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Why are the Bassmaster Elite Series fishermen so much better than us?

Guest Blog by: James Strawbridge 12/2/2012

    This is a question that I ask myself all the time....and I keep coming up with the same answer. Experience!

    But is that really the answer? I fish a lot, and I mean a lot. I fished over 30 tournaments this year alone, not counting recreational fishing. I can read my electronics just as good as the next guy. I'm confident with 90% of the lures out there. I know how bass act and how seasonal patterns effect where a fish will be in any particular lake. So does this mean I'm ready for the Elites?

    Heck no! These guys are good, and I mean good. One thing I have to remember is that we look at them as people who fish for for bass, but the reality is...they fish for a living. Fishing to put food on the table, pay their mortgage, and support a family. Just like I do for my job. Sure they have sponsors, but they also need to perform to keep those sponsors.

    So back to the question...Why are they so good at bass fishing?

    Here is my take. They are the best because they do it everyday. They break down a lake before they even fish it. They apply seasonal patterns based on that particular time of the year. They know how to adjust to conditions faster than a cold front pushing in, and have been in every situation on a lake there is. They have learned from their mistakes and turned negatives into positives. They also fish different lakes through out the country and are not just limited to Western Reservoirs.

    The real truth is they find fish better and faster than we do! 80% of those guys never even put a pole in the water during the first day of practice...all they do is hunt for blips on the radar.  Once they find these fish and mark them on there electronics they analyze that, and see if there is a pattern to why all the fish are there. They will mark 100's of way points a day and have 100's of areas to break down and find the biggest fish in a 3 day period. I don't even have a hundred spots marked on the 5 lakes I That's the difference.

    These guys also make adjustments faster on the water than we can make in a week. I've seen it first hand by watching some of the Bassmaster shows. I heard Aaron Martens just the other day question what he was doing. So he left that area and tried what he thought he should be doing and got on some good fish. A lot of us would have forced that lure/pattern on the fish and struggled. Not him, he adjusted in seconds...that's the difference.

    I don't know if I'll ever be able to figure out the answer to this question....or maybe I just did. But I know one thing they are the best in the world for a reason....and that's a pattern I want to figure out!

    Let's hear what you think...why do you think these guys are the best?

Who is Jim Strawbridge you ask! Jim is a person who has a passion for bass fishing like no other. Jim grew up in Albany, N.Y. and started bass fishing with his grandfather at age six. His decision to leave New York in 1996 and head to Colorado was a tough one indeed. Although the trip was long, it really paid off. Since Jim has arrived here in Colorado his bass fishing passion has grown to new heights. Jim says, “Bass fishing in Colorado has made me a better angler”. Jim grew up fishing the Mohawk River, Hudson River, Lake George, and lots of local Ponds. He now faces the challenge of deep, clear, western reservoirs. After fine tuning his skills, Jim has decided to pursue bass fishing at the tournament level. Jim fishes The Bassmaster’s Open and is a Tournament Director for The Colorado Couples Series. The Couples Series is a male/female team type format that fishes six lakes along the Front Range, from Pueblo to FortCollins. Jim and his wife Sharon were two time winners in The Colorado Couples Series in 2010, and state champs in 2010 & 2011. Jim and Sharon also qualified for the National Championship in 2010 and 2011, and were ranked 72nd in the Nation. Jim hosts rod building seminars, and owns “Galaxy Custom Rods and Supplies”. He also will make appearances at trade shows, and sports expos. Jim loves to talk bass fishing, so the next time you see him, stop by and say hello. Remember, you don’t have to be the best, you just have to out fish the rest! Jim would like to give a special thanks to all his great sponsors, Sportsman’s Warehouse, MHX Rods, Nitro Boats, Red Dog Signs, and Galaxy Custom Rods and Supplies.
Blog content © James Strawbridge
Member comments
FishSeal, CO   12/2/2012 9:52:22 PM
I think it's because they don't fish the Colorado Reservoirs!! Just put, Colorado doesn't have the environment for serious elite bass fishing. Now, I'm not saying that they don't, but they are most definitely not going to be getting the fish like they pull out of Clear Lake, Texoma, Ochochobee, or the CA Delta. They fish those areas because they know those are the tournament lakes. In addition, we have a totally different ecosystem than the lower elevations. Colorado is classified as a semi-arid. We don't have the trees and structured bottoms all over the place like these tournament lakes. Instead, we have rocky to silted bottoms with few trees for structure. So, I'm saying that Colorado isn't for elite fishing, but since we're here, we have to adapt to what we have. I have no doubt that if you could fish one of the tournament lakes as much as you fish here... you'd be ready for the elite!! GO Strawbridge!!
brookieflyfisher, CO   12/2/2012 11:39:28 PM
FishSeal is right. You get east of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio and the bass are dumb as bricks and abundant as rats.
MM, CO   12/3/2012 5:28:31 AM
I agree, fishing is tougher here for warm water specie but, dont think its easier on those waters just diffrent. These guy are good because they see things diffrently and I think the biggest thing and james said this is they breakdown a lake better then anyone. They target and fish for the right fish and spend the entire three day practice patterning those fish.Which fish to target through out the tournament at what times .If they catch a limit and need a kicker they have spots where they can find those fish. If they have two big fish and need to fill the well then they go to the spots they have those fish. You give one of those anglers three days on pueblo or any of our waters here, and I think he would put a good pattern together and be succesfull. Confidence is also a big part of these guys! They always have confidence in there abilitys. Dont forget, we have some of those guys here........ MM
Coyute, CO   12/3/2012 9:24:08 AM
". . . why do you think these guys are the best?" They are the best because magazines, television shows and sponsors tell you that they are the best. One day we will have a slaunch on the Elites from Colorado but they will have honed their craft all over the country instead of just here. Sometimes it sucks being a bass fisherman in a state full of people chasing the lowly trout but most often it is a blessing. I still think there are a ton of people all across the country who could out-fish many of the Elites on a regular basis. The difference between those guys and the Elite guys is that they don't care if their names are well known, they don't care if they have a jersey filled with sponsor patches, they don't care if they have the best boat money can buy - all they care about is catching fish - not the fanfare. Those are the real slaunches Jim. Those are the guys I want to fish with - not the typical Elite bass guys. Regular guys who live/love to fish for the sake of fishing - guys like you. :)
Fishful Thinker, CO   12/3/2012 9:55:27 AM
Having fished and generally spent time with a bunch of the Elite anglers, I can tell you first hand that they do in fact live to much so that they sacrifice family time, home life, and financial stability to be able to compete at the sport's highest level. ALL OF THEM I have ever spoken with would gladly trade the sponsor game to be able to make a decent living strictly off winnings, but alas, they are in effect playing for their own money given that entry fees exceed $5K per derby. They're not in it for the glory anymore than any other athlete, but the exposure pays the bills allowing them to keep fishing. Without exception, if you asked any one of them if they could make a living just fishing 200 days per year, perhaps competing with their buddies just for fun, without all the hu-ha of big time derby fishing, they'd gladly trade it. Well...perhaps except Skeet. You don't get to their level of skill, endurance, and general understanding of bass catching without major sacrifices in other areas of life...and for the record, most of them make less money than average Joe's, and many have "real jobs" as well. You know what makes them so good? Sheer dedication to the sport and focus on a single goal of winning...the same things that make any person very highly successful at whatever it is they choose to do. Those great local sticks from around the country - and there are many - are just that...great local sticks very good at catching their local fish on their local lakes. You know why? Because they lack the desire or will or business skills to be the best nationally...they're happy to succeed locally while maintaining some sort of a normal life rather than a life on the road where they must answer to sponsor obligations, media obligations, crappy weather, dumpy hotel rooms, and running a business out of the front seat of a pickup truck - and I can certainly understand that. As much as I love to compete at anything against anyone, and as much as I dearly love to bass fish, there is no possible way I could put up with the lifestyle it takes to develop the universal skills to compete with the best, and I bet the vast majority of bassers out there, even the hardcore club anglers are the same way. CL
JKaboom, CO   12/3/2012 10:00:33 AM
Good read and comments :)
James Strawbridge (Team Galaxy), CO   12/3/2012 10:25:54 AM
I think reading all your responses is better than the blog itself! Thanks for all you comments...keep'em coming! Fishful is right....I don't think I could fish and Elite Series schedule for one full year. Heck, I'm wiped out after a weekend tourney at
Fishful Thinker, CO   12/3/2012 10:39:21 AM
Also, the playing field is irrelevant...that's what makes them the best. Put an Elite pro on a Colorado lake for a day or two and they'll catch 'em as fast or faster than any hot local - and they'd find larger than average fish...I'd bet my favorite rod on it. I sure would like to get one of them to come on FTTV so we could find out! CL
Coyute, CO   12/3/2012 10:50:45 AM
Aye, good comments. I still maintain that there is a difference between being the best and being known as the best. Some guys crave (and even need) the attention and some guys don't. With your last comment about competing CL, I imagine we will see you fishing more derbies this coming season. :) Good blog Jim, thanks for taking the time.
Fishful Thinker, CO   12/3/2012 10:56:06 AM
I sure hope to, Coyute...I miss the derby scene since making a living in the fishing industry has gotten in the way of competing for fun. As with the guys this blog is about, it all started with loving to fish. CL
James Strawbridge (Team Galaxy), CO   12/3/2012 11:18:30 AM
Fishful....I (we all) would love to put an elite guy to the challenge and put him on pueblo. An episode of Fishful Thinker's.."A Day on The Lake" would be awesome. I would love to be there and watch from a distance on how he would pick it apart. Let me know if I can help make this happen in any way!
FXA0, CO   12/3/2012 12:39:29 PM
Interesting topic. I am no expert on bass fishing, but I think success in bass fishing is much like success in anything else in life. It’s a numbers game and I do think location has to do with it: •Regions where bass are more abundant allow for more opportunity to get hands on experience with catching bass, this in turn allows fishermen to more easily establish patterns (it’s a lot easier to establish and confirm patterns when you are catching a lot of fish vs just a few fish). However, when you are competing at the highest level, experience alone will not guarantee success you also need to have talent. •Catching more fish is more fun, which means higher recruitment of young anglers. With higher recruitment comes a higher chance of recruiting those anglers with the required talent and personality to succeed. This takes care of the talent part of the equation. This isn’t to say that we cannot have top bass anglers from Colorado-- the numbers game just isn’t in our favor.
MM, CO   12/3/2012 1:37:24 PM
I have had the chance to meet some of those guys and with the exception of maybe one, all of them loved to fish and loved doing what they do. And most importantly loved to teach! To say that they do it for the fame or to see there name in a magazine is not true at all. Lets be honest, how famous are they really?besides to us that live this life style and love this sport? Who knows who they are and what they do? What I have learned, to be in this business and live this life style you have to have love and passion for it. It's really not that glamour is of a life style ........MM
James Strawbridge (Team Galaxy), CO   12/3/2012 6:16:06 PM
FXAO & 5280MM....2 more great points. Most of the responses are saying the same thing....It' has a lot to do with our demographics. FXAO hit the nail on the head!
esoxrocks, CO   12/3/2012 6:45:31 PM
Naw, it's them-there purdy shirts and boats with all the stickers on 'em...
longdraw, CO   12/4/2012 10:58:23 AM
I have to disagree with just about everything said here except for Chad's statement. You cant use the demographics excuse because last I checked, BP is from Idaho, Fralick is from North Dakota, Rojas Arizona. Zaldain, Reese, Lintner, Martens, Monroe and Velvick are all from California. None of these states are anywhere near East of the Miss, or South of the M/D line. If fish are so dumb in the south, the why don't you pony up and show 'em BFF??? How come any given tournament at the level, at any lake, there are inevitably some who cannot bring a limit in every day? Some blank??? But those fish are dumb as bricks. Tell that to these guys face bud! As for Coyute, have you any experience with any of these guys other than ESPN2? They are all normal dudes just like us but they are the best in the world at what they do for a reason, sacrifice and competitive nature. Just like excelling at anything else in the business world, It takes prodigy and will to take out the rest to be the best. Local sticks are just that, and these guys on the Elites don't do it to be "seen" or "flashy" or well known. They do it because it is what they are programmed to do. Do you think Peyton Manning only plays football because he wants everyone to know his name? And we have had a Colorado boy on the Elites and he is a writer on this website. Let's hear what he has to say...
Bassin the Wood, CO   12/4/2012 4:36:06 PM
The only reason these guys are "better" is because they are out there doing it more. If they only fished a couple dozen times a year, they wouldn't have as many great catches. It's purely a numbers game, a fact proven by the tournament results. None of these guys win every time, and they still have bad days, just like every other angler. Knowledge and skill have peaks, and eventually the random occurrences that make angling a sport...the luck...the "chaos factor"...take their toll. I am the first to say that proper application of a seasonal or daily pattern, use of proper tackle, and perfectly tweaked presentations will increase your catch rate, but in the end, when a fish sees your lure, there are only two things that can happen. Either the fish thinks its food, or it doesn't.
moosegoose, CO   12/4/2012 10:17:33 PM
Good old fashioned dedication to live the dream..
pbs, CO   12/5/2012 12:51:55 AM
Hmm... after reading the former comments....there are two members' replies that I think make the most sense. Longdraw, and Bassin the Wood.
pbs, CO   12/5/2012 1:21:18 AM
Although there is the comment from a forum member which I don't completely understand......they wrote.... "I still maintain that there is a difference between being the best and being known as the best." Hmm....I'm confused here.
LastKast2010, CO   12/5/2012 9:11:33 AM
Speaking of Aaron Martens.... i cut my teeth in Cali fishing AGAINST him... It was crazy. He dominated almost every tourney he fished. We all knew he would turn pro and do good. He ia an amazing fisherman and i used to call him the human fish vacume. He would fish BEHIND you going down a bank and catch tons of fish you missed. Kinda hurt the heart during a tourney. Some guys just catch fish better then the rest of us... just keep your head down, and look for little differences.... and time on the water dosen't hurt either... Your a great stick James.... !!! and thanks for a great blog!!!
longdraw, CO   12/5/2012 9:59:31 AM
Well, according to a coouple of these^^^ guys, Mr. Martens is only good because he has more time on the water than them. C'mon people wake up. He was a child Bass Fishing prodigy and he cleaned CLOCKS on the Cali circuits with his mom before he could even drive a car.
EricCO, CO   12/5/2012 10:40:16 AM
Great article and great question. I believe the answer is that if you believe in yourself and you try hard enough you can do anything. Dream Big & Fish Hard! Eric Ewing La Salle, CO
FXA0, CO   12/5/2012 12:32:41 PM
I think my argument may have been misinterpreted. Let’s not confuse demographics with geography (demographics is a subject matter within geography, but the two concepts are not the same). I do not think demographics has much to do with it: there is nothing in the genetics of the people of Colorado that would put them at a disadvantage against people where bass are more abundant. All things being equal, there will only be a small number of truly gifted people within a given population. My argument is fairly simple: you have to have the proper environment to recruit a sample large enough to produce the talent pool required for success. I suspect geography has something to do with it, as I have stated above. I did not draw any east/south lines. Unless you are suggesting that people from Colorado are genetically different and those genetic differences contribute to success in bass fishing, demographics has nothing to do with this topic. I did not say you can’t overcome the odds I merely said that the odds were against us. Genius is random, which means it can happen anywhere, but you still have to foster and nurture the raw skills to fruition. That is where the environment/geography (both in the physical and social sense) comes into play. On the topic of “being in it” for the “flash” or the “glory”: it is not false to say that they are in it for the flash and the glory. However, it is reductive and unproductive to make that sort of statement. The fool on the hill may be the wisest man in the world, but his wisdom is wasted if he cannot communicate and share it with the world. There are many characteristics that contribute to success. Most of those characteristics have already been pointed out by other people. A certain level of physical and intellectual talent is required, but beyond that, the single most important factor is drive/motivation. The greatest thinkers and scientists in history were not necessarily the brightest people of their times. For instance, Einstein was not the smartest person of his time, but his drive and focus allowed him to rewrite the laws of physics. On the other hand, there are unmeasurable geniuses (with IQs over 200, which is significantly higher than Einstein’s) who have not accomplished much. Getting out there and getting things done is not just a matter of “luck,” although there is certainly an element of luck in most things we do. It is a gift to have the drive and motivation to get out there and do things. That gift is a requisite for people to get out and “get lucky.” What people commonly perceive as talent is just the magnitude of that talent. I believe the drive to exert that talent is akin to the stamina dimension. You need both magnitude and stamina in exerting talent for success, and both of those dimensions of talent are gifts. The turtle beats the hare with consistency, but a hare with consistency would destroy the turtle. I was not going to respond again, but I did so because this is an interesting topic as it represents the intersection of two topics that are of great interest to me: fishing and human nature. And I do enjoy a good debate. I do not particularly care about bass fishing. Those of you who are passionate about bass fishing will have more meaningful things to say about that.
longdraw, CO   12/5/2012 1:12:48 PM
On point response AO. You first response was as well...
TC, CO   12/6/2012 10:32:28 PM
Coyute, you missed the point entirely. The “typical” Elite anglers are the best because they are the best, (hence the term “Elite”) not because some writer is telling me they are. You can’t argue with success and numbers. There might be a few non-“typical” anglers out there who on occasion could out fish KVD but 9 out of 10 days he will still be the best. Old timers with cane poles and crickets don’t stand a chance against these guys. As far as ego (you obviously despise anyone with one) it comes with the territory. Ego comes from confidence. Confidence is always the best lure in the box. Almost anyone who is really good at anything has an ego that’s just the way the world works. BFF… really dude. I expected a more educated answer from you. The waters to which you refer are also the most heavily pressured bass waters in the country. Those fish are conditioned to be wary and are surprisingly difficult to catch. Have you ever fished for Florida strain LMB. Tough cookies! Not at all easy to catch, especially on public water and especially in less than perfect conditions. My opinion of really dumb fish that are as numerous as rats… brook trout. As for what I think makes a bass angler successful, Chad summed it up beautifully!
Bassackwards, CO   12/7/2012 4:05:36 AM
Here's something else to consider. You watch the TV and they go from the top 12, to the top 6 for the final day. What about the 44 other guys who did not make the cut.Some guys did not even limit. They don't show you that part. I have fished many tourneys in Florida, and with about 150 boats, there are about 50 that don't even weigh in a fish. I fished a tourney with a buddy of mine in horrible conditions. We weighed in 32lbs of bass, and the next closest team was 9lbs.So anyone can do well with the right amount of knowledge and a little luck. Yeah there are guys who are consistently up there, put I believe they do thier homework and put in the time.
Bassackwards, CO   12/7/2012 4:08:41 AM
One more thing, what you guys consider dumb fish, is not really true. In my opinion, if there is competition for food, fish will be a little more eager to take what is given to them. So abundance has alot more to do with it than intelligence, or just plain pickiness.
Coyute, CO   12/7/2012 8:30:06 AM
"As far as ego (you obviously despise anyone with one) it comes with the territory." I don't despise anyone with an ego, but I do despise some. Why do you think I look to guys like you and CL to give it to me straight? It's certainly not your looks. I look to guys with confidence (ego) to enhance and hone my own opinions - guys that know better than me. As far as ego goes there are a lot of guys out there who put their ego in your face with little else to back it up. I certainly don't seek out boneheads to hone my opinions, nor do I seek out self righteous pricks to hone my opinions. Just as in everyday life, there are many of both in the fishing world and quite a few on here. In my own limited self study of theology, many religions look at ego as a moral weakness, but apparently there are just as many who can justify their own ego and pride even though the sacred words they model their lives by advise against it. To me a great man is someone who can overcome their own ego and still be just as great at something. Many strive to find the Zen in fishing, and many on here are close but they will never reach the pinnacle of Zen because their ego prevents that. Some people believe that healthy debate is akin the disdain but I look at it as a way to educate myself - sometimes against my betters and sometimes not. Thanks for taking the time just the same.
Coyute, CO   12/7/2012 8:31:46 AM
akin to*
cmarbles, CO   12/7/2012 9:09:55 AM
To piggy back Tc,I grew up in southern California and fished for Florida strain lmb and i will say this they get bigger faster and are short and stout and finniky,Our northern strain bass here in co are 5x easier to catch and to be honest our fish don't see the type of skilled pressure that fish on the west coast see,So imo its easy for a decent bass fisherman to look like a stud in Co.........These Elite series guys are GOOD and anyone who thinks otherwise is just plain crazy
TC, CO   12/7/2012 11:29:30 PM
OK Coy, I'm feelin ya now. When you say "typical" Elite anglers in a disparaging way it made me wonder. I'm clear now. Thanks for clarifying.
Bassnfly, CA   12/8/2012 1:14:42 AM
Great topic, Jim. To get back on topic of 'why these guys are the best': Keep in mind that most of these 'elites' started out no different than you or I. That becoming known as one of 'the best' is no accident of birth, location, or luck. But also that each is unique and have different reasons for attaining a level of success beyond the rest of us. IMO experience is the major factor. Experience gained from time on the water and doing the research and learning off the water to get an edge over those that don't have the time or inclination to do so. Luck plays a part in all aspects of life, in very specific situations, though. Luck does not place anyone at the top with consistency, but experience and knowledge does. However, luck can place you at the top sometimes. Along with experience comes ego, but don't confuse ego with confidence. In your workplace, or local fishing club, or at any elite level there will be some whose ego gets the better of them, earned or not, and those few will rasp against the grain of most of the rest. And don't think that just because one wears the common 'uniform' of their sport means that they have too much ego. Or even experience and know-how. I have met a few of those considered elite. One such is Denny Brauer, who from the early days of 'professional' bass angling earned a reputation as one of the best. But every time I have met him he impressed me as one of the most down-to-earth professionals I could ever name, in any sport. We have our own local elites, anglers who perform consistently at each event they attend. But even they, on a few occasions, don't perform up to their own standards. On those days the luck falls upon the rest of us.
James Strawbridge (Team Galaxy), CO   12/8/2012 6:07:21 PM
well said Jeff....BTW, How was that rod you won in fantasy fishing. Let me know...good or bad!
Bassnfly, CA   12/9/2012 11:54:43 PM
JS- Great rod and I use it often. Mostly for senko fishing. Backbone to move the line but sensitive enough to fish on slack line.
JohnsFishing, CO   12/11/2012 8:01:34 AM
I have a nephew who has won a tourney in Florida. What you said is exactly what he does. But then again, he grew up on the St. Johns River. His name is Kevin Clark.
James Strawbridge
"Team Galaxy"
Guest Blogger