Hackney: Memo to the Opens anglers

It’s no secret that some of the guys who have qualified for the Elite Series from the Opens have struggled. Mostly those are the guys who are from the clubs and recreational ranks. The guys with FLW professional level experience seem to do much better.

Here’s my take on why that’s happening.

The Opens are different. One thing that gets club anglers in trouble in the Elites is the difference in practice rules. In the Opens you can fish as much as you want before the official practice starts, and you can fish with another angler up until then. In the Elites the lake is off-limits for a month before the official practice starts so we only get two and a half days at the most.

This creates a whole host of problems starting with time management. If you have a week or 10 days to practice, you can take your time, look around all over the lake and think things through. A partner helps. He can throw one bait while you throw another. It’s a twofer.

In an Elite event you don’t have that luxury. You have to find them fast and figure out how to make them bite even faster. It’s much more intense.

That difference gets a lot of guys in trouble. They don’t realize how fast the practice time goes by and how much of an advantage the long practice time creates. In the Elites we basically find areas and then fish them as the bite develops over four days.

Now, in all honesty most of us who have been around for a while don’t care much about a long practice. But if you’re used to one it can work on your head. That’s why I think you see the FLW transfers do so well when they fish with our bunch. They know what’s coming, no surprises.

Along that same line of thought I noticed when I was fishing the Open on the Atchafalaya Basin a number of the Open anglers didn’t seem to have the intensity that I see in the Elite Series. It was like they were taking their time making casts and tying knots.

Some of that comes from the fact that they’re fishing a tournament on their home waters for fun. They don’t have to do well to feed their family. That’s fair enough. No one is saying you have to be a pro just because you fish a big tournament when one comes to your neighborhood.

But if you want to be a full-time pro you’d better learn to be intense and not waste time. An extra 15 or 20 casts a day mounts up over the course of a season.

There’s more to a career than winning every now and then. Careers are made up from points — checks, Classic berths, Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Points are made up from fish. Fish are made from time.

In the next column we’ll talk about another aspect of all this — the schedule. You can qualify for the Elites by fishing one division of the Opens in one geographic area of the country where the waters mostly fish the same. Not so in the Elite Series.