Crashing the SCORETRACKER Party
By Lynn Burkhead
September 21, 2017
Major League Fishing pro Marty Robinson is known far and wide for his nickname - Marty the Party Robinson.
That moniker might suggest to some that Robinson is the life of the party, someone who is always searching for a laugh and some good times.
When you hang around Robinson for any length of time, what you actually find is an easy going, laid back kind of angler who certainly loves to laugh, to smile and to have a little fun.
But there is also a deeper side to the South Carolina pro, a side that cares passionately for his craft and wants to be the very best.
So it wasn't all that surprising - to me at least - that when I asked Party about his thoughts on MLF's SCORETRACKER leaderboard, he turned a bit serious and reflective.
"I do like it because I think it brings another element of surprise to tournament fishing," said Robinson, who joined the Bassmaster Elite Series a decade ago with his South Carolina buddy, Casey Ashley.
"It obviously affects the nerves and the decisions that fishermen make on the water - now whether those effects are good or bad, it can go both ways," he added with his trademark laugh.
When I asked him to expand on that thought, Robinson said that obviously the live leaderboard is capable of affecting MLF pros in a bad, negative way that causes an emotional spin out.
"If you find yourself on the bottom side of the leaderboard, where it seems like everybody is catching them and you're not, then you're probably going to make some (emotional) decisions that you wouldn't normally make, like fishing too fast, stuff like that," he said.
But what about the good side of the leaderboard equation?
"On the other end of things, SCORETRACKER can affect you in a good way," agreed Robinson. "If you pull out into a big lead and see that nobody is within five or six-pounds of you, then it lets you fish relaxed. And in my opinion, the best way to fish is relaxed because you'll make better decisions.
"Now there can be a fine line in there because you don't want to become so relaxed that you stop being efficient at covering water and catching fish," he added.
With that in mind, I then asked Robinson about the voice - no, not the one starring Blake Shelton - but the voice that anglers hear inside of their head after a MLF boat official gives an unfriendly SCORETRACKER leaderboard update.
As in the voice that says "Hey you! You need to do something about all of this...and fast!"
Robinson laughed and acknowledged that he was certainly familiar with that voice that all MLF pros hear at some point during a day of competition.
But he indicated that he was also familiar with how to respond to that voice too.
"When you get out to a good lead, and you notice that SCORETRACKER is only showing other anglers climbing slowly, then maybe you'll fish a spot a little bit longer than you might otherwise," said Robinson.
"Or maybe you'll try to catch better quality," he added. "Maybe you'll go experiment a little bit and try for a bigger bite instead of trying to catch all numbers."
But what about the other voice, the negative one that anglers hear as the day seems to be spinning out of control a little bit?
"Yeah, the downside of SCORETRACKER is that when everybody in the group seems to be catching fish and you're not, then obviously you're going to think that you need to make a big move at that point in time," said Robinson.
But maybe not as big a move as one might think, or certainly not as much as the voice inside of an angler's head might be suggesting.
"You might not necessarily be missing the whole picture, especially if it's only one guy catching fish and making the leaderboard move," said Robinson.
"But if 80-percent of the field is out there catching fish and it's the time of day that they're feeding and active, then yeah, you need to make some adjustments, things like changing your techniques, changing areas, changing baits, etc."
Robinson laughs at this point and notes that sometimes, this is all easier said than done.
"You tell yourself to try and not let SCORETRACKER affect you, but we've all fished enough of these events to know that it's going to affect you whether you want it to or not," he said.
"The key becomes can you control your inner demons when you hear that SCORETRACKER update?" said Robinson. "If you can, then you can make decisions, decisions that will probably be better if they are not rushed or impatient ones.
"After all, one of the key virtues of fishing is just that, patience," he added. "But that's the very thing that SCORETRACKER kind of throws out of the boat in a hurry."
So if an angler gets a leaderboard update and the wheels start to come off mentally and emotionally, how does an angler go about recovering from that on-the-water spinout?
"The worst thing that you can do when you're at the bottom - the worst thing that you can do, the worst thing that I can do - is to lose your mind, to go running around, to go trying to change up too much too fast," said Robinson.
"When guys get way behind, they try to change up too much too soon instead of calmly trying to keep figuring out what fish are doing and what the pattern is."
Robinson notes that sometimes, even when the SCORETRACKER leaderboard suggests otherwise, an angler might not be that far off the correct idea, even if they find themselves at the back of the pack.
And he points out that in his MLF experience, the goal isn't to be in first place after the first period, or even the second one, but at the end of the third period when all of the boats are trailered and heading to the boat yard.
"It's all about making little subtle changes as the day progresses," said Robinson, noting that a MLF pro isn't trying to win a single skirmish as much as he is trying to win the day's angling battle and ultimately, the week's eventual top prize.
"And when you stay with those little subtle changes, then that's how the puzzle comes together," he also noted. "If you go around making too many big adjustments, then you're pretty much doomed in my opinion.
"But if you remain steady and confident in the decisions that you're making, subtle changes that is, then in my experience, about 80-percent of the time, you'll be pleased with the final result.
"Now when you finally get it figured out, it might be too late to win that particular day, but you can get into the cut and make it on to the next day."
In Robinson's mind, the bottom line with SCORETRACKER is that it's a tool, one that can help an angler instead of hurting them.
"But if you let it (get in your head), it can do more harm than good," he laughed.
And that's straight from Marty the Party Robinson, a MLF angling pro aiming to smile big and ultimately laugh his way to a Summit Cup or Challenge Cup title.