Bass fishing is a one man sport and in this sport, there isn’t anyone to help but yourself and fate. Fate is often times mistaken for luck; people create their own luck which ultimately dictates their fate. A hard work ethic will excel you in both. Bass fishing is a true David vs. Goliath style matchup. You make up your team, yet you face the best and most well oiled team in existence, Mother Nature. Your opposition holds all the cards, it’s up to you to unfold her hand and use what is shown to capitalize on these given opportunities.
Developing a work ethic will not only help you succeed off the water, but will also develop into a confident approach to both your practice and the tournament as well. There are three stages to a winning pattern; location, presentation and execution.
Locating active bass hangouts is always the first step but not always the easiest. However, thanks to today’s electronic advances we now find ourselves inching ever so close to better matching up with good ole’ Mother Nature.
The fishing world has never been as sophisticated as is now in regards to what’s available to us as consumers. Navionics, who is known for producing the best and most accurate lake maps available, allows the public to view their maps and study them well before launching your boat, from your own home simply by visiting their website, www.Navionics.com. This works great for me as I use this technology to help develop my game plan by considering the natural migration of bass and using the HD Navionics mapping to give me a starting point, familiarizing myself with any complex waterway.
On the water, I’ll break these areas down using my Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch system. There’s not a better or faster piece of equipment available that offers all the technology and ease of use than does the new Lowrance Touch System. These touch screen HDS units offer many features such as GPS, traditional sonar, StructureScan, StructureMap, DownScan as well as a camera function, that all expose a significant piece of the lakes puzzle.
I combine my Navionics Platinum Mapping Card with my Lowrance Structure Scan to quickly turn a relatively large area into just a few casts. I idle up and down points, ledges or weed edges in search of something different. This could be baitfish, a brush pile on a flat, a stump out on a ledge or a rock pile protruding from a weed bed. Once I find something that attracts my eye, I’ll start to break it down further using DownScan to get a perfect view of the structure as well as what inhabits it. Bites are precious in tournament fishing and making one too many casts can result in hooking and burning a fish that a day or two later may have been more than willing to go for a boat ride. Once you get familiar and confident in the advantages of Lowrance’s HDS advancements, you’ll find that you don’t need to make extra practice casts, in return saving you fish and enabling you a more efficient practice.
A new function to the Gen2 Touch line is the built-in plug and play camera attachment. I find this feature to be very useful in developing confidence in recognizing what my DownScan is telling me. If in question, simply plug the camera in and drop it down and have a look for yourself.
Here’s a little secret for when I find myself on a good flippin’ bite in practice. A milfoil bed makes a canopy where there is actually open water underneath the bushy vegetation; this vegetation also cleans the water making the water in these beds very clear, all perfect conditions for a camera. Once I get a bite or two in the grass, I simply drop the camera down and analyze the size of school I’m dealing with, save a waypoint and leave with the mindset that I’m going to come back and jack their jaws when the dough’s on the line.
Another tool in my arsenal is my HydroWave, which is no secret to any die hard bass angler. I know the importance of this technology on tournament days but it especially shines on practice days. The sounds that the HydroWave omit stimulate the entire underwater community and I can accurately assess how healthy the area is that I’m fishing. The better the environment the better chance I catch a big bag. This goes for all fishermen up north for that matter, the HydroWave excels at pumping out big bags and that goes for you walleye guys too!
On practice days, I turn the HydroWave’s volume up, way up, and excessively stimulate the environment in the areas I’m fishing. If the area is good, the “activity” level will definitely pick up. The forage will start showing themselves as they start to sense the presence of feeding predators. No matter if the forage is shad or bluegill; they all resemble each other when they’re swimming scared by getting all erratic and twitchy like, these are the exact traits that will stimulate a predatory response from inactive bass.
Once you’ve located fish, now it’s time to figure out how to make them bite and who better to offer advice than Rapala Pro, Seth Feider. Seth has a knack for busting big bags and has the versatility to do it anywhere and at any time but even he acknowledges that finding a productive area and capitalizing on its potential are two different deals. “Depending on what region you’re fishing dictates where the largest group of active bass will be, in the upper Midwest it’s all about the grass,” claims Seth. “All underwater life utilizes the grass, both predator and prey”.
So if you want to catch bass, fish the grass. Something which is much easier said than done. Anyone who’s ever spent time fishing some of the natural lakes that litter the Upper Midwest knows that there is no shortage of vegetation and some of the most productive areas can be the largest grass beds the lake harbors.
Seth breaks it down by season and again if you have any knowledge of bass fishing north of Illinois you know winter is not in our game plan, the lakes are frozen solid. “Spring, summer and fall are the key seasons up north and all offer up different scenarios in order to successfully bag a nice limit,” explains Seth. “During the spring, I focus most all my attention to the inside weedline, the bass have just finished the spawn and are slowly working their way out to the main lake. I like to find areas that have a solid edge with good weed growth on one side and a sandy to rocky bottom on the other, the added presence of spawning bluegills doesn’t hurt none either.”
Post spawn fishing can be very hit or miss as the bass are on different agendas this time of year and more often than not, its one fish here and one fish there. Seth agrees and chooses his tackle arsenal accordingly, “I like to stay moving while searching for quality bass, my go-to this time of year is a Terminator Swim Jig in green pumpkin or anything that resembles a bluegill. Come tournament day I’ll still throw the swim jig around but my main choice will be a wacky rigged Trigger X Flutter Worm, this finesse presentation gets finicky bass every time”.
As spring makes way to summer, outside weedlines starts to develop, the bass move deep and so does Seth. “Bass start schooling up this time of year and stay that way well into the fall”, he says. “Basically I work the deep weed edge looking for any and all irregularities I can, this can be turns, points or hard bottom areas.”
Similar to his spring time approach, Seth likes to move water to find better concentrations of bass and finds the buoyancy of the Rapala DT-6 or DT-10 to be a perfect choice when dealing with a thick weed edge. “Since the bass are schooled this time of year, they get very competitive over food and won’t hesitate to jump on my DT when it comes wheeling past their face,” he says. “Once I find them, I put on the breaks and switch to something that will penetrate the grass better by flippin’ a ¾ oz. Terminator Pro Series Jig. I can get away with a stronger rod and heavier line when pitching the jig and that’s important when dealing with thick milfoil. You can’t afford to lose them this time of year; one spooked fish can shut down the entire school.”
As the cooler nights set in and the water temps start to plummet, the grass starts to die off as well. Seth reads the grass by finding the healthiest and thickest mats he can find. “Fall is a great time of year to catch big fish, but you need to go shallow” he explains. “I use a Terminator Tandem Buzz buzzbait as a search tool all the while keeping my eyes peeled for quality mats. Once I find a good clump of weeds I penetrate the mat with a heavy texas rigged plastic such as a Trigger X Goo Bug. I find it important to use a heavier weight than most do as I don’t want to give the bass anytime to think about eating my bait; it’s all about the reaction bite. I also pay extra special attention to my presentation and making sure I have a no-splash entry. The bass are shallow and it’s important to not spook them, especially with a heavy sinker!”
Once you’ve put in the practice and you’ve located the fish, there’s still much to be done, you still need to execute. Minnesota bass pro John Figi agrees that finding fish is only part of the battle, bringing them to the scales is a whole other. “You’ve got to have the right mind set both on and off the water,” explains Figi. “You need to develop discipline in your life which will spill over into your fishing.”
When not on the water, Figi counts on a disciplined routine of exercising and muscle building to up his game and give him an advantage over his competition. “Nobody wants to work out every day, but forcing me to do something that I don’t necessarily want to builds discipline, giving me much more than just the obvious,” explains Figi. “Lifting weights and taking care of my body obviously will assist me on the water with longer and more accurate casts, stronger hook setting power and better endurance in less than ideal weather conditions, but will also help mentally by providing me more confidence, probably the most important tool in a fisherman’s arsenal.”
There’s no denying that to be at the top of your game in any sport you need to have both physical and mental endurance. Whenever Figi is not on the road preparing for tournaments, he finds himself at his local Anytime Fitness, always working on his ultimate goal of competing at the highest level of bass fishing. “I try to focus on exercises that inevitably help me perform out on the water, simple exercises like wrist curls and bicep curls, as well as stretching all prove effective on the water when the money is on the line,” he says. “Anytime Fitness has all the equipment one would need and works with my hectic fishing schedule by being open 24/7, 365 days a week”.
It’s important that you make your workouts convenient to your lifestyle and no one knows this more than Figi. “I’m always on the go, but no matter where I am, I always have an Anytime Fitness just down the road,” he explains.
With over 1800 stores worldwide, Anytime Fitness is perfect for a tournament angler providing the ability to go month to month instead of being locked down in a contract. “It’s important that I have the ability to freeze my membership when I’m not able to get to the gym, “explains Figi. “It’s bad enough knowing I’m missing out on my routine; I don’t need to get charged on top of it!”
Figi knows that keeping a disciplined workout as a part to his daily routine is a major player to his success and will continue to assist him down the line. “Really, its simple.” he says. “If you feel good physically then you’ll feel good mentally, all key ingredients for making the right decisions when the money is on the line.”
Josh Douglas is a professional tournament bass angler and a full time guide on Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga and the Tennessee River. He's slated to compete in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Everstarts and PAA in hopes of qualifying for his lifetime goal of competing on the elite tour levels. When not on the water, Josh enjoys writing about his passion of bass fishing through many different outlets including his personal website, www.JoshDouglasFishing.com.
Seth Feider and John Figi are professional tournament bass anglers as well as guides on Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka. Follow their Facebook pages to find more information and to learn more!