At the recent Sacramento River Elite Series event, I learned some valuable lessons about making a tournament strategy and listening to other competitors. I should have known better, but I allowed "dock talk" to altered my game plan which turned out to really mess up my entire tournament.
During practice I had two solid patterns going where I knew I could catch fish at both the high and low tide periods on the California Delta. During the high tide, I was able to flip and pitch the tules in the Franks Tract area and knew that I could catch a solid limit before the tide switched at midday. At low tide, I found bass that were guarding fry in Italian Slough that I could catch with a frog. Going into the event, I felt decent about the two patterns that I had established for both tide phases.
The night before the first day of competition, I had a conversation with Kelly Jordon. He is a great guy and I know I can always trust him. He was confident about his practice and was smiling ear to ear so asked him about what he found. He told me about his pattern in a backwater area that was similar to my area in Italian Slough and how he could smoke them during the high tide. He said there were small gaps between the grass and riprap banks where he could catch them on a ChatterBait. This got me thinking. My idea was I could fish Kelly's high tide pattern in Italian Slough at high tide and then back out to where I was catching them during the low tide once the tide dropped. I thought could stay in Italian Slough all day and not waste time running from spot to spot.
On the first day of the tournament I decided to take the gamble and try Kelly’s pattern. I ran right past my high tide spot in Franks Tract and twenty minutes away to my low tide spot to try it at the high tide. If you have ever fished tidal water, you know that timing is everything. Well, I timed it wrong. I spent two hours on my first spot without a bite, only to run back to my high tide spot. Unfortunately, it was too late as the tide had already fallen there. So not only did I miss the tide, I was wasted precious time running back and forth to spots on the wrong tide.
Needless to say, I spun out as I ran around like a chicken with his head cut off. My fishing time was already cut short due to a long run from Sacramento and that only added to the pressure and importance of catching fish in a limited amount of time during tide phases.
I ended up only catching a few fish and finished the first day at the bottom of the standings. My bad first day forced me to change my plans completely for Day 2. I decided to look for sight fish on the second day in the hopes of making a big jump up the standings. That did not pan out either, and that is how easy you can go from having a decent practice to having a horrible tournament.
Kelly Jordon did end up doing well and I know what he told me was true. However, in most cases, it is harder to fish someone else’s patterns than it is to fish the patterns you have discovered for yourself. I learned a lesson at the Sacramento River Elite. I need to always fish for the fish I have found and to be more confident in my game plan.