I was reminded of a valuable lesson during my third qualifying tournament for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series trail. In practice I had found two distinct patterns, one a pre-post spawn bite and another involved spawning bass. Typical of most tournaments the bass were biting really well the day before the tournament. My first fish of the day was a seven pound female full of roe and ready to spawn. I found that I could fish flukes over holes in the vegetation and catch numerous bass two to four pounds. My other pattern developed when I fished a new brush pile that the state Fish and Game agency sank the month earlier. While the hundred or so brush piles looked great, bass had yet to setup in the trees. As I was running back to the shoreline I noticed pods of shad at the surface. The closer I looked the more schooling bass I noticed. One pass with a top water lure confirmed a large school of bass two to three pound bass were feeding and easy to catch. I kept thinking this was too good to be true as not another tournament angler was in sight. I should have known. Continuing on to the shallow grass line I shook off several bass over four pounds that I believed were post spawn females feeding up after laying their eggs. The only trick to reaching the schooling and grass line fish was that I had to navigate a shallow, 1 foot deep winding creek that contained numerous blind turns.
I launched on tournament day as boat 21, and my worst fear materialized when I ran down to my creek and fog had totally set in. Too dangerous to run in the fog, I settled to fish around the spawning bass and wait for the fog to lift. My coangler and I quickly began catching bass but my mind was on getting to the easy schoolers and post spawn females. I wasn’t fishing in the moment, but instead looking forward to later in the day when I could reach my schoolers.
Because I wasn’t 1000% focused on my current fishing conditions I had to repeat my casts and fish numerous angles to get bass to bite. It wasn’t efficient fishing but still effective. By 9:30am both my coangler and I had our limits of bass. I started to get a glimpse of fishing the moment when I noticed the fog had lifted yet I wasn’t ready to leave an area that we were catching fish out of. Wishing thinking prevailed and at noon time I decided to make the run through the shallow creek. We arrived at the schooling area and while shad were somewhat present, the bass were not. Fishing the grass line produced the same empty results.
This is when it hit me; I was “wishing and not fishing”. I had fished around quality bass all morning long but my mind was focused on an old fishing pattern observed a day early. I was fishing yesterday instead of the moment! I knew better! I quickly abandoned the wishful pattern and went back to my spawning areas. Sure enough, my first bass was a four pounder that culled a small bass. My coangler culled out all of his smaller bass with two pound fish. The bass had moved shallower with the conditions and not out deeper like most competitors around us were fishing. We caught another 30 bass before heading in to the weigh-in.
I ended up getting a paycheck for sixth place with a little over thirteen pounds and moved up to eleventh in the Angler of the Year standings. If only I had recognized sooner that I was fishing behind myself, may I would have found those eight to twelve pounds bass that were being caught all around me by my competition. Lesson learned; concentrate on fishing, not wishing!