Pre-fishing can be frustrating

Preparation is the key to doing well on any tournament trail. But in the tournament bass fishing world, it can also test an angler’s patience.

Anglers spend hours and days pre-fishing for schools of quality fish that will help put them either in the winner’s circle or at least in line to get a check. There’s a saying with bass fishermen that “time on the water” is critical to being competitive. 

Let’s look at another famous quote with bass fishermen: ”What a difference a day makes!”  There’s no telling how many times anglers have found quality fish during practice, only to be left wondering on tournament day, “Where did they go?”

My last tournament on Sam Rayburn was a prime example. The fishing overall was tough and summer temperatures were hitting the mid 90’s. Not only was it hot, but there was little to no wind which makes fishing difficult on any body of water. When you tell people it was a beautiful day, in bass fishing terms that means the fishing was probably not very good. Pretty bluebird days do not usually equate to great fishing days. 

This tournament, my electronics played a big role in me locating a school of bass offshore in 15 to 18 feet of water. It had a high spot of about 10 foot that was holding a solid school of bass. During my final practice day after coming across this little honey hole, I made two casts onto this spot with a big redbug colored V&M Straight Wild worm when the rod loaded up with a solid 3.5-pound bass. This was what I was looking for!

Any time you can catch fish over 3 pounds on a spot, that’s a good thing. My next cast resulted in a 4-pounder and now I was excited. Realizing that quality fish were present, I pulled up the trolling motor and left the scene, counting on this spot for tournament day. 

But guess what? I ran into the same thing that happens so many times when you find a good group of fish on one spot in practice — overnight they get smaller! For some reason my 3- and 4-pound fish I found the day before turned into 1.79, 1.74. 1.72. 1.59 and 1.76. Five fish that were just under 9 pounds total. Every fish I caught looked like it had come out of the same mold!

One thing you must understand about bass, they tend to group up the same size as others in the school. Again, this is not unusual in that it often happens that bigger bass will leave a spot only to be replaced by smaller ones. It’s as if a memo was sent out the night before my tournament alerting all the good fish to move off this hump. 

After catching and culling three times with a worm, I decided to show them something different as I picked up a Strike King 3XD crankbait. Immediately I started catching fish and hoped they would be bigger fish. But no, they continued to be in the 1.75-pound range which was not helping me at all. My co-angler, who was fishing out of the back of the boat, was also catching fish, but of the same size I was. We both tried different techniques, but the results were still the same — small fish!

I finished 18th overall in this event but should have finished much higher IF my fish had not gotten smaller or if the good fish hadn’t read that stupid memo.

That’s what makes tournament fishing so frustrating. You spend hours and days trying to find quality bass and for whatever reason, they just disappear. Sometimes all the preparation in the world doesn’t help if the fish don’t cooperate.

‘Til next time, good luck, good fishing and please wear good sun-protective clothing and your sunscreen. If you think you’re immune to getting Melanoma — think again!

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