Luck of the draw

Ask any competitor on tournament day where they’d like to be in the takeoff order and “earlier the better” will normally be their response.

Competitive drive combined with the excitement and anticipation of the day ahead are what create that desire. That and the prospect of getting to the fish first, of course. 

But should that always be the answer? 

An obvious exception would be when the bite is better later in the day — like during early spring when warming temperatures get the bait and bass moving. Or perhaps when an angler’s game plan involves sight fishing. The higher the sun, the better the visibility. 

Another possible advantage is that a later flight can translate to more time on the water. Here’s how. Because takeoff sequences often move so quickly, anglers leaving the dock last are afforded more time to fish. And that extra time can make a difference. Take our Bassmaster Elite Series events, for example. They send us in single file — one boat after another — yet our check-in times vary, usually 15 to 20 minutes apart. And they reverse that order on Day 2, so that everyone has the same amount of time to fish — at least in theory.

The only exception is after the Top 48 cut on Day 3, when there are two flights with separate departure and check-in times. 

When haste makes waste

Too often, early draws are wasted.

I can recall numerous times in my career when an early draw got me nothing more than a faster start to a long, nonproductive day — situations when I didn’t have a good starting spot or any concentration of fish to run to.

That’s the way my luck seems to run — getting an early draw when I’m unable to take advantage of it. It’s like getting all dressed up with no place to go.

Even worse is getting an early draw, believing it’s going to pay off, then, for some reason, it doesn’t. Our recent Sabine River Elite event is a prime example. Although I was among the first to leave the dock on Day 1 of competition — believing I was going to score big at my starting spot — that spot yielded nothing.

I remember pulling in excited about the prospects of fishing what I thought was my best water only to end up with a string of undersized bass and a few mudfish. Talk about deflating. This was an event where the fish were concentrated in small areas, and I knew where those areas were.

I could have easily used that early draw to get to those places ahead of my fellow competitors. Instead, I foolishly chose to go in the opposite direction — to an area that proved worthless and effectively took me out of the race before it even started.