Tournament bass fishing at all levels can put a serious stress on bass anglers and their ability to think rationally. Whether a club tournament for bragging rights, a regional event for quality prize packages, or a national event for big money; bass tournament fishing does something to an angler that can cause a misfire in the brain and we stop thinking.
To be competitive in bass fishing, whether you’re fishing against other anglers or against the bass, you always have to be aware of your surroundings. Not only that, but you have to be willing to react to any changes in your surroundings, because you can bet the bass will.
I seldom start a bass tournament without several game plans or patterns. The week prior to a bass tournament I will prefish to determine the seasonal pattern the bass are in. Then I will watch the weather, wind, temperature, cloud cover, and use these things to help me determine if my prefishing patterns will hold, and if not, what will the bass do according to these factors come tournament day. This has proven to be very effective at keeping me in the winner’s circle.
My last tournament I made a grave and fatal error in judgment. One that I knew better than to do. I don’t know whether I was trying to prove to myself that what I believe is still true (I.E. never go into a tournament with a single do or die game plan) or if I just had so much confidence in a specific pattern that I was bound and determined to wait it out, thinking that it will turn on any minute and change the outcome of the day.
What really happened was that I had a pattern, paralleling a spinnerbait on windblown banks, that was catching quality bass. I had a blast prefishing working this pattern and was very excited to put it into action on tournament day. Tournament day, I was so confident in this pattern that I had a very limited amount of rods on the deck of my boat. According to the weather forecast we were going to have 5-10 mile per hour winds out of the north east. Blast off was just before 7 A.M., and by 9 A.M I had caught several bass, however, none that would eclipse the 17 inch minimum. While I was shocked at this, I was still not rattled, all I needed was the wind to pick up and move the quality bass to the banks again. I’m sure you can see where this is going; the wind never blew.
Instead of taking what I knew as far as fish location and applying a new pattern to catch the less aggressive bass, I had it stuck in my head, between those misfires, that I just needed to cover more water to find the aggressive bass. Without the wind to get the bass feeding, finding aggressive bass was impossible. This is common sense, and something that I should have picked up on immediately. You can usually find aggressive bass early and late, but to find aggressive bass throughout the day, you need a trigger. There are many things that can be that trigger, including wind, extended low light, migrating bait fish, boat wave action, the list is endless. However, this day we had dead calm water, bass were inactive, and there was nothing I could do about that. The correct option would have been to adjust to the conditions, change presentation, and/or slow down.
Towards the end of the tournament, I found that I got more bites dragging my spinnerbait along the bottom versus burning it. This makes sense looking back. If I couldn’t feel the bait ticking rocks or brush I wasn’t going to get a bite.
Prior to this tournament, I had guessed that it would take 18 pounds to take a check, in this particular event that would be the top five places. However, I was completely wrong. I think the first place weight was somewhere in the 13 pound range, and 10 pounds got you in the money.
So, bottom line, to be competitive, an angler must pay close attention to his surroundings and keep an open mind about how to target bass. Sounds easy, right? We read about it, and we hear about it, we’ve even experienced it in prefishing, but to abandon a solid game plan that was very productive to try and find a new one when the clock is ticking; well, that can be difficult.
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