While not pure science to some observers, Tom Leedom, a researcher for a major pharmaceutical company, has found great success in his tournament fishing in San Diego County due to his method of practice.

This past Friday, as he was preparing for a team event he’ll be fishing this Saturday, he put his “scientific method” to work.  For Leedom, that basically means comparing secondary methods to certain “controls” or constants.

While many fishermen employ a sifting of methods or approaches as they prepare for competition, there can be issues that sometimes lessen the effectiveness of the prefish period.

One, of course, is the number of variables that can be controlled or sampled. For example, you may have 10 rigged rods and reels, but fishing alone, it’s harder to properly rule-out some methods when you can only give each one a limited amount of time. However, if you decide to “play winners” or utilize one constant, you risk missing out on a significant supplementary method.

On our trip to El Capitan, Tom spent only a short period of time at the extreme North end of the lake with all of its flooded trees and brush because the activity of the previous months was clearly diminished. It was farther out into the main lake that the bait showed up, mostly in less than 35 feet of water.


However, without publishing his waypoints, it was interesting to see him put his Lowrance side scanning sonar to work finding little irregularities along the channel edge. One little jewel he stopped on was a place he called “the money spot,” because, as he said, “I’ve won a lot of money on this little spot.”

And this was truly a spot. There was hardly anything to see on the meter, let alone much to “feel” on the bottom. It certainly it didn’t seem like the bottom change and attendant rock were more than a boat length in size. But in order to maintain his approach, he stuck with his core method, while I got to test several options such as jigging Heddon Sonars and ice jigs and rolling heavier under-spins.

As the day progressed, Tom stayed with his approach at almost every stop, except when he chose a jig for fishing the major points. When he briefly hung up, then pulled in a stick with several quagga mussels on it. Right then another factor presented itself, as I soon found out.

As I switched to a Carolina rig and got a few bites on a green pumpkin worm, I also ran into “trouble” fishing the boulder piles. When I used a sinker heavy enough to give me good bottom contact, when a fish tightened up, the mussels cut me off above the sinker.

As I was alluding to earlier, one difficulty using a control or especially as Tom referred to as “a negative control” is when fishing with partners, someone has to look beyond what’s obviously effective and work hard to prove what isn’t. And it really is work. But being committed enough to try and find something that might work at different depths, times of day or under varying water conditions–in order to prove it’s not effective, can make a difference in ultimate success.

At least it has for one San Diego County scientist.


3 Responses to “Prefish science at El Cap features ‘controls’”

Tom is absolutely one of the most methodical anglers I’ve ever been on the water with. His ability to put the puzzle together in a short amount of time is what I find most impressive. Count on his boat always being around fish.

Great article, George..

I prefer to use braid (30 lb Spiderwire Stealth)as my main line while carolina rigging, especially around nasties. There are pluses and minuses, but the sensitivity and time saved re-rigging the c-rig are worth it. It you hang it up, break out the 8 inch section of broom handle (or similar diameter oak branch), wrap the line 6 – 8 times , the wraps NEVER crossing over each other (cuts itself), and lean on that sucker. I hold it tight to my hip and roll the line across the back of my leg, leaning and turning. SOMETHING will give, but you won’t cut your hand, and IF the line snaps you don’t go flying when it lets go. I haven’t noticed the fish giving a damn that the main line is braid.

Good read, George. Had to read it twice. I wonder what his Lab looks like?