Catch fish behind other anglers

John Dyess

How many times has this happened to you: You drift off to sleep and dream of a misty, untouched stretch of bank, a place where the plop of a topwater ripples in serene circles across an unbroken surface. A hidden place where a heron watches. A secret place where the hawk circles. A magic place where big, hungry bass never turn down an easy meal.

You wake up the next morning, blast off for the tournament and immediately swallow a giant pill labeled “Reality.” Your pristine bank is suddenly awash in boat wakes – seems other teams went to bed with the same dreams. You’re behind two other boats. You don’t want to lose your starting spot, and you’re worried your second spot is covered up, too. Ugh!

The situation is all too common, whether you’re fishing local, regional or national events. And it’s only getting worse. Modern electronics like Humminbird Side Imaging and Lowrance StructureScan leave little mystery to the lake’s bottom. The information pipeline quickly reveals concentrations of fish, and the hordes of boats soon follow. More than ever, tournament success demands a willingness to fish behind boats, along with the positive mental attitude that you can and will catch fish behind those boats.

To help B.A.S.S. members catch more fish behind others, B.A.S.S. Times talked with a few of the nation’s top teams and asked: How do you catch fish behind others and win within the crowd?

Tim Hurst and Mark McCaig: hunt the hunted

When you talk about a busy piece of water, it’d be tough to find a busier playground than Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake. This Coosa River impoundment is littered with docks, cuts and creeks and hosts huge numbers of tournament anglers throughout the year. Anglers generally know where the fish are, and the winners almost always face crowds and pressured fish.

Tim Hurst and Mark McCaig fish with the Sylacauga Marine Big Bucks Bass Trail, among other regional trails, and they are one of a handful of teams in the area that consistently finish in the money. When their area gets covered up they turn their boat into a tree stand and get to hunting. In other words, they sit quietly and thoroughly fish the area.

Hurst explains, “My opinion is that bass fishing is a lot like deer hunting: If there’s noise in the area, you might see a small buck, but that big buck isn’t coming out. And I think that big bass are a lot more aware of their surroundings than smaller fish are, and the big bass won’t come out if there’s a lot of noise. That’s why if we’re in a crowded stretch, we generally won’t fish right in line with the other boats. We’ll back off a bit, use the Power-Poles more than the trolling motor and fish the area thoroughly.”

It’s Hurst’s theory that even if big bass are conditioned to ignore big-motor or pleasure-boat noise, they could still have a highly negative association with trolling-motor noise. The trolling motor might generally signal a coming intrusion into a resting area, the predictable sight of big-pound-test line or an obvious artificial. The lack of trolling-motor noise in a heavily fished area might thus minimize negative moods.

“All it takes is someone getting a little too close to the grass or piece of wood and then hitting that electric – I think that makes the fish in the area extra cautious,” Hurst adds. “That’s where the Power-Poles come in. They keep you from washing everything out. A lot of other anglers haven’t figured that out yet.”