2011 Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #3 Oneida Lake - Syracuse, NY, Sep 22 - 24, 2011

Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow

Before we get into the column, let me congratulate Ish Monroe on his win. He put together three solid bags of largemouth to bring home the bacon, and he did it with his Phat Frog. That’s about as good as it gets. Well done, Ish!

I also want to say something about Oneida. It’s a wonderful lake. There are fish everywhere, and they’re healthy and fat. I can’t remember seeing smallmouth bass any prettier than the ones I saw last week. They’re perfect, no sores or scrapes or deformities of any kind. What a nice place. I’d like to live there, at least part of the year.

Now, let’s talk about the tournament. Oneida was good to me. I missed the cut by 2 ounces. More importantly, after some self-analysis — much of it through this column — I’m making better decisions. It’s starting to show.

On Thursday, the first day of competition, I ran to a spot I’d found over the Labor Day weekend. Sure enough, my fish were still there. That seemed to be a good sign. Smallmouth move quickly when things change and they roam around a lot even when things don’t change. You have to think that if your school stayed in one place for a couple of weeks things are headed your way.

But, on Friday, things changed. A front moved in, and with it winds that seemed as if they’d never stop. My fish were gone. Try as I might nothing was happening. Finally, after a couple of hours I moved to other locations.

It was about all I could do. I might have been able to catch a couple on my first spot but the wind was killing me. In order to hold the boat where I wanted it I had to spend my time fighting the trolling motor, not fishing. That’s not the way you win a tournament.

My move may seem obvious to some of you but there was a time I’d have toughed it out. Call it stubbornness, or what you will, but moving from a spot where I caught fish the day before does not come naturally to me. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a professional. To tell the truth, I still fight the urge to stay put.  

Anyway, after I moved, I fished bigger areas by drifting across them. In the process, I learned something about the fish. The ones I caught had been fairly deep. When I drifted one area, I caught a few much shallower. Once I figured that out I was able to catch more and bigger bass. That made a huge difference in my final weight.

I controlled my boat with an old-fashioned tool — a drift sock. They’re a great supplement to your Minn Kota and your Power-Pole. Next week we’ll talk about when and how to use them.

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