Catch fish behind other anglers

Hunter Hicks and Mike Stephens: beat a different drum

Hunter Hicks and Mike StephensSamantha Grandy - FotoliaHunter Hicks and Mike Stephens
The Carolina Bass Challenge is a top regional trail that travels the rounds of famous and highly pressured waters in both North and South Carolina. Hunter Hicks claimed victory twice in 2013 with partner Mike Stephens at highly contested stops at Lakes Murray and Wylie – proof positive the duo can dance in and among the crowds.

According to Hicks, who calls Wylie home, it simply comes down to the study of other boats and the mental confidence to get right into the mix. The team routinely watches other boats to study what they’re throwing and how they’re throwing it. It’s not a copycat quest. In fact, it’s the opposite. The duo want to distance themselves from other presentations and throw something different from everyone else.

Hicks notes, “If you’re not comfortable fishing behind people at Wylie, then you won’t have any place to fish. It honestly doesn’t bother me at all, and that’s because it doesn’t matter if there’s a person in front of you. If you fish it differently, you can catch fish they left behind.

“The choice of presentation all depends on the time of year. For instance, in winter, if you’re throwing an Alabama Rig, maybe you work it a touch deeper than everybody else. If they’re fishing in 15, you fish in 20. In spring, if everyone’s fishing up against riprap, you could be fishing the 5 feet of water in front of the riprap. If you’re fishing a jig on a dock, you know that everyone will be hitting the main points and they’ll be charging up and around the dock. But if you can take your time, stay back and drift in, then get further back up under the dock than anybody else, you’ll have a chance at fish that will still be in their native state and that not everybody can reach. We also threw a lot of little spoons this year out deeper, which was different, and we caught a lot of fish doing that.”

It’s no coincidence that Hicks agrees with Hurst that trolling motor noise can be a no-no. And although it can’t be totally eliminated, Hurst prefers to run his electric on constant low, rather than starting and stopping, which can create bracket clangs, shaft creaks and startup water bursts.

Martin Elshout and Mark Price: set up camp

Probably 95 percent of the fishermen out there simply can’t stand to sit and fish, which is why the approach can be so effective against crowds. Martin Elshout and Mark Price out of Ruston, La., know it all too well. And that’s why the team continues to cash checks in Fishers of Men events in and around the Toledo Bend area.

The Bend is a power fisherman’s dream. Cover, water and big fish make it one of the best lakes in America. But it’s also one of the most heavily fished lakes, and like anywhere else, money fish are most often concentrated in select areas. That’s when Elshout and Price break out the tents and set up camp.