a little deeper and establish some basic assumptions that I think we all can agree upon.

#1 – The guys who win are — generally — better than the average angler in the Elite field. The Elites might be the 100 or so best in the business but they're not all created equal, and the ones who win are typically better than most, almost by definition.

#2 – Elite anglers try to win every time out, not just once in a while, and when you win one, you don't let down and take it easy the next time out.

With that out of the way, you might be interested to know that the average Elite winner finished 41st in the tournament before his win (based on a 100-angler field).

That's not bad. It's in the money, but it's certainly not great. Only one Elite winner finished in the top three before his win (Kevin VanDam) and only five were in the top five. Thirty-seven made the cut to the top 50 in the previous tournament — just two-thirds, which is not a lot when you consider that these guys are better than average.

So let's take a look at the tournament after their wins. Maybe that's when the streak really starts.

In that event, the average winner finished ... 41st (again, based on a 100-angler field) — just like in the tournament before the win.

Seems to me that the average winner wasn't on anything like a tear going into the tournament he won and he certainly didn't continue anything approaching a hot streak when he fished his next event. Forty-first is probably just about average for these winners.

Only one Elite winner finished in the top three after his win (Derek Remitz) and only four were in the top five. Thirty-four made the cut to the top 50 in the next tournament — again, about two-thirds.

If you'd like to know the extremes of these before-and-after finishes, I checked those for you, too.

On the good side, there's Skeet Reese, Greg Hackney and Tommy Biffle. Reese sandwiched a win on Smith Mountain Lake in 2010 with a pair of fifth-place finishes. Hackney won on Sam Rayburn in 2006 between fourth and 11-place finishes, and Biffle was 10th and fifth surrounding his win on Oneida Lake in 2006.

Kotaro Kiriyama and Kevin Short (twice) were the other side of that coin. Kiriyama was 75th and 94th around his 2008 win on Lake Erie, and Short is on the board twice in this dubious category. In 2010 he won on Pickwick Lake after finishing 76th and before finishing 72nd. A year earlier, he was 67th and 81st with a win on the Mississippi River to separate the two.

So, the next time you hear some bass pundit telling you to put John Smith on your fantasy team because he's on a tear, take it with a grain of salt big enough to wipe out the bass fishery on Lake Erie.

It just doesn't work like that.

Click to view the Fishing momentum photo gallery.