Lock lessons from the Arkansas River

I’d like to think that reading this column is about learning — for both me and my readers. And so, with that in mind, let’s look at how things developed on the Arkansas River last week. It’s a good lesson in time management and tournament strategy.

The locks played a big role in the tournament. Some of the guys — include me in that group — had weight deducted from their totals because they were late. Others lost all their weight. It was tough all the way around. In truth, though, the weight I lost wouldn’t have made any difference.

The problems weren’t caused by our inexperience or because we don’t know what we’re doing. We all have locking experience, and we can all tell time. It was the scheduling. The locks weren’t operating the way we thought they would. Whose fault that was, and how it developed, is up for discussion. Nevertheless it happened.

The bottom line is that you take a chance when you lock and you’re fishing against the clock. It’s really pretty simple. We all know the rules. Schedules can change. Nothing on our nation’s river systems is set in stone. Commercial traffic (barges) is always given priority. Locking through in a tournament is always a gamble. It’s never been a sure thing.

That’s something you should keep in mind if you’re fishing a tournament and considering locking to get to your spot. You’re taking a chance. No matter how much planning you do, things can go wrong. When they do, you’ll pay a price.

Beyond all that, my tournament was pretty ordinary. I didn’t have a real good pattern, nothing I could count on, anyway. It was junk fishing all day, every day. I threw anything that I thought they would bite. About all I can say is that I earned a check.

I’m fairly happy with that. I know I talk all the time about having two or three patterns, but sometimes it’s just not possible. No matter how hard you try, you can’t develop them. That’s when we like to say we’re just going fishing. Sometimes that’s a ruse, but sometimes it isn’t. This was one those times.

Today (Monday) I’ll be practicing on Wheeler. I’m looking forward to that. It’s a fine lake and I think the conditions will favor my style of fishing. It’s no secret that I like my back to the shore.

After a short break, I’ll head towards the Northern Opens. I can’t wait to get on the James River and Lake Erie. They’re in my neighborhood. That makes things really nice. I’m especially excited to be able to fish close to Becky’s family. It’s good to see them and it’ll be nice for her, too. She’ll have help with Vegas.

That’s something she doesn’t always have while we’re traveling. I’m out fishing and she’s left to take care of everything else. I appreciate that more than she knows.

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