My largest tournament-weighed spotted bass (3.93lbs)
October 5, 2012 on Smith Lake, Alabama
While I was not new to fishing Bassmaster-sponsored tournament trails, I was new to the Bassmaster Southern Open trail in 2012, a trail which offered a level of competitive fishing like no other. My final outcome was a 79th place finish in Angler of the Year points (top 32% of the field) and a decent year on the trail.
In my first year on the tour we traveled from Florida, to North Carolina, to Alabama. The types of lakes we fished ranged from southern grass lakes to upland reservoirs dominated by rocks and docks. I traveled over 5,000 miles and provided my sponsors over one half-million impressions of their boat-wrap logos. In addition, I was able to catch a limit a bass in all but one day of fishing, which allowed me to walk across the stage and be interviewed live on Bassmaster.com website. This brought another estimated quarter-million impressions to my sponsors. Lastly, I was honored to be a guest speaker for AERF at the Bassmaster Federation Nation Conservation Directors meeting at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, LA.
Aquatic plant dominated lakes in the south
Rock dominated lakes in upland reservoirs
While I felt great about the ability to represent my sponsors, I did miss out on several key opportunities to finish better in the tournaments. Reflecting back, I can list specific bass I missed because I made incorrect retrieve changes as they followed my baits, changes that caused them to shy away instead of hitting. In golf every putt counts, and similarly in fishing, every retrieve, twitch, or turn of the reel handle causes different reactions to the bait and determines whether or not a following-fish will hit. The details of fishing are amazing and so important to the outcome.
It has been a while since my last post and I apologize to me followers. I wrote several blogs but apparently never posted them. While I continue to pursue my passion of knowledge, I've neglected my goal of sharing what I've learned. Please accept my apology.
My second Bassmaster Southern Open event on Lake Norman in Charlotte, NC was amazing. I caught 40-70 spotted bass a day in practice under sunny skies and calm weather. What a fantastic fishery! However, the tournament weather was rainy and overcast. Fish changed and I failed to adapt. Afterwards I learned the error of my ways. I learned two valuable lessons that I wish to share: 1) spotted bass are very color-specific depending on the weather conditions, 2) the shakey-head worm is an amazing bait in reservoirs.
I finished just shy of the top-100 in that Southern Open event so I have a lot of work to do for the future. I wrote a detailed summary and failed to post it but I will send it out as soon as I locate the file.
To get ready for the last Southern Open event on Lewis Smith Lake, AL, I've been working on tackle and techniques. This is another amazing fishery with spotted bass and largemouth. The water averages, get this, over 200 feet deep. One of the clearest fisheries I've ever had the pleasure of fishing! It is common to be casting a lure to the shoreline while your boat is sitting in over 90 feet of water! Simply out of this world!
Mark my word, fishing technique, casting accuracy, and efficiency are going to win this upcoming event.The angler who can figure out the right lure/speed combination, be most efficient, and make accurate casts is going to win. It's just that type of fishery where every ounce counts.
Look for my Smith Lake details very soon. Thanks for joining me in my fishing adventures...
This year I was able to attend the Bassmaster Classic and it was a great event and great to see Florida angler Chris Lane win.But instead of viewing the event purely as a spectator, I actually had the feeling that I was taking a training class on how to act as a Classic angler.You see, I am now fishing the Bassmaster Southern Opens, and each tournament I fish I will have a shot at winning an entry into the next Bassmaster Classic.
I watched the 2012 Classic anglers organize their equipment in their boats with the utmost efficiency.In the Classic, time is extremely limited, so the better Classic contenders have learned not to waste one precious moment.Disorganization can cost valuable time, maybe not the one time you have to search in your boat to find a bait, but add up all the times you had to search for baits in the tournament and it could mean the difference.
I watched how the anglers expressed themselves, both with fans and when alone in their boats with their thoughts.Focus was key, and even during press conferences each day I could see the top contenders processing and thinking about the words their fellow anglers were saying when questioned by the media.
There are very few secrets in the Classic, and everyone knows what each angler is doing.The media questions make the anglers reveal small pieces of information about the success each day.Not enough information for the average angler to grasp, but enough tidbits for their competitors to pick up on. For instance, I watched Alton Jones’s eye light up when day one leader Keith Poche answered media questions about his fishing area and how the bass were biting his baits.While Keith never revealed the color or kind of baits he was using to take the lead on day one, he told enough to unknowingly help his competitors. The next day Alton apparently used the information to his advantage and jumped up into 3rd place while Keith fell down the leaderboard.
I watched how the anglers managed spectator’s boats, who fished well in crowds of other anglers, and who ran away from the crowds to seek isolated fishing holes. I learned first-hand in the Southern Opens that once you achieve a boat wrap, other anglers will follow you more, mark your fishing areas, and take notice of the lures you are using.To excel at the level needed to fish professionally anglers have to be able to handle crowds and recognition.
The message is clear, to be successful you must be able to use ordinary lures in magical ways, not rely on secret fishing hole or secret lures.Understanding how bass react to presentations and lure techniques becomes the focus of Elite anglers.Every one of the Bassmaster Classic anglers were using fishing rods, reels, lines, and lures that everyday anglers can purchase and use.
The Bassmaster Classic is truly as sport where knowledge and experience win.
My big chance to finish high in the Bassmaster Southern Open tournament was lost when random misfortunes caused a shortened tournament day.
After six weeks of scouting the Harris Chain of Lakes and finding bass holding in a pre-spawn stage, I just knew that I had a mid-depth fishing pattern that would allow me to catch enough bass to place well in the event.
My pre-tournament preparation began with maintenance items being checked off and completed, rods rigged and baits carefully tied.I had a solid state of mind and a series of game plans depending on the weather and my boat number.I was relaxed at the partner pairing meeting and felt in control of my destiny.
On the first day of the tournament I launched out as boat number 175, so when I motored into a my small cove it surprised me that I had the area all to myself.The other 196 competitors overlooked my fish I knew I was onto a solid winning pattern.I fished the area and caught a nice little limit of bass that weighed 10.10 pounds.It was under my goal of 13 pounds but solid enough to place me in 53rd place.
On day two I was boat 24 and with an early start I was going to fish my best spot in another lake where I had found an abundance of larger bass.I figured I needed about 15 pounds to make the third day cut of top-12 anglers; which should have been an easy task given the conditions and the pre-spawn group of bass I had located.
Lady Misfortune had another idea for me and I never made it to my primary fishing area.Something on my outboard motor broke first thing in the morning.It was a random mechanical failure that could not have been prevented and I was forced to fish around the launch ramp on my trolling motor.
My plan to reach my fishing spots and my dreams of earning a large paycheck vanished.To say I was disappointed would be an under statement.Yet, I still felt in control of my destiny and remained in a positive frame of mind. I used my Bass Pro Shops AGM gel-cell batteries and Motorguide Tour Edition trolling motor to fish through 15 mph winds and catch two more bass.
Even though I lost the tournament, I ended up earning 105 points for a 93rd place finish. I beat over 50% of the field which included several well known professional Elite BASS anglers.All in all, not a bad finish given my misfortunes.
I was proud that I never lost my temper or got discouraged. During my downtime on the last day I had a chance to meet with many of my product representatives, and the seeds of friendship planted that day have already begun to grow.I look forward to a great year on the Bassmaster Southern Open trail in 2012!