One popular tournament strategy is to find areas where no one else is fishing. This can be accomplished several ways; by running a long way, by fishing in hard to reach places or on river systems, locking through to another pool. Last week’s B.A.S.S. Open on the Arkansas River saw angler’s trying all of these techniques and its eventual winner, Tommy Biffle used a jet drive aluminum rig to reach areas that the other angler’s couldn’t get their fiberglass boats into.
All of these tournament tactics have their risks and rewards, but the riskiest strategy of all is often going through locks. B.A.S.S. and most other larger tournament organizations will set up a locking schedule whenever we are on a river with locks but the locks are designed to carry commercial traffic and they have priority. Because of this priority, anglers often arrive at the scheduled times only to find that there is a barge in the lock and that they will be unable to get back to the weigh-in by their check-in time.
If you haven’t ever had the opportunity to go through one of these big locks, you are missing an interesting experience. At Muskogee, you could either go up the Verdigris River or go downstream and lock into Kerr Lake. Both of these locks are massive; 600 feet long and 110 feet wide. The lock going into Kerr lowers boats 46 feet and holds approximately 5 million gallons of water. Lock 17, the one going up the Verdigris, raises you 22 feet and holds about 2.5 million gallons of water. I went through Lock 17 during practice and shot the video below to give any of you who haven’t done this a feel for what it’s like to use these locks.
Fortunately for me, I was able to find some fish last week at Muskogee that were in the same pool we were launching from so I didn’t have to lock during the tournament. I almost always prefer to avoid the locks and have more time to fish since you’ll almost always loose 2 hours of your day by the time you lock threw twice but I have done it in the past. It’s worked some times and I’ve been late because of it at other times.
I had a friend lock up this past week, with the intention of hitting one spot and locking back down early if it didn’t work out. In this case, as soon as the lockmaster closed the gates, he informed the anglers that he had a barge coming and it would take them 5 hours to clear the locks. It actually took 7 hours, so my buddy ended up having to fish an area that he really didn’t have a lot of confidence in and in which he failed to catch a keeper. That’s the risk he took and in this case he paid the price. That’s the tournament game. Small decisions that look right, sometimes don’t work out.
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