My recent win at Smith Mountain Lake — my 15th BASS victory — really means a lot to me. It gives me a certain satisfaction to have won a sight fishing tournament, a style of fishing not usually associated with me or my career.
The lesson from it is that you should always trust your instincts and follow your strengths.
I knew going into practice that this would be a sight fishing event. The bass were already moving to the beds, the weather was getting warmer every day, and there was a new moon coming on Friday. That's a perfect convergence of conditions to drive the bass to their beds. Mother Nature gives them no choice but to go and reproduce.
I also knew that I needed to do something different. My instincts told me that. I didn't want to fish in a crowd in the backs of the creeks. That's not my idea of fun, and I didn't think I could win that way. It didn't feel right.
During practice I saw a number of smallmouths on their beds. I knew if I followed my strengths I could catch them. I also found some that were chasing shad in shallow water, not too far from those same points. I knew I could catch them, too — again, if I followed my strengths.
As a kid I probably caught thousands of smallmouth bass, maybe tens of thousands, from their beds. When I see a bedding female I know within a minute or two if I can catch her. I learned early on that catching them was all about technique.
I learned how to catch them chasing shad in shallow water, too. Again, it's about technique.
I grew up fishing smallies on the beds in Michigan. I know how to do it and I love to do it. Just because I have a reputation as a power fisherman doesn't mean I can't fish with a spinning rod and light line. I can. In fact, it's one of my favorite things to do, and I consider it one of my strengths.
Relying on all that, I rigged a 7-foot, 4-inch Quantum, KVD Tour Edition Finesse Spinning Rod (medium action) with a Quantum Tour Edition PTi-B spinning reel (TE40PTi-B, 5.2:1 gear ratio) spooled with 8-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon line.
My lure was a Strike King 3X Finesse Worm rigged on a 1/8-ounce Strike King Shaky Head. I fished the beds and the shad chasing brown bass with that combination for four days. The first day was a little tough, but the other three were very successful.
When all the marbles are on the line, trust your instincts and follow your strengths. And remember, it's all about the attitude.