The past couple weeks between tournaments, I've been out putting in work doing guide trips and testing new sponsor products. One of my favorite things to do when out doing this is to practice and sharpen my skills. There's a few examples of this and I'm a firm believer that anything I can do to better myself and my fishing will eventually payoff when the money's on the line.
One is always to be looking for new water. This has got to be one, if not the best way to become a better fisherman. This is a skill that the best have and it shows by continued success at the scales. Bottom line is fish move and you need to be able to move with them. Sure we all have spots that seem to always produce no matter the time of year but that's very rare. Usually you need to be able to follow the fish as they transition through the seasons. Every time I'm on the water I attempt to find something new or learn something about what the fish are relating to. Even if the lake your on isn't a big tournament lake, it teaches you to always keep an open mind and how to fish different types of water.
This brings me to my next point. When I'm out on the water and I'm not practicing for a tournament, I try to use baits and styles of retrieve that I don't have much confidence in. Sometimes I'll use baits that I do have confidence in to find fish holding areas but then try to switch baits and see if I can trigger them to bite. This is what builds confidence in new tactics and makes me more of a well rounded angler.
The past week or so I've had the opportunity to do just that and let me tell you the end reward is far more satisfying then accomplishing the norm. Recently I had a guide trip, I had decided I would meet the client in the city he was staying and fish a lake that is right within minutes of his hotel room.
I had been to this lake before but very rarely ever this time of year and if I was we basically just threw frogs at all the abundant vegetation that makes up this lake. This is a solid pattern on this body of water but it is also the most obvious.
I had been getting bit on lakes in the area fishing deeper and thought that if I could find some nice deep structure I could provide some awesome fishing for my client. I was very happy when after about a whole 5 minutes of Humminbird Side Imaging work along with studying my Navionics Mapping Chip, I located a nice point that had some scattered hard bottom along with some patchy weeds. The target area itself sat in about 14 feet of water. On my first cast with a hand tied 1/2 oz. Picasso Football Jig I landed a chunky 5.6 pound largemouth bass. Awesome!
My client and I went about 4 for 4 each on consecutive casts after that both catching bass no smaller than 3 pounds. Already a good trip and we haven't been on the water for more than 15 minutes!
I continued this pattern around the lake and located 6 or 7 different spots that all had some of these similarities and also had the same end result. We boated giant after giant in what finished out as one of the best outings I had all year. No joke, we boated a 6 pounder, multiple 5 and 4 pounders and our fair share of 3's. In fact, I don't think we caught but 1 that went under 3 and all came on some of my favorite baits, a football jig and an Outkast Tackle jigworm. The kicker was we ended up spending about 2 hours frog fishing the slop without a single blow up. Huh? Things to think about.
Leaving I was obviously excited. I had provided an awesome experience for someone and also got to jack up on some toads. Even better I had challenged myself to find something new and the result was overly rewarding. Still though the competitor in me wanted more so 5 days later I was right back there with a buddy to do some sponsor photos with the many big bass that where available for the picking.
My confidence level was through the roof, I mean these fish were really making it easy on me. I was throwing baits that I have nothing but confidence on, in areas that gave me more confidence then I knew what to do with. We only had 4 hours to fish as my buddy had to be to the Minneapolis Airport by noon. 4 hours? No problem!
I took my buddy to the first spot and gave him the quick rundown, handed him a Picasso Football Jig and told him the technique. I thought I'd just sit back, tie up a couple rods that I was going to need for an upcoming tournament and get ready with the camera. After about 1o minutes with nothing I decided it was time to get up and show him how it's done. Nothing. Not a bite. OK, OK hold up here. This is a fluke, I mean they were jumping in the boat days ago here, they gotta be at the next spot.
Well after about 2 hours without a bite, my confidence went way down and the new word to describe me would be embarrassed and humbled. Maybe now it's time to revert back to old faithful and get to the slop with ole' Kermie.
After about another hour of no bites, no hook sets and just a whole lot of talking, I figured we needed to get back out to the main lake, they had to be there now. We worked all these spots on the way back to the boat ramp and continued to throw the jigworm and football jigs and couldn't buy a bite. Now I was going from the outing of the year to the first skunk in the past 3 years! Unbelievable!!
On our very last stop, which was also our very first stop this morning, I was accepting defeat. I mean I couldn't get a bite on spots that where holding giant sacks just days ago and I was throwing baits that I had nothing but confidence throwing. As I was putting my rods and tackle away I saw my new bag of Biovex Deep Runner Crankbaits. This ate at me even worse because I was hoping to get to use these and catch a few nice bass with them so I could send some quality pictures back to Biovex.
Deep cranking is not a strong suit for me, in fact it's probably the worst technique in my repertoire. I just never had much success with it and really never tried to hard to make it work. Just always kind of had the impression that if they'll bite a deep crankbait, they'll definitely bite my jig, carolina rig or worse case a shakey head. Even though I knew this was a invalid and biased opinion some habits are just to hard to break.
With only 10 minutes left before we had to load up and bail out, I decided to tie one up and see how they run. They are a brand new bait released by Biovex and look absolutely amazing, I'm sure they run even better than they look. I took my first cast and had to make just a slight tweak to the line tie and had it running perfect. The bait got down quick and ran nice and tight without to much drag which results in less fatigue to the angler. It took me another cast or two to find the hard spot and about on my third cast I was grinding the plug into the bottom right through the strike zone. Just as I was thinking how cool it would be to one day find this crankin' bite and 'WHAM", my rod loads up on a giant 5+ pound largemouth. That was insane and extremely addicting! I was grinding the Deep Runner over the rocks and the fish just inhaled the bait.
After a couple pictures I released the fish and was immediately overwhelmed with happiness because that was probably the first true deep crank lunker bass I've ever caught. I thought I may have activated the school and maybe now I could catch another one and we both started throwing our football jigs and Carolina Rigs, and yet again, nothing. Just then I started thinking it must have been just one solo fish that happened to show up right as my plug came ripping through. Curious I picked up the crankbait and chucked it back across the point and wouldn't you know it, as soon as it hit the bottom I was instantly whacked and again boated another lunker going an easy 4 pounds. On my next 5 casts with the Biovex Deep Runner I went 4 for 5, all going over 3 pounds. Now if that's not an eye opener I don't know what is!
Unfortunately for the both of us we had to get off the water but again similar to 5 days ago when I was leaving this lake I had a smile on my face. Sure we struggled hard, really hard for 95% of our outing, but the last 5% will never be forgotten. One, I now have a ton of confidence in a bait that before just got tucked into the bottom of my boat and two, found that it can be a better option than good old faithful. Those fish didn't just show up that last 10 mnutes, they were there the whole time and just had no interest in what I had to offer. They were on a reaction bite and wasn't fooled by the old ball and chain or by dragging a big jig. Again, even though I knew this to be true, I mean there's a reason crankers like Kevin VanDam have made millions on top of millions throwing this bait, sometimes the only way to truly buy into it is to actually accomplish it. Good for me, once again I had reason to have a smile on my face! There is no such thing as perfect, but hard nosed preparation will get you the closest thing to it.
Up next I'm outta town practicing for the last stop of the Silverado Pro Tour held on the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes near St. Cloud, MN. You think I'll have a Biovex Deep Runner tied on?