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What makes the best "The Best"

Posted by admin on December 23, 2010

EE_citrus200.jpgTournament fishing is unlike any other competitive sport in the world. Period. The number of uncontrolled variables in professional fishing far exceeds the variables found in other sports. Therefore when a bass pro consistently performs at a high level against so many dynamic challenges – when they are on their ‘A’ game – it warrants a closer look. As a fan and writer of the sport of professional bass fishing, I’m fascinated with what makes the best pros the best pros. At today’s top levels of tournament competition, pros have access to all of the best equipment money can buy. What intrigues me, however, are the intangibles – the visceral, the things beyond boats, motors, line and lures. This is what separates the best from the best. When you go beyond luck to the core of a champion.

A pro’s fishing style, approach, decision making, motivation, belief about bass behavior and mental state are what count when their boat number is called on tournament day.

With that in mind, I’ve gone back through the 2010 season and pulled a few examples of what I witnessed as FLW pros performing at their highest level. What follows are some personal thoughts, opinions and analysis of FLW pros who are on their ‘A’ game.

hitePickwickWin_overstreet200.jpgThis may sound a little odd, but watching either Bryan Thrift or Andy Montgomery fish during a tournament kind of depresses me. Why? Because I know if I fished every day of my life for a 100 years, I would still not have the mad skills these two young gunners possess. Montgomery is hooked up again on a white ½-ounce Shooter jig.

OK, for those who have actually seen me fish, make that 200 years.

Thrift, of course, won the FLW Angler of the Year this year, and Montgomery took a BASS Open win to his credit, but I will not waste words with both of their impressive tournament records. Instead, I would rather try to describe what, in my mind, makes them so deadly on the water.

First and foremost, let’s talk fishing speed. These two guys, who grew up fishing team tournaments together in the Carolinas, exhibit a fishing speed that is of a Kevin VanDam pace. Hold on, I did not say either one of these pros is better than KVD; all I’m saying is that in terms of covering miles of water in a given fishing day, both Thrift and Montgomery exhibit that unique hyperintensive ability to cover and evaluate quality water accurately at high rates of speed.

Their fishing is based on a simple premise: Make more presentations than anyone else in a given amount of time.

They do it with a lot of voltage – 36 to be exact – and many times there is still not enough pounds-per-thrust in the trolling motor to fish as fast as they want. In one event this year, Montgomery actually melted the terminal posts off his deep-cycle batteries by “keeping it on the floor” for so long.

Bryan Thrift’s rod selection during the Guntersville practice. How many rods can you count?On their decks is a pile of rods, sometimes 15 to 20, each loaded with some kind of power technique – buzzbaits, swimming jigs, skipping jigs, flipping jigs, cranking jigs, crankbaits, toads, frogs and anything else you can reel fast on high-speed reels.

As they blitz down a bank they look like a buzz saw ripping into soft pine – casting, reeling and rotating rods with an aggressive tenacity.

Even without bites, they assess the water based on looks, color, clarity and “what should have bit.” They are hunting what Thrift calls “high-percentage water,” the rare two to 10 percent of the water that holds quality bass compared to the other 90 percent that does not. That's what makes a difference. > FLW Story