Sunday, February 20, 2011

To Team or Not To Team

One of the most controversial topics in competitive walleye fishing, probably for all competitive fishing events, is teaming. For those that are not in the inner circle of competitive walleye fishing, here is how it works.

There are three major walleye tournament circuits, the Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC), the FLW Walleye Tour and the AIM Walleye circuit. The MWC is a team tournament where two people fish together as a team with the goal of bringing in the heaviest weight over two days with a limit determined by local regulations. The FLW and AIM pair individual professionals with a different, randomized amateur each day of the tournament. It does not matter who catches the fish, the pro or the amateur. The pro tries for the heaviest weight over the 3 days of the tournament. In all three tournaments there can be no communication, during the hours on the water of the tournament, with other boats so it is each team or individual pro against the rest of the field. However, before the tournament and after tournament hours teams (MWC) and individual pros (FLW, AIM) can share information i.e. where they caught fish, what bait they used etc. This is where teaming comes into place.

Teams (MWC) or Individual Pros (FLW, AIM) team with others forming a "team" of 2-4. Most "teams" are formed by friends or some sort of common interest like geography, pro-staffers from the same company or they may be in the same fishing club. Others are a bit more calculated. There are teams that were put together based on where the venues of the tour were usually located. This lead to a pro, who was a great angler on the great lakes, recruiting a great angler whose home water was on the Mississippi River and another angler who was well known on the reservoirs of the Dakotas. The thinking is obvious, each angler with expertise on their home water will help the others on waters that they are not familiar with prior to each tournament. There are several of these "super teams" on each of the walleye tours which can make things daunting for someone who is fishing "alone".

"Teams" travel together and share expenses which is an obvious benefit. They will generally get to the location to pre-fish 5-7 days prior to the tournament. There are several advantages of working as a team. The biggest is 2-4 people can cover a lot more water to find the fish than just one person. For example on a tournament on the Mississippi River there is 60 miles of river to fish. If you have a team of 4 you can break down the river into sections with each person responsible for the section he/she was assigned. If someone starts catching fish on a certain lure or using a certain pattern, he/she calls the others and they can see if that works in other sections that are similar. In 5-7 days this team will have a pretty good game plan on where and how to catch fish. Other benefits include local knowledge, diversity of techniques of each of the fisherman, resources (one person on the team might have access to a secret bait) etc.

I am all for teaming. It has been going on forever and it is a fun way to fish. I am not sure why but it is a topic that most do not like to discuss. Maybe it is because some don't like others to know that they share winnings or maybe they don't want others to know that they had help finding the fish. Regardless of the reason teaming goes on and it is something each fisherman has to think about.

I have been part of a team and I have fished alone. Last year I teamed up with my friend, and mentor, Mark Michael. We had a great time and had our opportunities. Mark has decided not to fish this year so he can spend more time with family. When teaming up you have to have trust and it helps to be friends that is why I enjoyed fishing with Mark. Now with him out of the game I  have to make a decision to team or not to team.

I only asked one person and our schedules do not match so I have decided to fish alone. Some will say I don't have a chance against these super teams. Overall they probably have a point. However, I have been in the hunt before and think that I have a punchers chance at winning! I am sure I will have my struggles but if I do pull one off, fishing by myself against these "super teams", it will be oh so sweet!

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