B.A.S.S. tournaments are held on sprawling lakes, massive reservoirs and rivers that may flow through more than one state. Deciphering a bass catching pattern on these large bodies of water demands that pros spend time pre-practicing for weeks before the tournament, plus two or three days fine-tuning their approach immediately prior to the event.
Of course, weekend anglers don't have the luxury of spending all that time getting to know a body of water. And the lakes we fish are often mere puddles compared to the venues where BASSMASTER tournaments are held. All of which set us to wondering: What would happen if we put a top pro on a small lake, an obscure body of water he's never seen — let alone fished — and gave him seven hours to figure out a viable pattern?This question is at the heart of BASSMASTER's "Day On The Lake With A Pro" series. Some of the top names in bass fishing have taken our "mystery lake" challenge, and this month it's Davy Hite's turn at bat. The Prosperity, S.C., pro has qualified for the Classic seven times, won it in 1999, was Angler of the Year in 1997, and won $225,000 in another circuit's championship in 1998 Here's what happened on June 8, 2001, when we put Hite on Lake H, a private 40-acre Tennessee lake chock-full of surface and subsurface vegetation. We're sure every Bassmaster faced with the frustrations of "slop fishing" will pick up some useful pointers here.» 5:10 a.m. I meet Hite at his motel. Since his 21-foot Triton tournament boat would be difficult to launch at the small lake we'll be fishing, I'm towing a 16-foot aluminum bass rig borrowed from Triton Boats in Ashland City, Tenn. It's equipped with a 12-volt MotorGuide trolling motor, Lowrance graph and 60-horse Mercury outboard, which we'll never crank. He loads a duke's mixture of rods and tackleboxes into the boat, and we're off. 5:35 a.m. We arrive at Lake H. Weather conditions are 66 degrees and foggy.» 5:40 a.m. We launch the boat. The lake temperature is 74 degrees. "I grew up fishing small, weedy lakes like this one," Hite says. "I'll probably use some topwater lures while it's foggy. We're probably in a post-spawn situation here, and topwaters usually produce well after bass go off their beds." 5:45 a.m. Hite is patiently arranging his tackle. He rigs a 3/8-ounce Hawg Caller spinnerbait, chartreuse/white with Indiana blades, on one rod; and a 4-inch Gambler Bacon Rind soft plastic creature, june bug color, with a 3/8-ounce Gambler Florida Rig screw-in weight on another. "I've won so much money on these two baits, I automatically tie 'em on," he says. He also rigs a 3/8-ounce Lunker Lure Flat Shad buzzbait, chartreuse and white, with a white twin-tail grub attached to the trailer hook.» 5:47 a.m. Hite puts the MotorGuide in gear and starts moving slowly up the lake's western shoreline with the buzzbait. He casts it on a 7-foot medium action Falcon rod, Daiwa 6.3:1 reel and 20-pound Trilene XT line. We're sitting in 8 feet of water; Hite is targeting holes and edges in the moss carpet jutting several feet off the bank. "Bass will suspend under this slop," he says. "They'll usually hang near the edge when the light is low, then back farther under it as the sun gets high. A buzzbait is a great tool for covering this stuff in a hurry. If you fish a half-mile of mossy shoreline with a buzzbait and don't get a strike, then go to Plan B."» 5:55 a.m. Still anticipating the first strike, Hite moves up into a short tributary of the lake and casts the buzzbait. "I bet they spawned in here," he says. "A buzzbait is my favorite big fish topwater lure. I've caught several 9-pounders on it. Most lures that you fish fairly fast are 'keeper' bass baits, but you can catch some monsters on buzzers. I like 'em in water from 65 to around 82 degrees."» 6 a.m. Hite switches to a smoke/pepper Gambler Flappin' Shad soft jerkbait, rigged weightless on a 4/0 Owner J-Hook. He crawls it over the top of the slop using a Pflueger Supreme reel spooled with 20-pound Trilene XT and a 7-foot medium heavy Daiwa rod. "Maybe the fish aren't active enough to smack a buzzbait," he says. "If so, they oughta hit this. It's also a great lure to throw back at a bass that slaps at a buzzbait and misses." I ask Hite if he likes the jerkbait better than a rat or rubber frog in slop. "Not necessarily; I just forgot to pack any rats or rubber frogs," he admits.» 6:03 a.m. A bass slaps at the Flappin' Shad as it crawls over the pond scum, but fails to connect. "Here comes the backup lure to my backup lure," he jokes as he pitches the Bacon Rind into the hole in the slop left by the missed strike. No takers.» 6:05 a.m. Hite exits the tributary and continues up the western shore with the buzzbait. The farther we go up the lake, the shallower the shoreline becomes, and the farther out the pond scum extends.
» 6:10 a.m. Up ahead, a big bass sends a wake across the surface as it rolls out from under the scum, chasing a meal. Hite throws the Flappin' Shad at the wake. It comes back with a clot of grass attached. Hite cleans the hook point, commenting, "I like to leave the hook point just b-a-r-e-l-y sticking out on a jerkbait 'cause there's so much plastic there, but I'm not gonna get away with that in this slop."» 6:12 a.m. He tries the Bacon Rind around some brushtops, explaining, "This lake's got all kinds of cover!"» 6:15 a.m. Approaching the upper end of the lake, he pauses to clear weeds from the trolling motor. Besides surface moss, Lake H is loaded with submerged junk grass, species unknown.
» 6:17 a.m. Hite pitches the Bacon Rind around some trees standing in 7 feet of water. "They might be suspended around this timber. I saw some bait on the surface here." No takers.» 6:20 a.m. Switching back to the buzzbait, Hite continues up the western shore 6:25 a.m. Hite scores his first bass of the day on the buzzer in front of a moss mat. The largemouth weighs 1 pound, 15 ounces on digital scales.» 6:28 a.m. The pro continues toward the upper end. He retrieves the buzzbait fairly fast, and uses the length of the rod to guide it through clearings in the pond scum. "When I first get on any body of water, regardless of how big it is, I like to keep movin' until I get some feedback from the fish. Then I'll slow down a bit and make those little adjustments that'll put me on a solid pattern. It'd be a shame to poke along and waste hours fishing here if most of the fish are somewhere else."» 6:30 a.m. Another bass eats the buzzer in a violent swirl of water. Hite sets the hook, works the fish to the boat and lips it; it weighs 3-2. "That fish was on the trailer hook — I never fish a buzzbait without one. The grub trailer helps keep the bait on the surface and provides added visual attraction. That bass was on a little point protruding out from the main carpet of scum. It's critical to hit those little projections and pockets no matter what kind of grass you're fishing." I inquire why he's using a buzzer with a gold blade. "I like gold or painted blades in low-light conditions."» 6:35 a.m. Hite is buzzin' in the extreme upper end of the lake. The water here is 3 feet deep, amid a tangle of surface moss, submerged grass and brush.» 6:40 a.m. A bass rolls on the buzzbait but doesn't connect. Hite throws the Flappin' Shad at the boil. Nothing happens.» 6:46 a.m. As Hite swims the Flappin' Shad just under the surface, a bass nips it, but doesn't hook-up.» 7 a.m. He is about to head out of the cove on the upper end of the lake when a timed bluegill feeder on shore kicks into action, throwing fish pellets into the lake. Immediately, bluegill begin popping on the surface. "I think I'll stick around here a few more minutes," he says. "When bluegill get active, bass are never far away." He ties on a banana-shaped Yo-Zuri Fuze stickbait (gold/orange belly), walks it through the feeding 'gills and hauls water. 7:04 a.m. He tries the Bacon Rind around the bluegill feeder. Again, nothing.» 7:07 a.m. Hite puts the trolling motor on high and starts working the lake's eastern shore toward the dam with the buzzbait. 7:10 a.m. Switching to the Hawg Caller spinnerbait, he slows down to fish a big tree lying half submerged in the water. "This water's somewhat clear and the bite is pretty slow; both of these scenarios call for small blades." 7:15 a.m. Hite gets a light tap on the spinnerbait. "Felt like it ran through a school of bait," he says.
» 7:19 a.m. A gentle breeze is blowing. Back to the buzzbait around some standing timber in 10 feet of water. A bass explodes on the buzzer. "Dang fish swam away with my trailer hook!" he exclaims as he retrieves the lure.
» 7:20 a.m. He pitches the Bacon Rind at the tree where the bass struck. It slides into the water, his line jumps, he sets the hook and the lure comes back mangled. "Look at this — teeth marks from the hook down!" he exclaims.» 7:22 a.m. Hite rigs another Bacon Rind and searches in vain for a replacement trailer hook for his buzzbait. 7:24 a.m. He dumps a cardboard box full of buzzbaits on the deck of the boat, but still can't come up with a trailer hook. "That's a bad deal," he mutters. 7:26 a.m. The pro pitches the Bacon Rind at a beaver dam along the bank and catches his third keeper, a 2-pound, 1-ounce bass. "Now there's a prime piece of cover," he says. "That fish was way down in the logs."» 7:30 a.m. Hite is still pitching the Bacon Rind along the brush-strewn eastern bank, which ranges from 6 to 13 feet deep. "You'd never be able to fish this by overhand casting — you'd be hung up constantly."» 7:35 a.m. He tries the stickbait inside a bunch of standing timber. "It's 18 feet deep here; we must be over the creek channel."» 7:37 a.m. We're in 22 feet of water adjacent to the timber. Hite switches to the Bacon Rind.» 7:43 a.m. Now 50 yards from the dam, Hite tries the stickbait around some laydown trees hanging out over 22 feet of water. "They just aren't in a topwater mood," he says.
7:50 a.m. The lure hangs up in a stump, and he retrieves it.» 7:52 a.m. Hite reaches the southeast corner of the dam and parallels the earthen structure with the buzzbait. Surface moss protrudes 8 to 13 feet from the bank; the water is clear, 24 feet deep over the channel and tapers to 4 feet on either side. No takers.» 7:58 a.m. Having traversed the length of the dam, Hite again reaches the lake's western shore. He pitches the Bacon Rind under a dock. It's 12 feet deep in front of the structure. Nothing there.» 8:01 a.m. Hite rigs a 5-inch Gambler Super Tube, black/red flake, on a 4/0 J-Hook with a 1/8-ounce screw-in sinker. "I'm gonna use this real light sinker so I can work the tube over the top of the scum," he says. 8:06 a.m. He turns around and heads back to the earthen dam to try the tube. "It'll be interesting to see if I get any bites by going right back with another lure. Bass feel a lot of security in moss cover; you've got to really go out of your way to spook 'em."» 8:08 a.m. Paralleling the dam, Hite casts the tube onto the moss carpet, then skitters it across the top. "You need a light sinker so it doesn't bust down through the mat when it hits." The plan works: He immediately catches his fourth keeper — 1 pound, 8 ounces. "I dropped my rod tip when he struck and paused for a couple seconds before hitting him," he says. "It's critical when fishing this stuff to wait before setting the hook; otherwise, you'll miss a ton of fish. In that tournament where I won $225,000, I was fishing thick grass and had to physically and mentally restrain myself from setting the hook immediately when I detected a bite. In the video of me fishing on the last day, you can see me literally freeze solid for three seconds before dropping the rod and hitting the fish. If I had jerked immediately, I would have ended up in second place, which paid $200,000 less!"
8:15 a.m. Hite is still working back down the dam, chunking the tube on the shoreline scum band. The wind has stopped, and the fog is dissipating into a dull haze.» 8:20 a.m. He's worked the entire length of the dam with the tube and is now heading back up the eastern bank. Ahead, a school of baitfish surfaces. Hite chunks the stickbait at the school, and it scatters.» 8:24 a.m. Hite changes his mind and zips straight across the lake to the boat dock. He hits it several pitches with the tube, then continues working uplake on the western bank. The sun is trying to come out.» 8:29 a.m. He is now focusing on skittering the tube over carpets of pond scum. "I wish I had some rattle inserts with me," he laments. "Left 'em in my truck." 8:36 a.m. He makes three casts with the tube to a big log surrounded by surface scum. "Man, he oughta be there! Any time there's some other type of cover in the scum, by all means fish it." There's a bright green film on the water. "Looks like something they're using for weed control."» 8:41 a.m. Hite catches his fifth keeper, 1-14, off a laydown on the tube. "That fish pecked it once, but didn't take it. I threw right back in and caught him. Good — now we can start culling!" 8:45 a.m. Continuing up the bank, a big bass humps up the moss under the tube, but doesn't strike, prompting Hite to exclaim, "That's the one we need!"» 8:50 a.m. Hite is starting to focus more on the tube bait/surface slop pattern: "They should have hit the buzzbait better than they did. Just goes to show you: You gotta know when to put a bait down and go to something else." He's fishing the tube on a 7-foot heavy action Falcon rod, Daiwa reel and 20-pound line» 9:16 a.m. Heading toward the lake's upper end, Hite pauses to pitch the tube around some brushtops. It's clouding up.» 9:20 a.m. We're in 10 feet of water in the middle of the upper end. Hite tries the Bacon Rind around some standing timber.» 9:22 a.m. He switches Bacon Rind colors from june bug to green pumpkin candy. A bass bites, but drops it. The sun is out again: "That might pick up the bite around this surface slop," Hite says. "It's great shade cover." 9:27 a.m. Back to the tube. Still moving up the western shore, targeting scum mats.
9:28 a.m. Hite tags his sixth keeper on the tube, a 1-11 largemouth. This fish culls the 1-8 caught earlier. "I swam it across the top, let it fall down over the edge, and he nailed it. You couldn't do that with a frog or rat."
» 9:30 a.m. He sprays Bang shad and crawfish fish attractant on the tube: "I use a can of this stuff a day in tournaments. It's oil based, so besides the scent benefit, it lubricates the lure so it slides over the grass without hanging up."» 9:41 a.m. Hite has tubed his way to the lake's upper end. He keeps his rod nearly vertical when fishing. "This forces you to lower the rod to set the hook, which gives the fish more time to take it. It also angles the point of the sinker up in the air so it's not picking up moss." 9:50 a.m. We're back by the bluegill feeder in the upper end. It's currently inoperative, and there's no fish activity in sight. The cloud cover is breaking up. 10:03 a.m. Hite pops his seventh keeper, another 1-11 largemouth, on the tube in a wad of moss. "That one isn't going to help me any," he says as he releases the fish.» 10:10 a.m. Another strike on the tube, this time in a big patch of moss. But the bass misses the hook.
» 10:12 a.m. Hite hammers another bass that sucks in the tube a few feet from the last strike. His rod bows as he reels in a huge wad of moss. He peels it back to find a 1-pound, 4-ounce bass inside. "All grass, not much bass," he says.
» 10:22 a.m. "The green slime seems to be spreading," Hite says as he points to the bright-colored surface film. "I'm starting to wonder if it's not some weird mutant plankton bloom." He keeps tubing moss pockets along the bank.
10:26 a.m. He catches a nonkeeper off a brushpile on the tube.» 10:40 a.m. Hite is refishing the standing timber on the eastern shore with the Bacon Rind. The only bite activity is on the ham sandwich he downs while he fishes.
» 10:50 a.m. Hite chunks the tube into a standing tree in 21 feet of water near the dam and immediately gets a peck, but no hook-up: "Bluegill." 10:55 a.m. He hooks a good fish in the tree, but it comes unbuttoned right at the boat. "That was a 3-pounder," he says.» 11:02 a.m. Slow rolling the spinnerbait through the standing timber, he occasionally pauses it to drop through the branches. "This is a great place to get a big bite." But not today.
» 11:08 a.m. Hite spots a little brushpile by the dam and hits it with the Bacon Rind. We're sitting in 24 feet of water, and he's casting into 5.» 11:10 a.m. It's starting to cloud up again. Hite fishes the Bacon Rind in front of the dam.
» 11:15 a.m. While swimming the Bacon Rind back to the boat, a lunker bass eats the lure at the boat, but gets off. "That fish was suspended out over 20 feet of water!" Hite exclaims. He immediately ties on a 1-ounce Hawg Caller triple-blade spinnerbait with a blue glimmer skirt: "This is a deadly lure on suspended bass." He slow rolls the lure back to the boat, then tries yo-yoing it, but can't draw a strike.» 11:26 a.m. Hite parallels the dam with the 1-ounce spinnerbait. No luck. "Just a little more wind and I'd be more confident with a spinnerbait," he comments.» 11:30 a.m. On his graph, Hite notices a big logjam several yards off the dam in 22 feet of water. He drops the Bacon Rind into the wood and feels a tick: "Bluegill.» 11:44 a.m. Hite catches his ninth keeper while working a moss mat near the boat ramp. It weighs 1 pound, 14 ounces, and culls one of the 1-11s caught earlier.» 11:46 a.m. He rigs another tube and sprays it with Bang. Does lure color matter when fishing surface slop? "Light or dark, maybe, but I don't believe a fish can really discern colors that much in this stuff."» 11:49 a.m. Hite refishes the short tributary on the western bank with the tube.
12:07 p.m. He continues up the western bank, still tubin'.
» 12:14 p.m. The trolling motor clogs up again. Hite cleans it off.
» 12:23 p.m. Hite hits a brushtop with the tube. "C'mon, big fish," he mutters.
» 12:37 p.m. Fishing around the upper end, he has a strike on the tube next to a laydown log. He swings at the fish, but misses.» 12:40 p.m. Back to the ramp. Hite has tallied nine keeper bass from Lake H. The biggest five weigh 10 pounds, 14 ounces.
The day in perspective
Total weight: 10-14
When and where the five biggest bass were caught
Hite caught his five biggest keepers on three lures: a Lunker Lure Flat Shad buzzbait, a Gambler Baby Bacon Rind soft plastic creature and a Gambler tube bait. "I caught my biggest bass early on the buzzbait, but even though it was extremely overcast, the fish didn't hit that lure like I hoped they would. I think focusing on the pond scum pattern with the tube bait was a good decision, but I was surprised that the bite didn't pick up significantly once the sun came out."In retrospect, I could have spent more time targeting suspended fish in deep water by the dam and around that standing timber in the lower end. Big fish tend to suspend a lot in post-spawn; I lost that one fish in front of the dam when I was just swimming the Bacon Rind through the water column. But it's very time consuming to target big bass in post-spawn, and since I had a limited amount of time, I probably did the right thing by sticking with the tube in the moss.
"The moss pattern on this lake will get more defined in a couple of weeks when the water temp rises into the 80s; right now it's still in the 70s, and there aren't a ton of fish on that pattern yet. Weedy lakes can be really frustrating to fish; a patient approach is always your best bet."