[15 April 2021 – Editor’s note: Harold wrote this piece to us in an email back in 2012. When I read it, it really drove home how much effort he put into being Tournament Director. Now reading back on this a second time, it shows me how much he helped the BFA out. Harold is sorely missed by us, and the sport as a whole.]
I thought you all might like to hear a little bit about how we used to schedule events back when I was the Tournament Director for B.A.S.S. We didn’t just schedule events on weeks that were available, there was a method to my madness.
When I first started fishing, I would always see a piece published in the sport magazines and local papers titled, “Best Fishing Times.” I always wondered if it was valid and how someone could determine the best times from the worst or if there was such a thing.
Years after this, after we organized the Chattanooga Bass Club, and started fishing tournaments, I again wondered about the “Best Fishing Times” and set out to prove or disprove them altogether.
With the club I figured I had a good number of anglers in which to draw the data from and that could help me determine if this was hokey or not. I came up with a small catch report and gave it to each angler before the day started. The anglers were then asked to record where they caught their fish, what lure they caught it on and its color and what time the catch was taken. Then the anglers were to return the reports to me at weigh-in.
What the anglers didn’t know was I was using the reports to compare with the times published in the magazines.
At the end of the year at one of our club meetings I took and wrote the published best times on a blackboard for each tournament and beside that I wrote the times the club members said they caught their fish. The results blew everyone’s minds. The results showed that 94 percent of the time the fish were caught during the published best times.
Later after I went to B.A.S.S. and became their tournament director, BassMaster Magazine was publishing a “Best Times” by Dan Barnett. I contacted Dan and asked him how he determined the times. He told me they were based on the moon and they’d worked for many years, if you knew how to interpret them.
During our conversation I asked him to make me a chart for the best week in each month along with the second, third and fourth best weeks. I also asked him to make sure those best times fell within our tournament dates and the hours we’d be on the water.
The last thing I asked him was not to tell anyone about what he was doing for me because I was going to use it to schedule our tournaments a year in advance so we had either the best week or second-best week in each month.
From then on Dan made me that chart each year until 1987 when I left. We were always able to schedule our tournaments for the best or second-best week for as long as I was the Tournament Director. It would always assure that we’d have the best fishing for that month.
For years we gave the anglers questionnaires to fill out and mail back to us after each event. the return rate was around 60 percent and all of them had the question, “What time did you catch your fish and what time did you get your biggest?” Again, the anglers didn’t know I was using the data to compare with the data that Dan had given me a year in advance.
According to the data the anglers gave me, the times they caught their fish hit Dan’s predictions 96 percent of the time. Pretty amazing and also definitive results showing the “Best Times” work.
There is a best time to catch fish but most anglers never use this knowledge.
Past Reader Comments:
Chad Keogh: I have always wondered about those Solunar Charts published in magazines. My take on it though, was that since I had limited time to fish due to work and family obligations, that I would not let them sway me. Instead, I just try to make the most of every moment on the water I can regardless of what the bite is supposed to be like.
Plus, I wonder if it might negatively affect the way an angler fishes if he pays attention to those times too religiously? Might someone become less focused during the “slow periods” and miss bites because they figure they aren’t going to happen based on the charts? Might they fish too fast or aggressively during the “peak times”?
I’ll stick to the constant slow, steady, and focused approach. It’s worked so far!
Harold Sharp to Chad Keogh: The point we tried to make with our survey of the times was to always know the best times when you started fishing, so you could be on your best locations during these times and fishing instead of running from one end of the lake to the other looking for a place to fish. The best time to bass fish is still anytime you can get on the water, but if you check the charts you can be fishing instead of boating when time is right.
Chad Keogh to Harold Sharp: I understand totally Harold. If I fished professionally, or ran a professional tournament trail, I would do exactly what you did. For the guys like me though, that have a full-time job (not fishing), and family obligations though, fish when you can and make the most of every minute is the plan.
Don’t get me wrong, I read every word of everything you put on this site and others. Anyone who doesn’t listen to someone of your experience is a fool who thinks he knows everything and has ceased to learn anything. Keep the articles coming!!!
Dave: Thanks for sharing that info. That had to be a labor of love given the time it takes to organize and utilize data, especially pre-computer. As an acquaintance and somewhat apostolic follower of Ned Kehde’s finesse blog and system I will be sure to pass a link along to him. He has been experimenting with following the predicted best times and reporting the results for those hours.
Terry to Dave: Dave, to say Harold took his job seriously would be an understatement. It was his passion and he wanted to make sure everything was done to the utmost degree of fairness and also offered the anglers and the fans the best events possible. Read some of his pieces on the lengths he went to make sure the first Classics were kept a secret.
Harold Sharp to Dave: I can’t prove it, but we also believed we got the best weather during the best week for fishing. I was amazed at how close the times were to what Dan gave me a year before the tournament.