UPDATED, Aug. 16, 10 a.m.–If it’s possible to make better decisions on the water, how do you do that? Is there a formula that works, or is there so much luck involved? If you don’t have a process you go through, maybe we can look to another sport and see how they do it.

On the NFL Channel, they talk about “down and distance” as being the factors responsible for calling a play. Yes, there is back and forth scouting of tendencies by both sides, and furthermore, the execution of the play will be critical. But making a decision (play call) is so similar to bass competition: How much time do we have and what do we need for a max score (time and weight)?

WHAT NEXT? That should be dictated by time left and weight needed...

In a multi-day tournament, choices made on the morning of the first day may not be quite as critical, because there are more “downs” or days or hours to adjust. In a one-day tournament, the downs are often just hours, maybe only minutes. Distance (weight for this discussion), of course, changes from lake to lake, season to season and in some cases, hour to hour.

“Big fish” waters have a higher ceiling, while “limit lakes” merely require a limit. Yet sometimes even those weights may shrink  due to fishing pressure over several days. One-day events can be trickier, especially if a lake suddenly under-produces for a few weeks. But the foundation for the decision making should remain the same. Time and weight–even if it’s only an anticipated or expected weight–should still govern the choices.

Unfortunately, some situations may come up during a day that entirely alter an angler’s later decisions. Maybe its due to a mechnical failure, a lost big fish from a one-chance location, being locked out of a primary area due to boating or tournament traffic or some unusual occurrence such as an on-the-water accident.  Then the reasonable weight expectation may have to change.  A pre-planned approach turns to junk fishing, and you take what you can get.

But making that decision is still better than mucking your cards and moaning over your fate. Decisions mean everything out there and some will work out and some just won’t. But when you factor in the time you have to fish and the weight you likely need to produce during that time, you should come out ahead most days.

TWO CLASSIC SCENARIOS: (1.) You believe you need 5 pounds more to make the money and you have 90 minutes to fish. You have an area 35 minutes away (from weigh-in site) that produces significantly bigger bites. You have a second area 15 minutes away that gives up numbers, and on occasion a few bigger than average bites. Where to you go with time and weight in mind?

(2.) You need an average limit to stay in the money; it will take a double the average limit will win. A minimum of 4 hours of running time to fish the bigger fish to win (which you may split with your partner). You can stay in sight of the marina and hold your place in the standings. Time and wight–what do you do? (This is the Clunn gambit, 1984).

Having said that, what works for you?