To Look or Not to Look, That is the Question: The Leaderboard

Bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, 2 outs and a full count. The next pitch will determine the game.

Only 0:03 seconds left on the clock, it’s 4th and goal from the 1 yard line and you’re down by 5. You dial up your best play!

Our fascination with sports derives from our love of competition. The pitting of one person, or team against another with strict rules that determine each’s score. The outcome for one is victory and for the other, defeat. Who will come out on top? Fishing however is slightly different. There’s a third party conspiring against all competitors. The fish! It’s angler vs. angler AND angler vs. fish. The closest parallel in professional sports is golf, where the golfer is also competing against the course. Another area they parallel is in the scoreboard. The Quarterback knows he’s down by 5 and that this pass will determine the game. The pitcher knows he must get the out to seal their victory. But what does the fisherman know?

As golfers move through the course, they hear the roar of the crowd cheering a putt on a neighboring green. Who just made birdie? What’s their round compared to mine? A hole later, and they see one of the leaderboards. They know the score, and know what they need to do. But as a professional fisherman on the FLW or BASS tour goes through their day, they can’t check the scoreboard. They don’t know if they need to put up 15-lbs or 20 to make the cut! MLF has changed the game a bit with the Scoretracker. Anglers can now know the score of the game they’re playing. The league I fish, KBF, is the same. On TourneyX you can track the score sometimes right up till the end of the competition so you may know the score between you and other anglers, but what about the battle against the fish? This brings up the question, how much do you (or should you) watch the scoreboard?

If you survey professional golfers, you’re likely to get a range of responses. “Yes, I always want to know just where I stand after each and every hole”, “No, I’m just going to play my game and see how it plays out”, “Sometimes I check, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the situation.” For the angler in a KBF Tournament its much the same. I’ve talked to anglers who are constantly checking the leaderboard. I also know some that never check it. Lets discuss the two sides of the coin.

Are You Looking?

What do you gain from looking at the leaderboard? Well you might learn which kind of fish is dominating that day (Largemouth vs Smallmouth). You might gain confidence seeing you’re sitting high up on the board. You might see that an angler has accidentally shown what lure they were using in the photo when they caught that 21” bass. And you may be motivated even more seeing where you stand to keep pushing, maybe giving it just that little bit extra. Or maybe it’s just to satisfy your curiosity.

But there’s a flip side to that. If you check the board and you’re sitting in first place you may become complacent. You might not run the extra bit to hit that last rockpile, you may not fish the last day of the month even though someone may be sandbagging with a huge bag (We’ll talk about sandbaggers later). Or maybe you’re having a bad day, you’re sitting far down on the board, and the leader already has 95 inches. The thoughts start to run through your head “I’ve never even gotten 95 inches out of this lake” or something similar. You’re already feeling defeated. So you go through the rest of day not trying. You’ve essentially given up.

You really need to examine what kind of personality you have, and ask these questions. How will knowing I’m in the lead effect how I fish? How will knowing I’m far behind effect how I fish? You need to weigh those answers against what benefit you gain from either. If you’re motivated by being the underdog, then maybe looking isn’t such a bad thing. Every personality is different and you need to determine what will work best for you. I have a few simple rules for checking the leaderboard.

In live events it’s simple. I don’t check until I have a limit. No sense in looking at the board if I don’t have a limit on there. I just assume I’m low on the board. The drive to get a limit is first, then it’s time to upgrade. But how much of an upgrade do I need? Thats where a peek at the leaderboard can help. Can I keep working my pattern, make some small upgrades, and hope there’s a kicker fish in there? Or do I need to swing for the fences, tie on a big fish bait, and start chucking because only a couple big bites will help at this point. Knowing the score helps push me to finish after a long day on the water. Skipping to every dock on the way back to the ramp, casting until the very last second.

I took a quick peek during this event and it was certainly motivating.

Multi day events are slightly different. Everyone obviously looks between Day 1 and Day 2. You need to know if your strategy is paying off and you’re in contention, or if you need to regroup and come up with another plan. Just don’t fall into the trap of “Oh, I only got a small limit day 1 and the leader has a huge lead” because that leader can bomb day 2. You never know what will happen so never give up hope going into the second day.

The online events I do are a slightly different animal. Knowing an event goes all month can wreak havoc on the habitual scoreboard watcher. You might be away for the first week. You get home and 10 guys already have 100 inches on the board. Do you try to play catch-up? Do you throw in the towel for the monthlong already? My policy for the monthlong is I don’t look at all until the last week of the month. And even then, I mirror my policy for the live events and I only look if I have a decent bag. I love fishing new water. I love exploring and trying to break down someplace I’ve never been. It’s how I find the new favorite lakes. But this is where looking at the leaderboard can come into play. It’s sunday the 30th, I’m sitting in 4th place, 2 inches back and I still have a 16-inch fish on my board. Do I go to a new lake that I’ve never fished, or do I hit one of my good lakes that I know can produce decent fish? If I didn’t look at the board, I never would have known I was close. I might have gone off to a new lake, had fun exploring it, and maybe I would have gotten my upgrade, maybe not. But knowing I was so close, I could certainly increase my odds by going to someplace I know.

The last thing to contemplate is sandbaggers. This concept is completely unique to KBF. The golfer who chooses to look up at the board will know exactly where he stands. In MLF, Scoretracker is instantly updated. Now I can totally understand the cell coverage issues. The Adirondack Park is more dead zone than covered. But KBF allows anglers to upload fish at will. Which means an angler in full cell coverage can CHOOSE not to upload fish until the end of the day. So all that scoreboard watching, all that motivation, or demotivation can mean nothing when some scores aren’t there. I’ll never understand the reasoning behind sandbagging. Maybe they don’t want to take the 30 seconds to upload the fish, maybe they don’t want people to know how they’re doing, maybe it’s a traditional thing not knowing the score until the weigh-in back at the dock. But that’s not where fishing is going. People want to know the score. More importantly, the folks at home, your friends and family watching online, want to see the score.

The leaderboard will be a shadow that hangs over every angler who fishes in a tournament with live coverage. To know where you stand can be a blessing, or it can be a curse. And with sandbaggers lurking in the dark, any information must be taken with a grain of salt. So while you’re out there on the water; will you refrain from looking, or will curiosity get the better of you?

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