Consistency Conundrum

DEL RIO, Texas — Elite Series anglers constantly stress the importance of consistency. It's a critical component of bass fishing success: not only in an individual tournament, but also across an entire season.

 While every angler goes into a tournament with hopes of winning, the fact is it just doesn't happen that often. Tiger Woods doesn't win every golf tournament he enters, and Kevin VanDam doesn't take home the winner's check in every BASS tournament.

 "The reality is that there aren't very many tournaments where you're in position to win," Ohio pro Bill Lowen said. "All the stars have to line up for you to win one of these things. So you have to get in that mindset to be consistent."

 California pro Skeet Reese, the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, is a good example of consistency's importance. While he hasn't exactly set the world on fire in any event this season, he's been near the top of the standings in all three Elite events (17th, 20th, 22nd), quietly working his way into a three-way tie for eighth place in the TTBAOY standings.

 "If I can go out today and catch 20-plus pounds and finish in the top 20, I'll be tickled," said Reese, who heads into Day Two in 35th place with 19 pounds, 5 ounces. "I want to win, but I also look at top-20 finishes over 11 tournaments. If I can do that, I'll be right where I want to be."

 It's easier said than done. Through three events this season, only 19 of the 109 pros have made the top-50 cut in every tournament.

 And this week on Lake Amistad, it's going to be even harder.

 The Battle on the Border presented by Mahindra Tractors goes against the doctrine of consistency because of the cancellation of Thursday's scheduled first day. The pros almost unanimously agree that the abbreviated tournament rewards consistency less than a four-day event.

 "I knew that once we eliminated a day, it would be more of a gamble," Reese said. "You have to swing for the big bag instead of trying to be conservative to stay consistent."

 Because of the missed day, several anglers say it's even more important than usual to finish near the top of the standings, even if they don't make the cut for Sunday's 12-man final. The top 50 finishers take home money.

 "Sure I'd love to catch 30 pounds and make the top 12," said Lowen (19th, 21-7). "But I'll be happy with 15 pounds so I can get paid and get the hell out of here."

 "This is more of a big-sack shootout," said Texas pro Kelly Jordon (49th, 17-2). "If you're not in a position to win, you just want to go out and do the best you can and try to get out of here with a check and some points."

 The truncated tournament also makes it hard to catch up after a bad day.

 Usually, an angler who stumbles on Day One has another day to work into the top 50, and if he makes the top-50 cut, there's a third day to make up ground and get into the final round of 12.

 "If you're not in good shape after Day One, it puts a little more pressure on you," said Alabama pro Boyd Duckett, the 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion. "You don't have a shot at a makeup day."

 It's now or never for these Elite Series pros on Lake Amistad.

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