It is a natural tendency -- a requirement, really -- for fishermen to use attention to the details of their sport to gain an advantage. The advantage can be earned through countless hours of water time and angling practice. Or, it can be gained through observation of other anglers.
I've found during tournament fishing that many anglers give away small details that can mean success or failure. If you ask what bait or lure they were using, you might get a variety of answers, most of them elusive. If you ask what waters they fished, you might also get myriad answers. The one sure way of getting the truth? Be observant.
A college professor once told me that the best way never to get lost in life is to be aware of your environment. This holds true on the fishing scene as well. If asking about baits, look at what is still on the hook or rigged on their rods. If asking about waters fished, notice the posture of the anglers. A hard trip in rough waters or a long ride shows differently than a short trip to inshore waters or along the flats.
During my tournament fishing days, I often played mind games that kept any advantage I may have earned secret. Most of the events were over three days, and not wishing to tip my hand, I often employed acts of ignorance to keep competitors at bay. By the use of this self-imposed deficiency, I found questions kept to a minimum. I was somewhat assured that any response I provided would be looked upon with some degree of doubt.
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Some of the tactics I employed to throw off the curious were simple, others a bit more elaborate. Nonetheless, they seemed to work.
At times I would engage my live well pump, which appeared as if I had forgotten to install the drain plug. This would initiate the "ignorant syndrome," and I was pretty much left alone from this point.
Another method was to have odd and inappropriate fishing gear on board. Fishing rods that didn't fit the bill and outrageous lures of dramatic colors and sizes sitting in rod holders for all to see. Some of my reels had their lines entangled into a mass of loops and festooned with knots that would cause the best of net makers to swear off the profession.
If the event was held at a landing, I displayed a posture of total oblivion when backing, emphasized more when launching and retrieving my boat. This pretty much assured that I had the entire landing to myself to come and go as I pleased and at my leisure.
While many had sponsor and patch master logos of every description on their clothing and boats, I opted for the more obscure. My cap logo was a ruptured duck taken from past military days. Sewn on the back of my shirt was, "It ain't over till the bubbles disappear." Over the front pocket was Big Buddy's Bait and Tackle, and my boat's only logo was "SwampFox." But many failed to read the fine print which stated -- "The best chew in the South."
My attire sometimes may have offended and my attitude was often abrasive, but it was all part of the game. And I must admit I fared pretty well.
As competitors came to know me on the circuit and I graduated to larger and more sophisticated events, my tactics had to evolve as well. But I doubt anyone can honestly say they knew what to expect from me.
And quite frankly, at times, neither did I.