Conditions during last year's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open at Alabama's Smith Lake played right into Andy Montgomery's fishing style.
The lake level was dropping and the fish were pulling out of shallow cover to the docks. While honing his skills as a youngster in South Carolina, Montgomery got plenty of experience fishing docks. He also learned how to fish fast and cover water quickly.
"When I was growing up watching Kevin VanDam dominate the sport, that was how he fished," says Montgomery.
So Montgomery did his best VanDam impersonation at Smith Lake by running his trolling motor on high all week and quickly saturating the docks with a jig, spinnerbait and Zoom Swimmin' Super Fluke. Maxing out his trolling motor all week burned up the wing nut on his battery connectors on the final day of the tournament, but that failed to slow Montgomery as his blitzkrieg strategy produced a three-day catch of 15 keepers weighing 34-9 for his first B.A.S.S. victory.
Covering water quickly sounds simple enough, but this high-speed tactic requires some precise measures. "Fishing fast is easy," Montgomery says. "Anybody can put their trolling motor down and go really fast. But catching fish while you are doing that is a different story.
A lot of guys may fish really fast, but their bait is not presented correctly. You have to learn how to make your baits look realistic while fishing them fast." The 2011 Bassmaster Classic qualifier runs his trolling motor with the speed dial set from 70 to 100 and makes short pitches to specific targets as he zips down a bank. "When I fish fast, I cover more high percentage places," says Montgomery. "After a cast, I might only fish the bait for 10 feet, and then I am winding it back to the boat to make another cast." His short presentations allow him to work the lure through the strike zone and quickly retrieve his lure through "dead water" so he can make another cast to the next target.
While docks are his favorite targets for his high-speed style of fishing, Montgomery will also turn up the speed when fishing other cover, such as bushes, laydowns and sea walls. During the 2010 Open at Smith Lake, Montgomery burned a buzzbait around flooded bushes to catch a limit on the final day. When target fishing, Montgomery works fast except when keying on aquatic vegetation. "Bass can be anywhere in grass, so sometimes I have to slow down to catch them," he says. Winter also makes Montgomery slow down some. "I just try to slow my baits down and not slow myself down.
I move my baits slow, but I still keep my boat moving all the time." Montgomery's fast-paced fishing is especially effective for prefishing unfamiliar waters and during the official practice days of a tournament. The South Carolina pro can make thousands of casts and cover miles of water a day. "If you are going really fast and you get a couple of bites, chances are that's a really good place," he says.
"When you fish fast, it helps you learn a lot," Montgomery says. "If you get one or two bites going fast, there's a good possibility you can turn around and get another bite or two." The Elite Series pro uses a variety of lures for fishing fast, but his three favorites are a jig, Chatterbait and spinnerbait.
"A lot of people fish a jig slow, but I fish it really fast," he says. "A lot of times I swim it, and if I don't swim it I let it fall to the bottom and only hop it once or twice. Then I reel it back and go on to the next spot." Even though his jig might be in the water for a short time, Montgomery makes sure it is in a high percentage place the whole time. "A Chatterbait is something I can just wind like a spinnerbait," says Montgomery. Sometimes Montgomery retrieves both blade baits at high speed near the surface and other times he reels the lures at a steady clip so the bait is just out of sight.
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