Several weeks ago Clark Reehm stopped by to have dinner with a few local members of Ultimate Bass to give some tips and tricks of the trade. And in fairness he asked that I get with folks from the Ultimate Bass Forum and ask if there might be some questions that our members would like to ask. The meal and evening went very quick, Clark gave a couple small presentations about bait rigging and fielded questions from everyone. For those that haven’t met Clark, he is a very straight forward guy and tells it like it is. We took four questions from the forum and ended up closing the place down as we finished up.
#1 – What are some of the differences you experienced going from club level though the ranks to the Elites. Was there a learning curve and what adjustments did you have to make to step up each level?
Every path is different, don’t worry about which level you’re at, jump in at the highest level you can. My first event was a Big Bass tournament when I was 12 years old and I joined my first bass club when I was 16, back then you had to be 16 to fish in any club. Asses value to the events you fish, if you do good step up to a higher value event. Club events do not impress sponsors; assess value by how much exposure the event gets. The learning curve is to step up to the next level or higher value event and see how you do. Learn as you go.
The biggest adjustments would be making sure you can afford it; one example would be if you have to spend boat gas do it. When fishing at higher levels you may have to travel 20 miles to get to productive fishing water. In the elites if you found fish 3 hours away but knew you could catch a solid limit in the hour and a half fishing time you would have once you got there, you better be prepared to spend the gas money to do it. That is a big difference I see between the beginning tournament angler and one that is stepping up to the bigger events.
Clark took a moment and pointed out that even an B.A.S.S. Open event can cost you a fortune. Here is his example from one of his events to Amistad. First is the entry fee $1000 right off the bat. He talked about prefishing and how if you want to be competitive you can’t be cheap, if you fish around the launch area sure you might find some fish but will you find the winning fish? And if you explore low and behold you found the fish 50 miles up the river, so you have already spent a small fortune exploring the lake but now you have at least two days of running up the river and if you’re lucky and make the cut there’s another day. Now we have only talked boat gas, depending on where you live you could spend 2-4 hundred in truck gas for your round trip. Once you get there you may or may not have to buy an out of state fishing license, and don’t forget the Mexican papers you’ll need. Okay that’s the money you spent before you even factor in food and lodging? Or those “regional baits” you’re going to need in at least triplicate to make sure you can make it through a day. Clark mentioned, with a personal note, nothing ever goes right, blown tire, bad battery who knows but something always adds to the cost of the event.
#2 – How do you locate fish before a tournament? Do you look for certain patterns and try to reproduce them all over the lake or do you divide up the lake and focus on a certain area?
Use the internet, networking, seasonal patterns, along with regional patterns. Regional and Seasonal patterns can be your best tool when looking for fish. A simple example would be Lake Okeechobee, during the winter; if you have a warming trend you’re going to catch fish on a frog, if it’s cold you should be punching the mats, this is tried and true. California on Clear Lake, Big Swim baits in the spring again tried and true. While these may not be your strengths you can/must learn as you go.
There are too many variables to determine whether to divide a lake or not. Sometimes I do while other lakes or events you have to use the whole lake. Again Seasonal and Regional patterns will help with this.
#3 – How important is it to fish to your strength when possible and what do you do when fishing to your strength isn’t working?
Spend the first hour fishing your strengths as close to the seasonal and regional patterns as you can. However don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Various parts of the country have proven patterns; take Lake Erie fishing humps with drop shots, if your strength is flipping grass you might have to give that up and learn to drop shot. In order to compete at the elite levels you have to be very versatile and while we all have strengths we can’t force them on the fish.
#4 – With regards to mental preparation & confidence, when you are about to fish a tournament and the weather turns for the worse or maybe a body of water you practiced is now off limits or not reachable, how do you recover your confidence in the last minutes and pull out some fish? (Please don’t say yoga)
Sometimes you don’t! You have to have the mental ability to scrap it and start over, this is not easy and seasoned pros are good at it. While I am practicing I’m always looking for what I call high percentage spots, places I just know that I can catch a fish even thought it may not fit the pattern I am working. These may not be the winning spots by themselves and I probably won’t even prefish it unless it’s fitting into a developed pattern. But if the bite gets tough or my water is gone, I will have several of these spots picked out.
I would like to thank Clark for taking the time to visit with us an answer a few questions. There was a lot more information at our dinner meeting but my pencil just wasn’t fast enough to capture it all. The one thing I took from the nearly 4 hours of chatting and fishing discussion is that when you are fishing at the Elite Level you have a whole different focus on the game, it’s not how do I want to catch fish today, it’s how am I going to catch fish today. So many times we hit the water and want to catch fish a certain way or expect to catch them a certain way and will spend hours trying. One member asked Clark, “I have areas that I know are good but after fishing it for an hour and haven’t been bit what would you do?” Clark said “Why did you stay so long?” Clark mentions presenting different baits to fish every few minutes, “if they’re not active leave them and come back if you feel that strongly.”
These folks change baits and tactics more in the first fifteen minutes of fishing than some of us do all day! Just something to think about.
Again I would like to thank Clark for visiting with us and his sponsors for putting him in the area to do so.
Kicker Fish Bait Co.
Spen Tech / Basstar
CLU (Custom Lures Unlimited)
Bite My Worm.com
Omni Industrial Solutions