For most of us, recreational and professional anglers alike, the first half of the season is over. It’s time to take a close look at where we’re at, and what we can do to improve our situation.
If you’re down near the bottom, you really don’t have any decisions to make. You have to set your sights on a big stringer every time you launch your boat in every tournament you’re fishing, and hope for the best. I’m not telling you that’s a great strategy or even a good one. We all know that more often than not you’ll come up short doing that. But it’s all you have, so you go with it.
Being at the top or in the middle presents you with choices. Should I go for broke and try to win, or should I fish conservatively and try to hang on? Before you can answer that question you need to analyze your fellow anglers. Are they pretty good or are most of them just average? This might be painful. It’s not easy to admit you’re up against the best, and it’s far too easy to think you’re the best. Do it, and do it honestly.
If they’re pretty good, I’d say you have to fish aggressively, but not get stupid. You can’t afford to be too conservative. You have to realize the other guys will catch them and you also have to realize that if you go conservative, you’ll probably end up somewhere back in the pack before it’s all over.
My situation this year is typical. I’m sitting in 37th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. We’ve fished four tournaments and have four more to go. I still have a chance to move up to the top 12 but, realistically, what I really want to do is make sure I qualify for the Classic. That sounds simple enough, but it really isn’t.
I fish the Elite Series. Every angler out there knows how to catch them, especially the guys up near the top. Fishing conservative against that level of competition will get me nothing but a whipping. So, I have to fish aggressive. There’s no choice. The days of tough tournaments and low weights are over for us. Everybody catches them and some guys will always catch a lot of them.
When I say aggressive, I don’t mean stupid or crazy. I’m not going to target 10 pounders on lakes where very few of them grow that big. But I’m not going to target little ones, either. A limit doesn’t mean a thing in the Elites.
Your situation may be similar. If you have stiff competition, you have to be aggressive. If not, you might be able to get away with being conservative. But let me give you a warning about that kind of thinking: being conservative carries big risks.
Often times you’ll not catch them at all, if you try to be too careful. And even if you do catch a small limit, you have to remember that this is a competitive sport. All the guys out there will be giving it their best. If one or two of them gets hot, your limit won’t mean a thing.
And avoid conservative goals at all costs. That kind of thinking will get you beat every time. Launching your boat with the attitude that a limit of two pound bass will be enough is a bad strategy, really bad. What if some of the other guys do better than that? Take what the lake will give you that day. If it’s 10 pounds, so be it. If it’s 20 pounds, so be it. Do not set yourself up for failure by aiming low.
What I’m trying to say with all this is don’t go for broke if you don’t have to, but don’t play too much defense, either. Fish aggressively, take what the lake will give you and accept the fact that competitive sports carry the risk of getting beat.