First Bass Tournament Is In The Books!
by: James Strawbridge 5/2/2012
It's official......one down and 23 more to go! My first bass tournament of 2012 is in the books. It was held at Horsetooth reservoir hosted by Centennial Bass Club. I've waited all winter for this and stared at this date for weeks now. I know this was a mini tournament, but I will always prepare for every event the same.
It all starts out about 3 days before the event. That's when I start to study the weather, pay attention to frontal conditions, look at condition reports, and try to put a plan together before I even head out to the water. I knew that water temps were in the mid to high 50's and Horsetooth is primarily a smallmouth lake. That told me to stick to basics and use your standard spring time baits......jerkbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, rattle traps, and of course....a jig. Or in this case, it being Horsetooth, "a tube".
So I headed out on Saturday to practice for a mini tournament that I had on a Tuesday evening. I loaded up the boat, and off I went to practice. I knew that with this being a short event on Tuesday (5:30- 9:00 pm) I had to cover water and find the most active fish in the lake. So based on a seasonal pattern I thought I would concentrate my efforts on main lake and secondary points. These fish are in the process of moving in to shallow water and getting ready to spawn. So they will use points to migrate their way into the coves and adjacent spawning flats. So I decided to use two primary baits to search for these fish. A jerkbait, and a Storm Wiggle Wart. So off I went crankin my way on all these points. Just about my 10th cast with the Wiggle Wart...."BAM".....fish on! About a 14" smallie. So I released it, and off I went crankin again! About 5 minutes goes by and "BAM" another smallie. This time a 12 1/2 incher. I swing it up in the boat, unhook it, and let it go. So once again, back to crankin! Cast about 5 more times and "BAM" fish on again, a 16 incher. That's three off the same point. Now mind you, 3 fish is a good start, but by no means is three fish a solid pattern.
So I go across to the next point in the same cove and catch two more. So that's 5 off the points leading into this cove. I fire up the motor and shoot my way to the next cove with a main lake point and a secondary point. Drop the trolling motor and start crankin. "BAM" fish on! swing it in...unhook her, and let her go. I move down the point, and about 10 cast later, "BAM" another one! Now I have something going! Troll my way across the cove to the next point. Same results. Now I'm on to something. That's four points I've hit and had good results. Maybe that's a fluke and I just got lucky. So I decided to change baits. Yes! Change baits!
I went back to all those points that I was catching fish on and preceded to throw senkos, spinnerbaits, jigs, and jerkbaits. Why would I do such a crazy thing you ask? Why change baits when you seem to be on something good? Because I wanted to see If these fish were keyed in on another bait that could possibly be my back up. No hits on the senko, no hits on the spinner bait, and some sub par bass on the jerkbait (but at least I got bit on it). I did this for eight hours and every time I went back to the wiggle wart good things would happen.
So this brings me to my tournament day. Here I am thinking that I kind of have them figured out. I have a decent pattern, and warmer weather over the past few days can only help. Perfect......nothing has changed from practice, if anything warmer weather will activate them more! So I get to the tournament and set up for the draw. (a draw is where you are paired with another fisherman who is called a non-boater). Come to find out there are more boaters than non-boaters. That means that I possibly could fish alone. That's ok, even though fishing with someone is cool, I don't have to worry about a person on the back and can concentrate on my fishing. Sure enough, I go out alone. No draw partner. So off I go full blast to hit all the points. I get to the first one and about my 15th cast "BAM" fish on! Yes!!!!! I said, "here we go". I unhook it, put it on the golden rule and it's a keeper. Pick up the rod and cast again. I work my way down this point and not another bite. So I troll over to the next point. No fish there either! Uttt Oh, what's going on? Don't panic Jim, relax, you still have time to fish! This goes on from 5:45 to 7:45. Two hours, and not a bite! Where is my pattern? What happened? This can't be! Keep in mind that I have changed baits frequently over the past 2 hrs. I even went to the jerkbait, which in practice got me some sub par fish....still nothing.
Finally at about 8:00 pm, with only one hour left to fish...."BAM" fish on! I reel her in and it's a 14 1/2 " smallie....Yes!!!!! But wait I just realised something. That fish hit my lure when I bent over to mess with the trolling motor..... So what! What does that have to do with anything? That means my bait paused and slowed down. I make my next cast, the lure hits the water, I give it a slow crank and pause, then slow crank, then pause, and... "BAM".... fish on! Reel her in, put it on the board, and she's a keeper. Cast back out and repeat the slow crankin with the pause using the wiggle wart. I precede to catch six good keepers with only one hour to spare. We talley up the scores and I came in 6th out of 36 participants. I'll say not bad for a last minute run, but what could have been if I only figured out to really slow down and pause the bait. I did throw the jerkbait, but for some reason they liked the wiggle wart better. Maybe the wider wobble and smaller profile?
So what did I learn from this tournament? What could I have done better to be consistently on fish instead of scrambling at the end? I don't know if I can answer that. There are probably a thousand answers, but every tournament teaches you so much. I can sit back now and see what I could have done different, (like slowing down my bait 2 hours ago) but in the heat of the moment, sometimes you just can't take the pressure of not catching fish. Maybe that's what I learned the most! How do I deal with challenges and pitfalls in the world of tournament bass fishing. I don't know if I'll ever accept anything but success, but in order to learn we all must fail. Don't get me wrong, I'll take a 6th place finish in a 36 man event. But I know one thing I can say.....that's what keeps me coming back. The challenge to adapt, overcome, and succeed.
Anyways, it's off to Pueblo for the Colorado Couples Series team event this weekend (May 6, 2012). I'll let everyone know how we did. This will be a great event and Pueblo is my favorite lake. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
Blog content © James Strawbridge
LittleFlyBigFish, CO 5/3/2012 1:48:14 PM
I am no expert in bass fishing by any means, but I do have a good friend that represents Colorado's State Bass Team, and he was kind enough to share some excellent tips with me. During your "trial" run of the lake, try not to set the hook when you get a strike. Let the fish spit it out, or try to anyway.
LastKast2010, CO 5/3/2012 2:44:28 PM
Nice work James...
I too had a very similar tournament two weeks ago here at Navajo. It was all about the stop and go, and hitting lots of..."stuff".....
Take a look at the Damiki dc-200 crank in blue craw.... just sayin!!!! Tackle Warehouse........
LastKast2010, CO 5/3/2012 2:45:49 PM
and i agree.... don't stick fish in pre fish...... i know it hard... but it will leave fish for your tourney...
Coyute, CO 5/3/2012 5:59:54 PM
NEVER GIVE UP! :P
cmarbles, CO 5/3/2012 6:20:41 PM
Nice read!! see now this stuff I can read all day.
spinn3r, CO 5/3/2012 8:27:35 PM
Nice write-up, Jim. I liked the blow-by-blow description of how you searched, expanded, then narrowed down to find a pattern. Keep 'em coming!
jamesavp, ND 5/13/2012 2:18:45 PM
Nice report, I feel I can learn alot from reading reports like this. What I find happens is a bunch of guys pre fish in front or behind you and all of the sudden fishing pressure spike may have made the fish moody. The change up gave them something different and you adapted.
Great Job! Awesome article.
ZZZ, CO 5/13/2012 11:34:45 PM
Nice job adapting. Sounds like a small pause was the difference between 6th and 36th.
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