Changing lures and patterns is tough to do when something else has been working.
But it was the decision to make a major change that led Mark Davis to a Bassmaster Tour victory on Table Rock Lake in 2004.
Davis knew before he made a cast that first tournament day that the pattern of cranking clear water in the main river — one that had produced results in practice — was out the window.
"I rigged my rods specifically for river cranking the night before. But when I walked to the dock early that morning and saw the water was up and muddy from a heavy rain, I knew I had to do something different," Davis described. "It was March, and the water temperature jumped about 6 degrees due to the incoming water."
Experience told the Arkansas veteran that river cranking was out and spinnerbaiting was in. The warmer water flushing into the backs of creeks would attract shad and hungry bass.
"I hadn't caught a fish on a spinnerbait all week, but I knew it was my best option," he stated.
And he was right. He finished with 18 pounds that day.
But wait: Davis had to make yet another change. The next day, the creeks were clearing, so he ditched the spinnerbait and moved closer to the bank, where he caught another limit using a jig in 3 to 5 feet of water. When that pattern slowed, he turned to a Strike King Series 3 crankbait and caught another solid limit.
The shallow cranking pattern fizzled the third day, so he had to make yet another adjustment.
"I figured the fish moved deeper, so I changed to a deeper running crankbait and won the tournament."
The lesson? Don't be afraid to abandon a pattern when conditions are changing.
"It's hard to throw all that out the window for something you haven't tried, but common sense says you should," said Davis. "We all tend to get conservative when faced with changing conditions, but a conservative approach can hurt your chance of success."