Tournament Bass Fishing is just like any other sport in that practice makes perfect. The more you are on the water learning what will and won’t catch bass, the better bass angler you’ll become. Time on the water also helps build your gut instincts and gives you the confidence to follow them. We often read or hear professional anglers say, “I just followed my GUT”!
Developing your “Gut” is more than just spending time on the water doing the same ol’ thing. You must have an open mind, willing to be versatile and be completely aware of your surroundings. If you’re willing to try new presentations, fish in unfamiliar water, and have a basic knowledge of how bass react to their habitat, you can improve your sixth sense, better known as your “Gut”.
Being open minded is a willingness to try new areas, new lures, and new presentations. It’s trolling an extra 20 feet out of your current path to hit a single twig. It’s thinking a gold flash on a spinnerbait is going to work and then taking the 30 seconds to stop and tie it on. Open minded is also the ability to stop and fish a good looking area, or chase down circling birds, even though you had another location in mind.
Fishing the same water with the same presentation, generating the same results, doesn’t teach us anything. In fact, some professionals, angler and psychiatric, would say it’s the definition of insanity. Instead of casting the same crankbait to the same water time and time again, try an umbrella rig, swimbait, or even slow roll a spinnerbait. There may be a better way to catch the biggest bass your favorite spot has to offer. Learning new things happen through experience. For example, my “gut” tells me cranks work best on cloudy days. However, if the sun comes out for a couple hours, a spinnerbait will produce better. The crankbait will still catch fish, but the spinnerbait will entice the bigger fish. You can’t learn these things without first being aware of the conditions, and second, willing to try something different. Consider this – How do you know your offering is the best choice? Try something else to prove it. These are the things that teach our gut.
We also need to try new areas, erase everything you know about your body of water and start over. The best way to do this is to find a good topographical map and start researching. Anglers that regularly fish unfamiliar waters develop gut instincts faster than most. Without previous knowledge or experience to fall back on, these anglers must use what’s in front of them to find and catch bass. These anglers will analyze weather patterns, forage, lake composition, and a host of other factors to help them develop a productive pattern. Knowing the weather conditions for the previous three days may convince an angler to try specific presentations because of their personal experience. Most of us look at the current forecast, but rarely think about the past conditions until we can’t get a bite. That’s when you’ll hear things like; “the cold front was three days ago, they should be eating.” More than likely they are eating. Were the weather effects taken into account: Where did that cold front move them, where did the front position the food source, what baits are most effective in this current situation. If you’ve only ever thrown a rattle trap in this situation obviously your gut is not going to help; time to teach it something!
Even though new water is the fastest way to develop gut instincts, your local lakes and rivers are just as effective if you take a “New” approach. Instead of idling away from the launch ramp thinking about all the spots you’ve caught fish before, start thinking about the conditions. Then apply those conditions to the body of water.
Another common problem that hampers our gut is lack of variety. Our tackle boxes are full of tools to catch bass. We have bottom bouncing baits, baits that splash on the surface, and baits that cover everything in between. Be honest, most of you reading this can fit all the baits you used on your last bass fishing trip into a shirt pocket. There are new presentations developed and exploited every day. Read magazines and internet articles or use forums to get suggestions. Gather as much information as you can, then hit your local lake and try something new. Don’t do this for the sake of trying something new, but rather, use new tools and the current conditions to find a more productive way to catch bass. Keep an open mind, even the days when nothing works, your gut is learning.
Don’t be afraid of your gut. It will be wrong more often than right, but when it’s right it changes the whole day. The more time you spend on the water the better your “Gut” gets, and the more often it will put you on a winning stringer. It only takes five bass to win a tournament; it only takes 5 casts to catch them, can your gut tell you which five casts to make?
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