2011 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #1 Kissimmee Chain of Lakes - Kissimmee, FL, Jan 20 - 22, 2011

Pathways to success

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley

I'm still in Florida getting ready for the first Southern Open of this season. As I've been fishing along today, I've noticed something that may seem obvious to some of you but bears repeating nonetheless.

Bass follow paths.

Late today I caught a 6 pound, 12 ounce, beauty right off the entrance to such a path. Now, in Florida paths are easy to find and to locate. All you have to do is look at the sawgrass, lily pads and hydrilla. The routes are obvious. Everything is visible above the water.

In most of the places we fish — "we" includes you as well as me — they're not so obvious. Most of the good stuff is invisible to us. You have to study maps, scan the shore and watch your electronics to find it. Still, it's there and well worth the time it takes to locate.

The other thing I've noticed today, as well as all this week, is that the entrances and exits to these highways are much more productive than the highways themselves. I'm not sure why that is, but it's true. The bass seem to stop at both points and rest or feed before they start traveling. At least, that's what I think they're doing.

Again, that's useful information for everyone. No matter where you fish it's nice to be able to have a target in mind before you start casting. We know that target is an entrance or exit to a path. (Whether it's an entrance or an exit is known only by the fish. And, it probably changes from season to season.)

Like I said, this may sound obvious, but from time to time, we need to review the obvious. Sometimes we get so excited about the trees we forget about the forest. We can target areas that are likely to be productive regardless of where we're fishing, water clarity, water temperature or weather.

I have a number of these spots marked and have caught fish from them. Maybe that means I'm looking at a good tournament starting the 20th of this month. That sure would be nice. Under the new rules, if we win an Open we automatically qualify for next year's Bassmaster Classic.

The Classic is something I can't get out of my mind. I thought I wanted it before I ever fished it. But I was wrong. I want it now more than I ever did before. Don't ask me why. I have no idea. All I know is that it's burning a hole in my belly. There's no way to stop that burning other than to give it another go.

Before I forget, I want to tell everyone I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and will have a happy new year, one filled with good health for you and your family along with plenty of big bass in your livewell.

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