Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lessons Learned

Success at fishing comes from continuous learning. Multiple variables from weather to water quality affect a fish’s behavior and feeding patterns. Knowing how to target the fish in ever-changing matrices of conditions bellies the best anglers to the top of the sport.

Wanting to learn more about catching bass on Table Rock Lake, I signed up to fish as a co-angler in a tournament back in 2004. This was a tour-level event, and I was excited about the possibility of drawing a great angler who could teach me some new tricks on a lake I’d fished for a few years.

The first day of the event, it poured down rain, long enough to push takeoff back an hour. My pro partner and I both blanked. The next day, I drew a legend in the sport – someone I’d always wanted to fish with for a day. His name wasn’t as important as what I learned.

We started the morning cranking and throwing spinnerbaits. As the day progressed, he learned to target bass in very shallow water, and I was left to fish out deep or back behind the boat. I was stumped as to how I should approach this because the boat was sitting in shallow water. He was bombing long casts straight ahead with a spinnerbait and fishing shallow water along the bank. The cove was muddy and the water was cold and I figured a deep bottom bite should still be decent.

After a few hours, not one bass bit my offerings, but the pro had three quality keepers. He was sitting in the boat retying and offered what I took as a casual observation at the time.

“Prespawn bass on this lake will rise up out of the middle of the coves that are 30 or 40 feet deep,” he said, “and they will hide in the top 1 or 2 feet of muddy water and ambush bait next to standing timber after a big rain.”

I don’t know if the rain and cold had my brain a little numb, but I failed to realize he was suggesting that I target the timber in the middle of the cove just under the surface while he fished the shallows from the front. I was stubborn and kept fishing the bottom out deep.
We left that cove and fished another spot before returning about 30 minutes later. This time, the pro headed right down the middle. I was elated to be able to cast toward the bank and fish shallow for a while. Meanwhile, he was casting to the standing trees in 30 to 40 feet of water with a spinnerbait, targeting bass in that 1-foot horizontal band of muddy water on the surface.
About that time, his rod loaded up and an awful commotion erupted on the surface. Before I gathered my senses, he’d flopped down on the deck and wrestled what looked to be a 7- or 8-pound bass into the boat.

Could that have just happened? Did he just catch an 8-pound bass from the very area where he had casually mentioned bass liked to hide, and that I opted earlier to ignore?

This sport offers a lot of humble pie, and it wasn’t my first time learning a hard lesson. But it taught me to always pay attention to changes on the water and more importantly, heed the advice of good anglers when they offer it with sincerity, like FLW Outdoors pros and co-anglers do in this magazine.

Good Fishing,

Jason Sealock

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