Taking Calculated Risks
Taking risks is part of what makes any athletic competition exciting. On the flip side, Be careful, Play it Safe, and Don’t Rock the Boat are not the words that great athletes live by. Instead, top competitors embrace opportunities to branch out, try new things, and be innovative. Fundamentally, they enjoy taking risks. To be a great angler, especially a top competitive angler, you need to be prepared to go beyond the norm, to take some calculated risks. But what exactly does take some calculated risks mean to a fisherman?
Well, for starters, not all risks are the same, and not every risk is worth taking. It makes sense to evaluate the potential gain or loss associated with risks before you take them, don’t you think? Let me offer some guidance that might help.
When something that might be risky looms on the horizon, ask yourself these questions:
1) If this risk backfires or doesn’t work out, what’s the worst thing that could happen? So for example, if you are thinking of running a narrow, shallow gap with your boat, is the worst thing that could happen that you drag your skeg through mud or sand for 10 yards? Or is this gap filled with rocks that could take off your lower unit? Pretty clearly, the former risk may be worth taking; the latter is probably not!
2) Who else might be affected by the risk you are about to take? Perhaps you are thinking of driving 20 miles across open water into a 25 mile per hour wind. Okay, who’s in the boat with you? If it’s your usual tournament partner, and he readily agrees, maybe you want to make that run. If your boat partner is your young son or daughter, and they will not enjoy getting pounded for a half-hour boat ride, you might a reconsider your risk.
3) Is now the best time to take this risk? It might not seem like a big risk to run your boat wide open through a narrow yet familiar river channel early on a weekday morning, for example, when the weather is clear, you can see forever, and there are no other boats around. However, if it’s foggy, if you have your neighbor’s boat, and/or if this is an unfamiliar spot, you might want to throttle back a bit. Similarly, heavy boat traffic on Saturday afternoon might make this a much more risky move than it was early last Tuesday.
4) What are other, less risky options I could try right now? One of the keys to making good decisions generally is accurately and objectively evaluating your options before you make up your mind. This becomes particularly important when the decision you want to make involves some risk. So let’s say you are fishing boat docks on a weekend afternoon, when most docks are covered with sunbathers, waterskiers, and little kids chasing panfish. When you finally find an unoccupied one, is it worth risking ringing the dinner bell if you miss your opening and hit a metal dock with that ¾ oz. jig you have tied on? Maybe it would be less risky to take a moment and rig up something quieter, like a tube bait or a floating worm.
So the next time you have an opportunity to take a risk, ask yourself these four questions, and if any of your answers make you uncomfortable, or give you pause, it’s probably better to wait than to act. In general, more problems come from taking too many risks too soon than from waiting or taking too few.
Another way to think about this would be to use your favorite pro angler as a model, and ask yourself, What would Denny Brauer, or Rick Clunn, or Larry Nixon, or Shaw Grigsby do in this situation? Once again, if you not sure, it’s probably better to get more information rather than jump in with both feet.
Popular language emphasizes immediate action. You hear sayings like Go For It, Git R Done and Do It Now. However, when it comes to taking calculated risks, you might want to consider these words as well, Never Bet More Than You Can Afford to Lose.