'Swing for the fences'

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Steve Bowman

We hear the phrase “swing for the fences” a lot in fishing tournaments, but I wonder if fans really understand how relevant that thought is for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods.

We often describe this event as something very different than a regular Bassmaster Elite Series tournament where you do your best to win, but you also have to balance out the importance of making sure you earn the most points you can. The Classic truly is an all-or-nothing deal.

And that is exactly what makes this event so hard to win — it’s not only a matter of what you want to do; it’s also the fact that you know everyone else is going to be out there swinging for the fence.

You may want to play a calculated game and you may do well, but there’s that variable of the guy who’s not on anything and he’s just running and gunning — he’s really swinging for the fence. He doesn’t really care about getting a 12- or 13-pound limit before he goes looking for big fish.

He may only get four bites in a day and have 24 pounds. So, that’s the wildcard that you have to account for in the Classic. Everybody is swinging for the fence, so it really does put you in a position of thinking the same way.

Especially on a blueback herring lake like Hartwell, there’s always the potential for a guy to get on a good topwater bite and put the day’s biggest bag in the boat in less than an hour. He’s not going to think twice about catching every fish he can catch because he may or may not be able to back on them the next day.

In a points event, you can manage your fish and kind of hold off once you get a good limit. But in the Classic, it’s just the opposite. You have to go for it and get all you can get.

Most guys go into the event with the mindset that they already have a calculated game plan put together. Say you’re catching 3-pounders, if you get 15 pounds, you pull and go. You don’t fish any more of your stuff, you just go fishing again; you start from scratch, throwing big baits and trying to catch that one big fish.

While you’re doing this, you may stumble onto another pattern. But if you didn’t pull up and stop fishing for those 3-pounders, you’ll wear down your spot. You won’t catch but 15 to 18 pounds, and you still have that one guy up there that wasn’t even on anything when he started the event. He’s the one that will stumble upon something and bust ‘em one day. 

It always seems the guy who just keeps going and going and going and swinging for the fence is the one who’s going to stumble upon something big. That's because everybody else has already made their calculations, and they’re locked into their plans.

This event really is a double-edged sword: You have to figure out something and get the day going quick, but you also have to keep an open mind and keep searching.

So, even though I’ll carry a game plan into to the Classic, even though I will pay attention to all the key factors and even though I want to make good decisions, you can bet I’ll be swinging for the fences.