A Biffle in the hand or a Brainard in the bush

On Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on Ross Barnett, a rookie by the name of Jay Brainard charged up the leader board with 22 pounds, 1 ounce. Brainard ended the day in third place but in the madness of a 200 boat weigh-in, the chance to meet up with him to find out who he was and where he was fishing never came about. 

While running around on Day 2 trying to capture a fish catch or two on camera, a fortuitous event put Brett Preuett in view. Preuett was sitting in fifth or sixth going into the day so it was time to settle in for a while. After shooting a heavy gallery and getting a few fish catches, it was time to make a move.

Covering a tournament is a lot like fishing a tournament. You basically have two things to run on, instinct and intel.

Instinct is the best … when it works. You feel like you’re figuring things out just like when you make a move in fishing and catch a big one. But intel is usually the way to go. Make the smart play. Pick the guy who statistically stacks up the best. The main problem, the two seldom coincide.

Where covering a tournament is different from fishing a tournament, you’re basically doubling the difficulty level. You’re trying to figure out fishermen, who are all-the-while trying to figure out the fish. Dumb luck, as with fishing, is typically your best friend. Quite often you just stumble into the right situation.

Scanning the area while still on Preuett, Tommy Biffle came into view. A favorite coming into the event, Biffle was laying back in 15th or so after Day 1. Knowing James Overstreet was tracking down Mike McClelland and Kevin Short (first and second place), it was decision time. Stick with Biffle or run all over Ross Barnett chasing an unfamiliar boat and an unfamiliar face.

Time to choose: A Biffle in the hand or a Brainard in the bush?

The choice was simple; stick with Biffle. He was the logical decision. A lot goes into our decisions as cameramen. We want to cover everyone. That is impossible. So we pick and choose. Biffle wasn’t a bad decision. Given the intel, he was the only decision really. Tommy Biffle went on to sack 17 pounds 4 ounces on Day 2 and move into third place.

The only issue: Jay Brainard held tough. After the dust settled on Day 2 Brainard had bested Biffle and sat in second place.

Still, Biffle’s daily weight had gone up. The veteran had improved from 13-11 on Day 1 to 17-4 on Day 2. Brainard’s performance was trending in the other direction. Day 1 saw 22-1 from Brainard, half that on Day 2 with only 11-1. The intel was still pointing to Biffle, though instincts were starting to say otherwise.

Day 3 comes and Brainard has shed a little light on his fishing location. He is working the docks near take-off. “I haven’t put gas in my boat all week,” Brainard commented.

Now Brainard and Biffle are both in hand. The only problem, Brainard’s dock pattern is located half the lake away from the remainder of the Top 12. A Top 12 littered with big sticks and veterans.

Statistically there was only one choice: go where there was the best chance of shooting the winner. A vantage point with seven of the Top 12 in sight was the only choice to make. To roll the dice on one guy was a decision that couldn’t be rationalized.

So after snapping a few grainy pics of Jay Brainard from the shore, it was time to trailer up the lake and head to the honey hole where the rest of the field was fishing. This was the right decision. After bouncing around a bit, good fortune came back around in the form of Day 2 leader Gene Bishop. Bishop went on to boat the winning weight and the camera was there to catch it all.

The story, though, doesn’t end there. While Brainard didn’t win, a poetic chain of events unfolded at the final day weigh-in. When Biffle stepped to the scales, he took over the lead with a Day 3 weight of 21-10 with only two anglers left to weigh.

Up next, Jay Brainard; a rookie from Enid, Oklahoma who statistically didn’t stand a chance of knocking off Biffle, a seven-time champ with B.A.S.S. and a veteran who has won over $2 million with a fishing rod. Plus he has 61 Top 10s to his credit. Brainard didn’t stand a chance, at least statistically, but none of that mattered. Brainard dumped 21 pounds 6 ounces on the scales and bumped Biffle out of the hot seat. Brainard had slain a giant of the sport.

The moral of the story, Tommy Biffle was a rookie once too. Overlooked and underestimated. Congratulations are in order for Jay Brainard on a tremendous week of fishing. His stats are looking better by the minute. And if he’ll be so kind as to tell us where he’s fishing in the next one, he can dang sure bet we’ll be there to take his picture.