Good practice strategies can pay off in tournaments
When I’m practicing for an upcoming tournament, there are a couple of important things I take into account. For one, there’s the body of water I’m fishing. Is it a Lake Guntersville, or a Beaver Lake? If I figure it’s going to take stringers of 3- to 5-pounders, as it would on Guntersville, I go through as many fish as I need to until I reach that size range. Then I leave them alone, make note of where they are and what I caught them on, and go find some more like that somewhere else.
Keep your mind free of clutter
A lot of guys underestimate or discount the mental game involved in bass fishing. When you’re fishing in a tournament, or practicing for one, you don’t want any distractions or anything on your mind except figuring out the bass.
Seek out the shadiest docks
One of the best places to fish for postspawn bass is under docks that are near where they spawned. These fish will stick around for a while unless the bottom falls out of the lake. Of course, bass aren’t under every dock. This time of year they favor the ones that are shallow, low to the water, and have dark shade under them. And bass also like the docks that have a lot of bream, because they feed on bluegills until they move out. I don’t fool with the docks that are in deeper water, and whether they have brush under them is no big deal. I just fish the shallow ones and skip jigs or soft plastics under them as far as I can.
An easy way to keep rust at bay
Those toolbox liners that absorb moisture so that tools won’t rust will also keep fish hooks from rusting, which is why I use them in my tackle boxes.
Lining up your lures
When I choose line for fishing soft plastics, light jigs or shaky heads, I don’t worry about whether the fish can see it. My main concern is how the line will make the lure fall in the water.
Painter’s Tape is a good rod bundler
I always have a bundle of spare rods with me in case I break one or two during a tournament. I’ve found that the best way to keep them from getting beat up and banged around is to use some 3M Painter’s Tape to bind them together
Upsize trebles for surer hooksets
When I’m fishing crankbaits and the fish seem to be just slapping at the lure and missing the hooks, I’ll upsize the back treble from, say, a No. 6 to a No. 4. A lot of times fish are sluggish in the spring and will just nip at a lure or barely get hooked on the front treble.
Take plenty of rods, reels along
In spring, it’s always a good idea to plan on covering water and throwing a lot of different lures until you find the two or three baits that work better than others.
Don’t wait too long to respool
I fish docks and shoreline cover a lot when I’m practicing for a tournament. On the last day of practice I’ll put on fresh line because the old stuff has gotten nicked and abraded. But I don’t wait until the night before the tournament starts to change the line.
Get to know a lake before you fish it
A lot of fishermen make the mistake of applying a good technique or pattern that works on their home lake to every lake. It’s a waste of time in most cases.
Take the lures you’re likely to need
A fisherman should work out the tackle management system that makes sense to him. By this time of year, I’ve gone through my boat and replenished everything I think I might need anywhere the tournament trail goes.
Lighten up on creature baits
Last year I won six tournament checks with a Gene Larew Biffle Bug that I fished in shallow cover. I really like that bait because every little leg and tail on it seems to be moving all the time when it’s in the water – whether you’re dragging it, hopping it or just letting it sit still.
Slow is the way to go for spring jerkbait fishing
In early spring when the water is still cold – say, in the mid to high 40s – I never want my jerkbait floating on top. It needs to be suspending or even sinking a little.
Adding a treble hook to a swimbait
Sometimes fish will hit at a swimbait as it goes by, but not get the hook inside their mouths because of the angle of their approach. When that happens consistently, I’ll add a size 2 treble hook to the bait and let it dangle under the belly as a stinger hook.
Spring fishing is as easy as one, two, three
During much of the year, bass fishermen have many choices to make when it comes to where to fish and which lures to use. In spring, when the weather is warmer and bass are spawning or preparing to spawn, the choices are fewer. We know that most of the fish will be in shallow water and that’s where we need to look for them.
Sunglasses: When fit is more important than fashion
Good fishing glasses are always important, but they are especially useful in early spring when bass are bedding or cruising the shallows. Distortion-free, polarized glasses will let you see fish, but they also will help remove any doubt that what you’re seeing in the water is really is a fish.
Fishing frogs fast
Buzzing a frog has been a great springtime technique for me, especially when the weather is just starting to get consistently warm and that first batch of spawners moves up into super-shallow water.
Drop-shotting in the dead of winter
Winter is one of my favorite times to drop-shot because the fish tend to stack up in certain places and stay there. Of course, it’s very critical that you pinpoint the locations where fish are holding. When I get to a deep, clear lake, the first places I look are rocky points, bluffs or rocky shorelines because rocks hold a little extra heat even when the water’s cold, and forage such as crawfish also are likely to be in them.
A couple Alabama rig casting tricks
A lot of people are still in the experimental stage with the Alabama rig, including me. There have been all kinds of variations that have come out since the original one, and I’ve tried a good many of them.
Follow the clues to big bass
It won’t be long before bass start moving toward the shallows and staging for the spawn. This is the time of the year when the most big bass are available to an angler because there are only a relatively few places where they will spawn. Find these places and you might catch the fish of a lifetime.
Making a pitch for practice
One of the best ways to spend your spare time in the bass-fishing offseason is to learn how to pitch a lure or cast underhand or sidearm underhand.
Lighten up your skipping load
I prefer spinning tackle for skipping lures under a dock because I can get even a lightweight worm or a Zoom Fluke a long way up under there.
Find a flat with isolated cover
At the end of the year, I like to reflect back on my tournament season and consider what worked for me. One thing I’ve noticed is that fishing flats produced some good catches for me in 2011.
Snell knot improves soft-plastic hookups
Nowadays when I’m flipping soft-plastics in heavy grass, I use a little trick that Peter Thliveros showed me. I tie the hook to my braided line with a snell knot. It doesn’t slip at all, and it changes the way your hook behaves when you set the hook on a fish. Because the line passes through the eye the way it does, the point goes up into the roof of a fish’s mouth for a more solid set. Guys like JT Kenney and Terry Scroggins are also doing this when they fish heavy cover. It’s improved my catch rate from about 50 percent to 90 percent.
Tease ’em into biting
If you’re using a suspending jerkbait, which is a great lure this time of year, you’ll notice that a lot of bass will just follow your bait without hitting it. Sometimes I’ll get 30 follows to every five bass I catch.