Basszone.com published a great story on Wednesday about Steve Kennedy’s U.S. Open effort. On a per-mile-driven basis, the Alabama pro did not make out particularly well in Vegas, but if you judge based on per-hour-practiced, he likely lapped the field.
He made it to Mead in time to launch the boat on a totally new-to-him lake at 1pm on the last day of practice. The result? He finished 14th out of 224 boats.
The obvious question to ask is how much better he might’ve done if he’d scouted for a full three days or made an earlier trip to get the lay of the lake. The answer, though, is not so obvious. There’s not a direct correlation between number of effective hours of practice and tournament results because there are simply too many other variables in the mix. Kennedy apparently ingests and digests information so quickly that an overload could take him out of the moment on tournament day and actually harm his performance.
Even if it can’t be answered, that first question raises another one: If the daylight-to-dark crew were to practice shorter periods, might their results improve in some circumstances?
Unfortunately, we can’t answer that one, either. Tournament circuits provide no mulligans, no chances to go back under the exact same circumstances and try things out another way. All we have is guesswork and speculation.
That said, the pros, and especially the ones who are consistently at the top, understand what kind of practice suits them best. KVD always talks about how he doesn’t know exactly what he’s on until the tournament starts because he tries to anticipate where they’ll be tomorrow, not where they were yesterday – that means leaving fish during practice with only a portion of the puzzle solved. Keith Combs tries to pre-practice for every event. He feels that he’s leaving money on the table and limiting his chances to do so if he doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Ott DeFoe, meanwhile, rarely gets on the water before the cutoff period, believing that it locks him into past conditions and that two and a half days is plenty of time to get just about any body of water under his thumb. All three of them have pretty good track records, so they seem to have found a strategy that works for them.
That’s the hard part for weekend anglers. We don’t have coaches in this sport, and few of us are objective enough to analyze the personal practice data that is available. All too often people stay on the water too long or too little, or fish a particular style, not because it’s what suits them best, but rather it’s because what the herd is doing. At the same time, being a contrarian – “I’ll sleep in because that’s how Kennedy’s so successful” – isn’t the answer, either. There’s no “right” strategy, but like taste buds and marriage, the important thing is finding out what works for you.