One of the intricacies of the fishing game that we’re seeing play out today is the mind game of fishing in a crowd. Several of the anglers near the top are fishing within eyesight of each other and other anglers who are down the leaderboard. On the other hand, there are a few guys at the top who have areas relatively to themselves. Almost like a tournament within a tournament.

We see Jordon and Martens looking at each other in one of the areas they are both fishing during the course of the day. Duckett is working through a maze of other competitors and he was the Day One leader. On the BassTrakk, we can see that the best areas along the river have clusters of competitor’s boats, some of them in close quarters.

When we see these guys bumping rubrails, what really decides who is the better angler? Does Duckett have a better bait? Does Martens have some secret Left Coast rubber worm that Jordon doesn’t have? When you’re staring down the other guy, a la a Red River Standoff, does the guy with the strongest mental game come out on top? I’m sure that A-Mart would love to forget about last year’s near miss on Falcon Lake, but hey, lesson learned, dude cracked a little bit on Day 4. He let Velvick get in his head and it threw him off his game. It’ll be interesting to see if he can suck it up today and continue to produce.

In the close quarters situations that we’re seeing, it truly becomes a thinking man’s game. The angler who can watch the “other guy”, take note of the cover that he’s fishing, the baits he using, how many (and how big) he’s catching, and adjust his own game accordingly may be on top at the end of the day. Duckett may very well be taking note of every fish that the other anglers catch (or don’t catch) and adjusting his game better and faster than those around him.

On the other extremes are Iaconelli, Roumbanis, and Fralick. These guys are fishing pretty much by themselves or with only one other competitor within sight. They really don’t have to worry about seeing the guy ahead of them in the standings catch a 5-pounder from the row of trees they were headed for. The loners can go out, fish their game, and hope they catch more than the competition. Unlike those fishing in the crowds, they have the luxury of totally taking an area apart without worrying about keeping other competitors away from what they may find as a “sweet spot”. The thing they don’t have is the feedback from seeing other anglers catch — or not catch — fish.

Almost like a game within a game.

Kevin Short