Archive for bass tournament fishing

Locating Bass Fishing Areas

by Marc Rogers

Anglers of all skill levels are constantly in search of productive fishing areas and getting the maximum reward for their efforts. Fishing areas that have the ability to hold bass for extended periods will not hold feeding bass throughout an entire day of fishing. The bass that use the area as their home will only feed at certain times during a day. Successful anglers are able to locate the areas where bass live and determine the times they feed.

The first step in this process is to locate areas where bass reside most of the time. While bass are caught shallow at anytime, they seldom reside in shallow water for an extended period. Therefore, deep-water bass are more predictable when it comes to locating them. Deep water is a relative term and bass holding in deep water are affected by the thermocline when it is present. Lowland lakes deep- water holding areas are much shallower than deep-water hideouts highland lakes.

Locating bass fishing areas is a seasonal approach. During the summer and winter, bass generally live in deeper areas. Spawning bass will hold in shallow water for longer periods to complete the spawning cycle. In the fall, bass will scatter more than other seasons and is the most frustrating season for some anglers. Some will still be holding in deep water while others have already made the move to shallow areas to chase schools shad.

Isolated, submerged cover will concentrate bass better than a lot of scattered cover in the similar areas. They will sometimes use this cover for ambush points to attack prey that venture close to the cover. However, bass will also wonder outside the cover to chase unsuspecting prey. In addition, sometimes bass will use only one part of the cover more than to ambush prey for reasons not evident to anglers. When presenting lures to cover, anglers should do so from all available directions as well as over the top and through the center of the cover.

When locating bass fishing areas, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, Aaron Hunter reports “Main and secondary points are always my first stop. If I can find cover located on these points I target that cover.” Regardless of the season and water temperatures, Hunter says, “Points always have the ability to hold bass. Points are like highways for bass to travel from deep to shallow water. The seasons do not matter, when bass have deep water close to points that have shallow banks, bass will be close by.”

When choosing lures offer the bass a variety until they indicate what they prefer. Do not limit lure selection due to cover you are fishing. Many anglers use only Texas rigged plastics and jigs for fishing cover. Crankbaits are one example of lures effective for covering a lot of water and are effective when fishing brushy cover. The crankbait bill will somewhat protect the hooks when retrieved and are better at getting through cover than many anglers realize.

Deep-diving crankbaits on ten-pound test florocarbon line is an effective technique to find isolated cover on points. The lures will reach depths of 20-feet or more and contact the available cover giving away its location on the bottom. When crankbaits deflect off the cover, they will draw a reaction strike from nearby bass.

Carolina rigged plastics are another way to cover water quickly and locate the available bottom cover. The heavy sinkers allow anglers to distinguish between rock and wood cover.  Slowly dragging a Carolina rigged soft plastic will draw strikes from lethargic bass that will not take a fast moving crankbait.

Once productive cover is located jigs and Texas rigged plastics are a great technique to slowly pick apart of piece of cover. The slow moving lures often aggravate bass into striking because they want to chase off or kill the lure.

Because bass are not always feeding, the second key to getting the most from these areas is to be fishing them at the time the bass decide to feed. Many productive areas have been abandoned by anglers because they determined the bass were not present when the bass were not feeding during the time the angler was there. It is best to have located a few potential areas close to each other and rotate between them throughout the day. This increases the chances you will be on at least one of them when the bass decide to feed.  Aaron Hunter says, “I rotate between a few spots throughout each day on the water. Bass do not always feed at the same time on each spot and I feel I have more opportunities each day by doing this. Also, I can still get reaction strikes from bass that are not actively feeding.”

To better your chances of catching bass pick a few areas and patiently present lures to all sides and in the middle of the available cover. Rotate between these areas during your fishing time and visit each several times throughout the day.

Fishing To Win

By Marc Rogers


Bass Fishing Tournament Strategies

There are countless fishing tournament circuits from the ones that attract the touring professionals to the small regional circuits that generally consist of avid weekend anglers competing for bragging rights and enough winnings to cover their costs. Many of the smaller circuits have “buddy” events where anglers compete for total boat weight. Almost all of these circuits conduct some kind of year-end event where qualifiers compete for money and prizes. To qualify the anglers accumulate points based on their finishing position in each qualifying event.

Points are generally awarded for participation in each event (10 points is common among most) and additional points for where the angler(s) finish. An example would be 100 points for a first place finish plus the 10 participation points for a total of 110 points for a win. Second place would be 109 points and so on down the list of anglers who were able to weigh in fish at the event. This is where many amateur anglers get caught up in catching a “points” fish instead of setting out to win each event. I am not suggesting that winning is easy but if the angler(s) don’t set out to do so they generally don’t bring a limit of fish to the scales at the end of the event.

Many anglers are happy with their first legal fish caught because it secures them a chance to accumulate points for the event. These points will certainly help them qualify for the year-end event and keep them in contention to win the points championship. After the first legal fish in boated it tends to take some of the pressure off the anglers(s).  They will be more relaxed and then sometimes tend not to fish as competitive as they may have the ability to do.

Fishing for points generally leaves the angler(s) finishing in the middle of the pack at each event.  They probably will not win the points championship and they will seldom cash a check at any event. I have watched fellow anglers allow themselves fall into this situation several times while fishing regional tournament circuits and had it personally happen to me as well. My partner and I led a circuit in points all the way until the last event only to end up in third place in the point championship race.

I must admit he and I spent a lot of time watching the point standings and relaxed after catching our first “points” fish. We only cashed a check in one event with a second place finish and big bass honors.  However, the big bass was the only fish we caught during that tournament and just happened to be enough weight to also take second place.

This situation now makes me look at each tournament in a different way. My thoughts have changed and I now fish to win instead of worry about the points. When trying to win an event I know I will fish harder and be much more intense throughout the day. If winning is the goal I believe most anglers will finish higher in the standings at each event and the points will come as well. When the event starts anglers should count on catching a limit of legal fish and then start culling them with bigger fish. Make a limit your minimum standard and don’t relax until each one has been replaced with a larger one.

As it turned out the team who won the points championship and beat my partner and myself truly deserved to win it. They also had brought the most weight to the scales during the qualifying events. They even won the last event securing a one point lead over second place and three point lead over third place.

Learn from others mistakes and don’t get caught up in the “points” race in any tournament circuit. It will cost you at the end of the year in both the point standings and winnings.

Bass Fishing Lessons the Hard Way

By Marc Rogers


On the Water Bass Fishing Lessons

The majority of anglers consider non-productive days on the water as something close to a failure. Some even express disappointment when just a few fish are caught and sometimes say things like “I should not have gone fishing today”. However, times when fish are not caught there are still lessons that anglers can learn from their day on the water.

Anglers experiencing poor catch rates should record the conditions and what they tried on that particular day so they know what did not work. While it is nice to discover what did work for a great day on the water, this process of elimination can be very helpful on later outings. I have had countless multi-day fishing outings where what was learned on the first day helped tremendously during later days. If I did not catch fish on the first day, and the second day presented similar conditions, I knew what not to do on day two of the fishing trip.

One recent bass tournament situations comes to mind when I think about learning while not catching fish.  I competed in a tournament where sub-legal bass were easy to catch in shallow water. While catching more than 50 bass I was able to weigh in just one legal size bass at the event. This bass was caught in 8 feet of water, with a jig, 30 minutes before the end of the tournament. While reflecting back on this day it became clear to me that I waited too long to make a presentation or lure change. There were many limits brought to the scales that day by other anglers and they too reported catching numerous small bass. What I discovered was the small males were moving into the shallow water to get the beds ready for the spawn and the larger females were still staging in 8 – 12 feet depths. The larger bass were not as aggressive like the smaller ones were so my fast and shallow lure presentations did not entice them into biting lures.

Two weeks later I entered another tournament on the same lake. The weather conditions caused the water temperature in the lake to remain similar to the prior event’s conditions. The water temperatures had increased about three degrees not much else had changed. During this event I stayed away from the shallow water and used crankbaits that maintained a depth of eight feet.

The smaller bass were still active at this depth as well, but I was able to catch a limit of legal size bass along with many smaller ones. The largest bass of the day was over 6 ½ pounds and won the big bass money of the event. These larger bass were all taken on a crankbait at approximately eight feet deep.

The larger females spend a very short time in the shallow water during the spawn. After moving onto the banks they deposit eggs in a bed and move out again to recover from the stress of the spawn. It is the males that spend the most time in the shallow water, guarding the nest and young from predators. The window of opportunity for catching the larger females in shallow water is small.

There were really two lessons learned from my poor performance of the prior tournament. First, I should not have spent all day catching sub-legal bass without trying a different approach. Second, was the lesson of moving to deeper water to take the larger females that were staging to move up into the shallow water to spawn.

Adapting to Changing Conditions During Competition

By Marc Rogers

Bass Fishing Conditions are Constantly Changing

During the fall of every year, national, regional and local bass fishing organizations hold their year-end championships. Fall is a season of constantly changing conditions on most bodies of water.  Weather fronts move quickly, forcing fishing conditions to change just as fast.  Anglers who fail to adapt to the changing conditions often see great fishing situation fade to difficult situation overnight.

Many times weekend anglers arrive a few days early to practice for the upcoming competition.  They spend this time trying to develop a pattern for the tournament and many are successful in doing so.  However, if weather and water conditions change between practice and competition days some will fail to adapt to the changing conditions and a successful pattern developed during the practice period no longer applies.

The following situation really took place during the Anglers in Action 2009 Championship on Stockton Lake in Missouri.  Stockton Lake is an Ozark Lake with generally clear water.  The lake has two major arms (The Sac and Little Sac Rivers) that run north and south from the upper ends to the dam.  The water surface is choppy to rough due to the windy conditions that are normal on the lake.  It is known as the best sailing destination of the Midwest for good reason.

Launching the boat on Thursday (two day prior to the two day tournament) at daylight the winds were light with heavy cloud cover.  Air temperatures were in the high 40-degree range and the water was clear with approximately 36 inches of visibility in the main lake.  The upper ends were stained with approximately 18 inches of visibility.  Surface water temperatures were 60-62 degrees throughout the lake.  Just after daylight the winds increased to a steady 10-15 mph.

The Southwest Missouri area had received up to 10 inches of rain the week before pushing the water level 6 ½ feet above summer pool.  This rise in water left a lot of shoreline cover flooded in 6 feet of water.  Most of the shoreline cover is short brush and some of it was completely submerged with most partial under water.

At my first stop my partner and I started pitching jigs to the edges of the visible cover and in the first hour caught what would have been a limit of legal largemouth bass.  We continued to find similar areas and were able to repeat the same results all day.  Friday was different as we continued to target similar areas and again was able to put together a limit of bass.  When loading the boat on Friday afternoon we had about 15 areas where we were confident we could catch a limit of bass each day of competition.

Saturday, the first day of competition, was again cloudy with similar weather conditions.  We started targeting the same areas where we caught bass on the two previous days.  Our first stop was a secondary point where we had found the best fish the prior days.  After several sub-legal bass boated we made a move to another area where we had previously taken legal bass but again were only able to boat sub-legal fish.  After several more moves throughout the day my partner was able to catch a 2.6-pound legal bass.  It would be the only legal sized bass we took to the scales on Saturday.

Sunday brought clear skies and cold temperatures.  After the one hour delay for take-off due to heavy fog, the air temperature was in the upper 30-degree range but the water temperature remained constant at 60 degrees.  On Saturday night we had decided I would target the deeper water with slow moving crankbaits while my partner continued to present a jig in the flooded cover.  After a couple of hours with the crankbait with only one small bass to show for my efforts I put it away.  With the bright skies I assumed the bass had moved tighter to the flooded cover so we started pitching jigs deeper into the flooded brush.

As the end of the second day of competition came to a close we had not boated a legal size bass.  Frustration and second-guessing our strategy was the topic of discussion during the long drive home.  In the past I have seen scattered bass holding to the edges of cover move tighter into the cover when the conditions changed from cloudy to sunny.  However, I failed to realize this usually was on water that was not as clear as Stockton Lake and once home I had an interesting thought.  I sent an email to Marty Thompson (Marty is a full-time professional guide on Stockton Lake) asking him his opinion on where I went wrong.  After telling him how the situation took place throughout the four days on the water Marty sent me the following reply:

“When fish migrate, like elk, or deer, the big ones are the last to move.  Before our recent flood, shallower water was occupied mainly by 2-year-old fish, which are about 13 inches.  They move a lot because they have not found their pecking order home yet.  Because of the high water, and the lower water temps (fall pattern), older fish in the 3rd year (2+ pounds) will move into these shallower areas where they are more readily caught.  That’s good.  You catch 4 or 5 keepers in this area, but your bigger fish or the keeper bass will lay off in deeper water (15-20 feet).  Guys that fish a tournament start catching legal fish and they get tunnel vision and forget that you need something extra.  They don’t take the time or the effort to cash in on the big fish that will push them over the top.

“The fish moved and slowed down, and you needed to adjust to that.  They were in the same area that you caught them the day before, but deeper and you needed to fish for them slower.  Just because you caught fish on one day doesn’t mean they will do the same thing the next day.  The guys that win tournaments consistently have learned how the fish react to environmental changes, particularly drastic rise and fall of barometric pressure.”

After reading his reply it became clear to me that my fishing more shallow and tighter to cover was where I went wrong.  The fish had moved out to deeper water and became less active.  I should have presented slow moving baits in deeper water for the bigger bite.  There are many valuable lessons anglers can learn from catching a lot of fish but I believe it is just as important to learn something from failing to catch fish as well.

Visit Thompson Fishing Guide Service for more tips and advice from Marty Thompson