Catching bass is what we are all trying to do. I fish a lot of bass tournaments and running with my gut instinct has put more than a fair amount of checks in my hands. However, my gut has also cost me checks too. It is vitally important to pay attention to the conditions, and then have the experience to react to those conditions with a bass producing choice in baits and locations. My most recent tournament is a perfect example of making a solid move that was the incorrect move to win the tournament.
While pre fishing for this tournament, I had found bass on main lake windblown cover. Catching bass was as simple as finding anything in less than 2 feet of water and crashing a spinner bait into it. Just to verify I had a solid pattern I spent a day working the backs of the larger bays. This was to prove to myself that there were not spawning bass left that I could take advantage of. As I suspected, with water temps at 68 degrees, there appeared to be no activity in these bays. Well at least nothing more than smaller buck bass that would never leave the bays.
Tournament morning I had a solid game plan and was determined to stick with it. I knew I would catch a lot of fish. It was only a matter of catching enough to build a winning limit. Only one problem, the wind didn’t blow. Not only did the wind not blow, but the shad started spawning. There were balls of shad everywhere. Find a rip rap bank or dock piling for them to work with and the shad were there. So many shad that I was catching them on my spinner bait, even when slow rolled.
After the sun got up and I realized what was happening, I started making adjustments. No wind on this particular lake means that a small surface bait, senko, or trick worm can be effective. I had already lost three hours to the spinnerbait patterns and working something as slow as a senko or trick worm wasn’t possible. I know myself as an angler, it’s difficult fishing slow presentations much less when in a time crunch. So I opted for the topwater.
Here’s another example of a how a solid pattern can hurt you. I started getting bites on the top water, this is outstanding. All I need to do is cover enough water and get the “right” bites. Bites seemed to be coming anywhere the shad were spawning, which makes perfect sense. Covering the lake looking for the correct scenario wasn’t difficult and I was able to find quite a few bass. This particular lake has a slot size limit of 14-17 inches and everything I was catching was in the slot and had to be released.
I ended up bombing this event with only a couple small keepers. At the scales, there were several quality limits weighed in that proved I made incorrect choices throughout the day. While I spent the day chasing shad, the anglers that found the larger fish actually concentrated where the post spawn bass like to lay up and be lazy. I was so excited to see the shad spawn starting that I didn’t stop to think that the bass spawn had just ended or was ending, and the bass were not ready to chase shad, when all they needed to do was lay still and wait for the shad to come to them.
The anglers that performed well in this event simply covered water slowly, taking their time to work each piece of cover, especially the ones that provided shade. Larger more lethargic bass were laying in the shadows and waiting for the spawning shad to come to them. Anglers that took the time to make multiple presentations to the same target at different angles were the most productive.
Patterns change, having to give up on the spinnerbait pattern was not a big deal for me. I did stick with it too long hoping the wind would pick up; however, once again the weatherman was wrong. Switching to top water was a correct choice; however, I was using a popper where the winners were using dog walkers. A walk the dog action, stays in the strike zone longer. I was finding a quick reaction strike from smaller fish, but the bigger fish wanted something a little more lazy that stayed in the strike zone longer. This goes both ways; I’ve seen the reaction strike draw better bass, but not this day. It is a solid pattern that when bass are in post spawn a top water bait will produce. Pop R’s, torpedoes, Spooks, and frogs all catch bass, and if you pay attention you’ll be the first person on the lake doing it.
My gut told me to jump from the post spawn bass straight into the shad spawn, and it cost me a tournament. I caught a lot of fish and had a good time, but because of the slot I had nothing to show for it. Even if the slot wasn’t an issue, those on the better pattern still win. I’ve written articles about finding the best pattern, simply because your catching bass doesn’t mean you’re catching the best the lake has to offer. So, lesson learned again, if I’m not catching 6 pounders there is a better pattern to be had. Just food for thought from the guy that left the scales with his tail tucked between his legs saying, “You better watch out next time”.
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