Fishing in Classic crowds

First off, let me say congratulations to Chris Lane for winning the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. I'm really happy for Chris.

This week I want to talk about something I got to do a lot of at the Red River last weekend — fish in a crowd.

When I pulled into McDade Lake on the Red River, there were about 40 boats packed in there. Included in the 40 boats were 11 or 12 competitors and a bunch of spectators. The very first thing I did when I got there was pull out a spinning rod. I told myself I didn’t want to fish a spinning rod in this event, but I knew with the clear water, the boat traffic and the noise, I might need to downsize to get bit.

Before I started using the spinning rod, I made a few casts with a baitcaster with 14-pound line. I got bit, but I could tell by the way they were biting that I needed to downsize.

I downsized my line from the 14-pound test to 7-pound test. Along with the lighter line, I used a lighter weight. I switched from a 3/8 ounce weight to a 3/16 ounce and even a 1/8 ounce for a while. This allows the bait to fall more naturally and trigger bites that the others were missing.

The other thing I do in crowds is fish slower. I fish about half or a third as fast as I do when I'm not in a crowd. The other anglers in the area were fishing much faster, and I didn’t mind fishing behind them, I just did it slower and was able to catch more fish than them.

Sometimes it is not possible to downsize. Using really light line around a lot of wood, brush piles or other cover, especially in big fish water, will make it nearly impossible to land fish with light line. In cases like this, I might only be able to downsize the weight. I’ll still fish the heavier line, but by downsizing the weight I can give the bait the more natural presentation I mentioned above. This should get me a few more bites than the anglers who haven’t downsized.

There are occasions where slowing down or downsizing isn’t the answer. On a lake like Guntersville, I wouldn’t fish in a crowd, instead I would just move. You’ll have to determine whether downsizing and slowing down or just moving is a better choice. In McDade at the Classic, I didn’t have much of a choice on Friday (Day One of the Classic) because when I pulled in there with a little more than two hours to fish I was stuck there. I didn’t have enough time to move to another area and fill out my limit.

By downsizing and slowing down, I was able to put over 20 fish in the boat on the second day of the Classic; and I lost a big 6-pound class fish, or I would have had a great day and a real shot at capturing my first Bassmaster Classic.

Overall, I feel I fished hard and made some good decisions, I did gamble on Day Three with my only hope for a big comeback and that didn’t work out., but I had to go for it. I didn’t think I could win it in McDade, so I switched up and went for the win.

On another topic, the running I have been doing during the offseason is paying off already. I felt great for the entire Classic, the best I have ever felt on the water. My recovery each day was excellent, I woke up every morning at 100 percent. It really has me excited for the year.