By Steve Graf
It does not matter what life throws at you, there’s always choices or decisions to be made. Some are easy and straightforward, and some are an educated guess while others are a calculated risk. Just like in the movie “Spiderman” we have a choice, but our choices or decisions have consequences. Some decisions we make are for selfish reasons but then some might be for the good of helping others. As an angler every day on the water is full of choices and decisions that lead us either to victory or just an average finish.
Today I’m going to walk you through what an angler goes through before and during a bass tournament. An angler’s choices or decisions are based on things like; time of year, the lake he’s on, watercolor, water temperature to moon phase. All these things can dictate bait selection. He bases his choices and makes his decisions off his pre-fishing time. Let’s start with maybe the most important element; what time of year is it?. For this article, let’s go with April. Here in the south, most of our waterways or lakes are warming up fast. Warm nights and warmer days really bring the water temps up into the lower to mid 60’s. In April we still have bass that have not spawned (laid eggs) yet. But if you look ahead for the next full moon, you’ll know when there will be another group of female bass ready to pull up shallow for the spawn. The general rule of thumb is that three days before and after the full moon is when fish are the most active but not all fish spawn at the same time.
Mother Nature is smart on how she replenishes our lakes and waterways. From February even into the month of May, there will be bass spawning during each of those months and it usually coincides with the full moon. Knowing this information allows you make an informed decision to either go shallow for spawning fish or find the first deep drop off leading into the shallow water where bass might be staging before pulling up for the spawn. Hence, we call these “staging fish”. Some anglers like myself are very comfortable in shallow water while others like to find fish in the deeper water near the drop off. If your decision is to go shallow, now let’s decide what baits to throw. My first choice is to pitch, flip or drag a lizard. Then I’ll pick up a spinnerbait or maybe a shallow running crankbait. Creature’s baits like the V&M Baby Swamp Hog or a beaver style bait are also great choices. But don’t forget to have a frog tied on as well. Nothing draws a bigger more aggressive strike than a frog sitting over a bass on bed.
If you decide to go for the bass in pre-spawn or staging mode in deeper water, you can tie on a Texas rigged worm, a Carolina rig worm or a deep diving crankbait. A slow rolled spinnerbait or a swim bait is also a great choice. The pre-spawn fish might be a little easier to catch for two reasons, they might not have had the fishing pressure and are not as skittish as the bass that have moved up to spawn. A bass on a bed can be a difficult fish to catch and you can waste a lot of precious time on tournament day trying to trigger a bed fish into biting.
People have asked me how much luck comes into play in fishing? The luck part is when you hook a fish and just as you flip the fish in the boat, the hook falls out while the fish lands in the boat rather than in the lake. That’s luck! Good anglers seem to have instincts rather than luck and it seems like they always make the right choices and decisions. This is why pre-fishing can be so useful and help an angler on tournament day to make the right choices. Maybe he caught a lot of two-pound fish in an area, but the luck part is that when he got there on tournament day, three and four pounders had moved in. But his decision to start an event in that particular area is calculated based on the results of what he caught while pre-fishing.
While watching Major League Fishing a short time ago, MLF Pro John Cox made a tournament clinching decision by stopping in a small pocket 10 minutes before weigh-in. The result was John catching a four-pound bass, sealing the win for him on Smith Lake. Now this does not always happen but it’s a great example of an angler making the right decision on tournament day.
So, whether you’re a tournament angler or a weekend warrior, the decisions or choices you make on the water, can be the difference in having a successful tournament or one that you would rather forget. Till next time, stay strong, keep the faith in your abilities and the choices you make. Good luck and don’t forget to set the hook!
By Steve Graf