Tournament Bass fishing is challenging and exciting at the same time. However, tournament fishing can also be heart breaking. I enter a bass tournament of some sort nearly every weekend, and because I have time on the water I fair pretty good most times. Winning enough to pay for gas and a few new baits. I recently had a friend talk me into fishing an event on a little lake that we both enjoy fishing. Neither of us had been there in a while, but looking back at last winter, we caught many quality fish up to 10 pounds with five fish stringers averaging 15-17 pounds. So it wasn’t very hard to talk me into giving it a shot.
This lake is notorious for being covered in vegetation. It’s just something you expect when you fish there. However with a very hot and dry summer, the vegetation was three fold what it normally is. I love fishing vegetation, up until this event I didn’t think a lake could have too much grass for me.
We blast off that morning and head to a favorite spot. We had both agreed on a specific place to start, and actually were very excited to get to it. We caught some great fish from it in the past, and all the reports of the thick grass would only make this spot better. We hadn’t prefished this event, and we were in for a surprise. Being a cypress tree lake and shallow, there are boat lanes that you have to follow, if you get off the boat lanes you have to idle or risk losing a lower unit. On this lake if you run outside of the boat lanes, it’s a guarantee that you will damage your boat. Our spot is about 400 yards off the boat lane. As we are idling towards the area, the light is getting brighter, we can see that the area we are idling through is very choked with vegetation.
The sky is getting brighter and we are within a hundred yards of where we want to start. By now we can see that between us and where we want to fish the vegetation is completely matted on the surface. However, where we want to fish is a little deeper than the rest of the area, and looking past the matted vegetation we can see there appears to be open water. Try as I may, the grass was too thick for my 250 horsepower Mercury Pro XS to push the boat through this last hundred yards of vegetation. I carry a push pole in the boat for just these situations. I trimmed the big motor out of the water, and we got after it with the push pole. Getting about halfway into this field of matted vegetation, the push pole collapses and folds, breaking into two pieces. Now we are in the middle of this mat and no power. I have a paddle, but I tried to paddle a 21 foot boat once, and I’d rather get out to wade. Fortunately I recently installed a device on my trolling motor that cuts vegetation as it tries to wrap around the prop. It’s called the Moss Hawg. After this day, I highly recommend it. Now we didn’t move across the grass at warp speed, but we did gain momentum and eventually get out of it with the trolling motor.
Finally, an hour into the event and we are fishing. As we suspected our little area was fishable, and we managed 4 bites very quickly. Two solid keepers and dink and I dumped one on the way to the boat. So in a matter of an hour we had two good fish in the boat.
Here, is where prefishing becomes very important to your success. Our area produced; however, it is a small area. We felt confident that there were more fish here, but we needed to let it settle and re-attack it in an hour or so. With the vegetation so thick throughout the lake, I really had no second choices or back up plan. All our secondary areas were not accessible or if they were it would take an hour to get to them. So do you sit it out in your single location, do you try to find new water, or do you fight to get to another area you are confident in. We battled these decisions all day. Our concern was that we definitely wanted to make at least two more passes through our confident water, however, to leave it and come back was a very time consuming process.
Had we prefished the lake, or even just drove the lake, we would have had ideas instead of guesses. So the moral to this story is, even if you can only get an hour or two on the water to look around, prefishing is always a plus. This particular lake is too shallow to do any electronic work but simply finding navigable water would have saved us a lot of time and energy. On lakes that are more depth and structure orientated, electronics can help you find what depth the bass and bait fish are holding. You can learn all kinds of things that really help you build a game plan. Simply knowing the water temperature, water clarity, and lake level can put you on the right track before you hear the blast off call.
I have fished many events that I was not able to prefish, I have done well in some of these events and have simply donated in many others. When you swing for the fences on a blind pitch, just know what you’re getting into. If you don’t prefish and your plan fails, accept defeat and learn from it. Humbly hold your head high and keep your ears open, because the guys and gals that just put the whooping on you will probably let a secret or two out of the bag.
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