UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2021 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Should You Fish For a Limit?

Should You Fish For a Limit?
Matt Stefan

(The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)


Over the years I have often felt that the tournament slogan “five by three” was overrated because catching a limit of fish does not correlate to having a successful tournament. This is because often times if you are fishing to win a tournament you are targeting larger fish and getting fewer bites. On the flip side, catching five keepers doesn’t usually result in high finishes and cashing checks.

I still do believe that in a single-day event the best way to do well is to fish for quality and that chasing a limit is rather unimportant. Prior to fishing at the professional level the majority of events that I fished were one-day events and the hero to zero mentality was the approach I took. There were no points involved and big bags are needed to win events, so that what I fished for.

Since fishing the FLW Tour my mentality has changed from I approached local tournaments. I still don’t set out to catch a limit, but there is significant importance to securing five fish and obtaining as many points as possible. 

Let me explain.

My first three years on Tour I finished in the middle of the pack ending the year between 78th and 88th in the Angler of the Year points. I started questioning whether or not I could compete at this level and was trying to evaluate if I could make a career out of the sport I love. In order to figure out what I needed to improve on I went back and looked at each of my results from every tournament over that three-year span. I realized that there was a total of 60 potential fish I could weigh over the first two days of competition throughout the six scheduled tournaments. From 2011 to 2013, I brought nine, 13 and seven fish fewer than my 60 fish maximum. Obviously, that’s a lot of fish that I could have used to finish higher in each event, but just how much better would I have done?

The first thing I did was to look at each event in which I did not weigh a limit both days. I then figured the weight of a minimum-length fish to fill each empty limit spot. For example, if I was short a fish on Beaver Lake, I added in the weight of one 12-inch spotted bass – which I estimated to be about ¾-pounds. I then looked to see how much that additional weight would have moved me up in the standings for that event.

 After running the numbers, had I filled my limit each day with the minimum-length keeper I would have finished roughly 40th in points all three years. Had I replaced a couple of those small keepers with 2 ½-pounders, I would have qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup all three years. In fact, this has held true in the four years I have not made the Forrest Wood Cup.

This just shows how important limits are in multi-day tournaments that have year-end championships.  Points are crucial and at the end of the season each point you can salvage by filling a limit may be the difference between fishing the championship or watching it from your couch. I still always target the fish I believe will give me my best chance of finishing highest, but if the day is not going well and I have a couple places I think I can catch small keepers relatively quickly I’m not afraid to give it some time knowing that at the end of the year it might make a difference.  

Tags: matt-stefan  blog 

Fall Means Topwater Time

Fall Means Topwater Time

The one thing I look forward to the most in the fall isn’t the beautiful views, eating turkey or watching football, instead I’m a fan of watching fish crush topwater baits. READ MORE »

Buck’s Tent Camping Tips

Buck’s Tent Camping Tips

When not on the road for tournaments, my wife and I love to travel, fish and camp together. Our favorite destinations are Oneida Lake and the 1000 Islands in New York, in search of giant smallmouth, as well as National Parks around the country. READ MORE »

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

Coming into the final Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament event on Lake Erie there were so many things riding on it. Obviously, it was a chance to make a paycheck, but more importantly it was the last chance to earn enough points to qualify for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota. READ MORE »

Encouraging Youth Fishing

Encouraging Youth Fishing

Not long ago, with support from many sponsors, I had a blast hosting a very successful first-annual Youth Fishing Derby at Green Lane Park in Pennsylvania. READ MORE »

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My plan going into the Mississippi River event is pretty simple. I’m going to have four rods on the deck of my boat: Two flipping sticks and two frog rods. In my experience in western Wisconsin, that’s what will work the best for me to get big bites. READ MORE »

Guiding and Mentoring

Guiding and Mentoring

Now that we are back on track with fishing, and hopefully developing some normalcy to our lives again, I am excited to keep going with what I started talking about at the beginning of the year – mentorship of young anglers. READ MORE »

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

There’s a big change coming to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. READ MORE »

Fishing with Confidence

Fishing with Confidence

This year, I’ve chosen to home in on trusting my gut, even with tough practices. I’m happy to share that I rarely have a practice that’s worth writing home about. It’s just the way it goes, and I’ve learned to not let the discouragement affect the tournament. READ MORE »

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Like everyone else, I had concerns about when we would be able to resume our 2020 season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. Probably a bigger concern was what the rest of the season would look like. READ MORE »

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. For the first time in my pro career, I’ve been home for much of the spring, and while it was great to fish local waters and get some projects done around the house, I’m ready to get back to fishing tournaments. READ MORE »

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Recently announced changes to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit have me extremely excited to get the season back under way. Specifically, a good number of the Major League Fishing anglers will be fishing the remaining three Pro Circuit Super Tournament events with increased payouts. This makes these truly the most lucrative five-fish-limit events in the country, with potentially half of the tournament field being paid $10,000 or more. READ MORE »

My Line-Thru Addiction

My Line-Thru Addiction

Pollen is in the air, on the water and covers my boat on a daily basis. When this happens, it means one thing to me – the bass are on the bed. Now, most people are all giddy about sight-fishing, but that’s not my deal. I can count on two hands how many fish I’ve caught truly sight-fishing. What comes to my mind during this time is swimbait fishing, but more specifically, one kind of swimbait in particular – a line-thru swimbait. READ MORE »

Making the Most of Quarantine

Making the Most of Quarantine

At the beginning of this year I was excited about the opportunity to fish the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and the Bassmaster Elite Series. I was most excited about fishing the spawn in March and April on some of my favorite lakes. When the schedules for both circuits were first released I was feeling very confident about doing some sight-fishing on Santee Cooper, Eufaula and Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »

The Real Reason I love Spring

The Real Reason I love Spring

Fishing for a living is awesome, but when spring comes it can be tough. April is always a busy month for tournaments – and the fishing is usually fantastic – but I really love to turkey hunt and tournaments can put a damper on that. READ MORE »

A Silver Lining

A Silver Lining

From spending some quality time with my wife, Katie, and my dog, Doppler, to organizing my life and fun fishing, there are numerous ways that I have been able to take advantage of our current social responsibility to participate in “social distancing.” READ MORE »

Encouraging the Next Generation

Encouraging the Next Generation

Growing up in the city of Chicago, I didn’t have the outlet to the outdoors that a lot of our youth enjoy while growing up. It often takes hours to travel out of the city due to traffic, and there were no lakes within walking distance from my house. So it’s not like I could swing by the pond after school. READ MORE »

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

When selecting a new rod, I consider several elements: action, power, length and components.  Different rods will fit the role, depending on the type of lure, cover and fish species you are targeting. READ MORE »

Always Go Down Swinging

Always Go Down Swinging

Greg Bohannan's late father, Kenny, taught his sons to never take a third strike looking. "If you take the pitch and don't swing, you never give yourself a chance," he'd say. With that lesson in mind, Greg took his cuts at Lake Martin and gave himself a shot to win. Even though it didn't work out, he knows that at least he went down swinging. READ MORE »

How to Catch Your New PB

How to Catch Your New PB

Out of the five biggest fish I have caught in my life, four have come on a ChatterBait, including my personal best – a 9-pounder I caught this year on Sam Rayburn during the first Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event. READ MORE »

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Without a doubt, during a tournament day I always get a question from my Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Marshal about why I have both left- and right-handed Abu Garcia baitcast reels. I get comments about the same thing from multiple social media followers if I post a picture that shows my reels. The remarks originally surprised me, but not any longer because of how frequently I see them. READ MORE »