Wednesday, May 29, 2024

How much does luck play a factor in tournament fishing? By Ben Hudson – December 1,2016


Ben Hudson – “Blue Collar Bassin’”
Finding a pot of bass at the end of the rainbow
How much does luck play a factor in tournament fishing?

December 1,2016


Before I started having moderate success in bass fishing tournaments, I could not for the life of me understand how people would dominate the local tournaments in my area. I mean, there was no way people could catch bass like that all the time right? At some point, these successful anglers had to run out of luck, they couldn’t have that much command over fish! I made every excuse I could for why I couldn’t compete with these successful anglers, ranging from wondering if they were cheating, to the most common excuse in my arsenal; they were all just incredibly lucky.
Looking back, these thoughts I had were absolutely laughable at best. As I became a more successful angler and started understanding bass fishing more (mostly thanks to my dad and a few of his friends who taught me), and I began to realize the reality of bass fishing. Truth is, being a successful tournament angler has very little and almost nothing to do with luck, but is rather a learned and developed skill that is truly never ending in knowledge. Bass are in a particular area at a particular time, and if they’re feeding, will bite particular baits. It’s the skill of a good angler to put all the factors of the day together to figure out the winning pattern for that day. So before we call an angler lucky for their impressive sack of bass, we should all take a moment and appreciate their catch and give credit where credit is due.
One of the factors that make competitive bass fishing such an exciting sport is that you’re not only competing against the other anglers in the event, but the bass themselves. Just because the bass don’t bite extremely well on the day of a tournament, you still have to bring more weight to the scale than your competitors. Being able to catch fish better than your competitors in any situation is what separates the winners, versus the anglers who wonder if it was all just one big lucky day.
I’ve become a firm believer that luck plays very little power out on the water in a tournament, and would even go as far to say that it is virtually no factor at all. Bass are in a certain area for a reason, wheather we know it or not, and may only bite a certain bait at a certain time of the day. These bass may also not be feeding at all! It is the skilled anglers who can put everything together to not only beat the fish, but their competitors as well.
So if one angler is the most skilled, why is that particular angler not wining every single time? If Bassmaster elite pro Kevin VanDam is known as the greatest angler on earth, shouldn’t he win every tournament if luck plays not factor and all about skill?
The answer is very simple. Just ask yourself; why does the same Nascar driver not win every race during every single week? Different drivers do better on different tracks and styles. This concept is even more relevant in bass fishing. Not every day is the same and different anglers have different strengths. For example, a crankbait and spinnerbait expert will have better success on a windy day, while a finesse expert will excel when it’s a bright and calm day that makes the fishing tough.
To reference Nascar again, some drivers may be better on short tracks, while others may prefer midsize tracks or super speedways. Bass fishing works the same way when traveling to different bodies of water. Many succeed on tidal rivers, while others prefer shallow clear water lakes, or even the deep lakes of California.
As we get more in-depth and advanced into bass fishing, it becomes more and more apparent that luck is not much of a factor anymore in tournaments. The tournament anglers on the pro tour, and even in local tournament around the United States, have become so skilled that luck is not needed. When I won my first tournament, I learned the best fishing lesson of my life; when it is your day, it’s your day. Speaking from experience, when you win a tournament it is a special feeling. You seriously feel like you can do no wrong that day on the water, every choice you make seems to work. Believe me, when you have this feeling, the last thing on your mind is thinking about how lucky you are to be on that pattern.
Just like the same NFL team can’t win the super bowl every year and the same driver can’t win every Nascar race, you can’t win every bass tournament. I learned a long time ago that when competing against other extremely talented anglers, one of them is going to figure out the right pattern that day and it may not always be you. Though to blame it on luck is simply something I always viewed as an excuse, and in my opinion, takes credit away from the angler.
Let’s explore a different situation. I have seen where an angler will weigh-in with only 2 or 3 fish, well short of a typical 5 bass limit. However, one of those bass may be an 8lb bass that wins the big fish of the day. Was the angler just lucky? They clearly were not on large numbers of fish, so many would just call it a lucky catch.
Was this actually just a dumb luck catch though? As I said, that bass was in that area and bit the bait that this angler used for a reason. Ironically, the angler may not even understand why that big bass was there! While I wouldn’t call the catch in that kind of situation particularly “skillful”, it was not just pure luck that the bass was caught in that spot and on that bait. While it is not luck alone that explains why that fish bit, it may have been luck that allowed this angler to catch the bass without understanding why it bite or was there in the first place.
I hate to call it just a lucky one bite though, because I feel it takes away from the angler. It might not be the most skillful or glamourous way to catch a tournament bass and win money, but it was still the angler’s choice to go to that spot and fish that bait to catch that big bass and instead of just calling it dumb luck, we should give the angler credit for being in the right place at the right time with the right bait.
So does luck ever play a factor at all?
Let’s throw lady luck a few chips here and say that in certain situations off the water that are out of the angler’s control, a 4 leaf clover may come in handy.
Possibly one of the most common and obvious situations, that is out of the angler’s control and up to lady luck herself is; weather conditions for tournament day that benefit certain patterns over others. Another is the boat number drawn, this can be particularly important in the summertime when you want to be the first boat out to have the optimal time spent during the morning bite.
However, the time when luck plays its biggest role in bass fishing, is when fishing as a co-angler where you have to draw a partner. You have absolutely no control at all over who you draw as a co-angler and that puts you at the mercy of the lucky horseshoe in hopes of drawing a boater who is not only on fish, but on a pattern that will allow you to catch bass behind them. Though to be fair, as an experienced co-angler myself, I will say that the best anglers will still adapt to a situation and catch bass even if it is not ideal for them. This truly shows an angler’s versatility when luck isn’t on their side as a co-angler.
Overall, I believe Kevin VanDam said it best on ESPN during an interview, when he stated that competitive bass fishing is not about luck, point blank. Other than the few situations I covered, you control your own destiny out on the water and the idea of knowing anything can happen (even if you don’t always understand why) is what makes competitive bass fishing such an exciting and rapidly growing sport. As I said before, no one should call another anglers catch lucky, and instead give credit where credit is due for that angler having a successful day. So anglers, it might be time to start leaving the lucky rabbit’s foot at home, because if you pattern it right then you might just have a big bass waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.

Ben Hudson, Pro Staff
“Blue Collar Bassin’“

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