I once fished an event (a bass club event) that was very important to me as far as pride and point standings go. This tournament was on a body of water I enjoy very much and normally do very well on. However, for some reason I just could not crack the code. I was even faking illnesses to take time off work so that I could prefish more. Nothing helped, and come tournament morning I didn’t have a clue where to go or what to do. Other anglers were catching bass; there were fishing reports all over saying how good the bass fishing was, and that catching 12-14 pound stringers were the norm. I was lucky to catch two or three.
Tournament morning and my turn to roll out, I hit the river and let my gut take over. I had done a lot of prefishing and in my opinion eliminated a lot of water and non productive patterns. Taking what I had learned over the last two weeks I removed all the water I had fished, and then using what was left determined what the best area would be that would sustain the current seasonal pattern. That’s where I headed.
Now to catch them. Again, using seasonal patterns I selected three baits, and they were the only rods on the deck of the boat. I proceeded to pick apart the various combinations of cover and structure hoping I could quickly build a pattern.
I was fortunate in that I quickly started catching bass. And with some minor adjustments in depth and color of my selected baits, I was putting what I would call tournament quality bass in the boat. In fact, by 10 in the morning I had caught more weight than I had if you put every bass I caught the previous two weeks together.
Several things come to mind here as to why I found bass that I was proud to weigh in. First, I wiped the slate clean of all the “spots” that I’ve caught bass before. It’s very easy to get caught up on local water and fish the same spots over and over, in the same ways that you caught bass before. Another factor would be that I again threw out all the ways I’ve caught them before and looked at the seasonal patterns that should be working and applied them. I did have to refine as I went a long, but I started off in the right direction.
If when prefishing for this event, I had caught a couple good fish and enough smaller fish to fill a limit, I probably would have been satisfied and not explored better options. However, because my prefishing was so horrible I simply threw it all out and started fresh. This tournament was several years ago, and a place I’d call a turning point in my bass fishing career.
If we pay attention to non productive prefishing, it can be just as effective as a very productive prefish. I’ve seen times when anglers are so stuck on a productive prefish pattern that they fail to see what’s changed. They won’t change from what was working, and figure out what will work.
The next time you’re on the water and nothing seems to provoke a bass into striking, take a minute and think about what the seasonal pattern is, think about the weather conditions and how it will affect the seasonal pattern, and pick the baits that will explore that pattern and go to work.
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