The Good, the Bad and the Recovery
How MLF Pros Handle SCORETRACKER LIVE! Updates
By Lynn Burkhead
September 1, 2017
For NASCAR fans attending a restrictor plate race at Talladega or Daytona, it's hard not to watch the multi-car pile-ups when they occur.
After all, as the saying goes, "If you ain't rubbing, you ain't racing!"
In that moment, there's the smell of burning rubber, the flying around of twisted sheet metal, tires bouncing through a wall of smoke and flames, a demolition derby spectacle that will cause plenty of water cooler talk the next day as fans tell where they were and what they were doing when "The Big One" came.
In similar fashion, the sport of bass fishing now has its own version of "The Big One," something that on the surface might seem innocent enough at first glance.
But never - NEVER - underestimate the mental meltdown, the train wreck inducing agony of a Major League Fishing boat official clearing his throat and announcing to the world: "I've got a SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard update to pass along."
Because when those updates come, that's when the day's fun really begins.
Some MLF anglers like Idaho's Brandon Palaniuk indicate that they enjoy the live leaderboard updates: "I love having the SCORETRACKER LIVE! because it allows me to make the best decisions on the water to do what's necessary to win."
Other MLF pros like Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet admit that the leaderboard updates can play havoc with their fisherman's psyche: "It typically tightens me up. I feel a sense of urgency. It really makes it hard to fish my normal pace. I (really) have a love hate relationship with it."
For still others like Kansas MLF pro Brent Chapman, a leaderboard update is a double-edged sword of both good and bad.
"I love it when I'm the guy in the lead," said Chapman, a longtime veteran of MLF events who has competed as an alternate, a Select pro and now as a full-time Cup level angler.
"When you're in the lead, I think it helps you to go out and kind of set the pace. But I hate it when things are going bad, I can't get anything going and I keep getting those updates about how well someone else is doing."
Which brings up a pertinent question about how quickly SCORETRACKER LIVE! updates force an angler to adjust the day's game plan.
For Chapman, change comes quickly when he gets an update that isn't favorable: "If I fish for 10 or 15 minutes and don't catch one and then I hear that somebody else has caught several, then I know what I need to do."
In a similar fashion, Tennessee pro Ott DeFoe doesn't waste much time either: "Once I see that I'm not keeping pace with half the field, I know I need to make a major change."
Palaniuk indicates that he is a little more reserved with the speed of his in-game adjustments.
"If one guy is smashing them, but not the majority of the group, then it is most likely an area (that is bringing success) and I'll make an area change," he said. "If everyone is catching them it could be an area or a technique and I'll began moving and changing (things) up."
In a similar manner, Edwin Evers, the Oklahoma pro who has two MLF Challenge Cup wins to his credit, says that he uses SCORETRACKER LIVE! to process information that he hopes will help him succeed throughout the day.
"I think that SCORETRACKER LIVE! tells you a lot," said Evers, the 2016 Bassmaster Classic champion. "It tells me what size the fish are, how many are being caught and if I'm on the right kind of stuff.
"It makes me change things up a lot faster if the SCORETRACKER LIVE! is lighting up with fish being caught."
DeFoe has a similar thought process: "I like having the info (it provides) just to gain (some) knowledge of what kind of day it is on a scale of 1 to 10. This helps me decide if I need to look for 50 pounds or if 25 will accomplish my goal for the day."
For Kriet, he wants to know if the live leaderboard lighting up is a solid trend, or if it is merely something that is being influenced - for the moment, at least - because a guy ran over a big school of fish.
"Generally, the score tracker blows up in flurries," he said. "It's obvious when the fish start to bite because multiple guys will catch them.
"If one particular angler starts teeing off on them, obviously I start thinking of their strengths and fishing styles," he added. "I'm not (overly) concerned if just one guy is jumping ahead. I definitely make changes (though) when I start falling behind the cut line."
How does a MLF angler recover from the mental and emotional blow that comes when a MLF boat official gives a painful SCORETRACKER LIVE! update?
Since this is where the train wrecks and emotional spin outs can occur, most anglers admit a bit of a struggle here, one that is sometimes painfully obvious in front of the Outdoor Channel television cameras that are looking on.
When a bad update comes, DeFoe will often make major, wholesale changes to what he's doing.
"Typically, when this happens, for me it's a back up and punt," he laughed. "When that happens, I like to run to the far end of the course or even try to push my boat into areas that are not easily accessible."
For Kriet, bad news on a leaderboard update can deal a serious emotional blow that he has to work hard to overcome.
"My biggest weakness in MLF has been when I start slow," said Kriet. "It's really easy for it to seem hopeless when you get way behind. But you have to get over that feeling. There have been lots of guys that have come from last to inside the cut in the third period. I have to work on this."
Palaniuk tends to be an even keel kind of angler that doesn't always wear his emotions on his sleeve. But even BP acknowledges that it can be tough to overcome a bad leaderboard update when it seems like everyone in the world is catching fish except you.
"The best (and also hardest) thing you can do is to not freak out," he said. "Use the information you're given at the time and make smart decisions. "
Chapman deals with bad news from the boat official by trying to process the information he's heard, then putting blinders on, turning the trolling motor on and simply going back to work to try and catch fish.
"You've just got to keep fishing, you've got to go out there and you've got to try and tune it out," he said.
"The more that I've done this and seen it play out, you start to realize that while you can certainly dig yourself into a hole, it's also pretty amazing how quickly you can dig yourself back out too."
Chapman offers a couple of prime examples that serve to illustrate his point.
"On the daily round at the Cookeville, Tenn. Select that James Watson won, we were both bringing up the back of the pack earlier in the day," said Chapman. "But he ended up winning and I ended up second if I remember right.
"And in one of the other Select events that year, Jason Christie won a round where he caught almost all of his weight in a very short stretch of time in the third period."
In each instance, the anglers languishing back in the pack had to corral their emotions, put their nose to the grind stone, keep on fishing and hope for the best.
"The only way to recover when you fall behind on SCORETRACKER LIVE! is to put fish in the boat," said Arkansas MLF pro Mark Rose.
Which with any luck will make the leaderboard sing, hopefully to the point of putting the pressure on other anglers, for a little while at least.
"It's an interesting game to play and it has taken me some time to learn it and understand it," said Chapman. "Sometimes I think SCORETRACKER LIVE! helps, sometimes I think it hurts."
But it always, always entertains.
Especially when there's a train wreck on the water.