Manage the moment

Greg Hackney’s not a greedy guy; he’s experienced. Experienced in tournament strategy — particularly the ones where opportunities are slim and big bites are hard to find.

That’s why the notion of “saving” or “managing” fish did not enter his Day-1 game plan.

Nodding to the formidable combination of warm water, low river current and that always-tricky period of summer-fall transition (Thursday brought the autumnal equinox — first day of fall), Hackney made a poignant observation that’s surely blaring in the minds of every competitor.

“I caught everything I could catch because I didn’t want to have to play catch-up,” Hackney said. “This is a place where you cannot afford to get yourself into a hole.”

That point blares at an amplified level when the effort to catch all you can slams face-first into the realization of what could have been.

Just ask Day-1 leader Todd Risinger. The pro from West Monroe, La. topped the field with 13-9, but he knows the 6-ounce margin he held over second-place Keith Poche was less than his day offered.

“I should have had 16-17 pounds,” Risinger lamented. “I had a 3-pounder on and I tried to boat swing it on a Chatterbait and I should have never done that. Then, just a few minutes before I checked in, I had another 3-pounder come off right beside the boat.”

Losing quality fish always hurts, but such painful losses cut deeper when you’re not sure when/if the next opportunity might come. Suffice it to say, those who left pounds and ounces in the Red River yesterday woke with a fire in their belly today.

Good example: Bassmaster Elite Darold Gleason placed 130th on Day 1 after catching a single 2-pound, 15-ounce keeper. Tough part about it was his account of missed opportunities that would have dramatically improved his opening effort.

As Gleason recounted, he missed multiple frog bites, including one that gave him several shots

“One fish blew up on my frog three times,” he said. “I flipped in there and hooked, but he got hung up in (the vegetation) and came off.”

By 8:30 this morning, BassTrakk showed Gleason with a limit of 11-8, well above the top-10 pace from Day-1. At 10 a.m., he was one spot out of the top-10 cut.

Motivation born of disappointment is a powerful force.

Perhaps the only example of an angler deciding to leave catchable fish after securing a strong limit was Poche’s Day-1 performance. The Alabama angler caught most of his 13-3 limit in a shallow, narrow ditch leading to a deeper backwater pocket.

His 18-foot aluminum boat allowed him to skim over skinny sections that would likely block a fiberglass bass boat’s heavier form. Poche said he made one late-day cull on a main river spot, but that was after he secured a solid bag by late morning and then left his hidden honey hole.

Poche has the luxury of managing a group of fish that are unlikely to see another tournament boat this week. Most everyone else will almost certainly step on the gas and follow the foundational rule of tough tournaments: Get while the gettin’s good.