Elshout says, “We sure don’t mind fishing behind somebody who’s catching them, because that means they’re biting, and we know we’ll catch our share. But so often you see guys come through, blow through an area quickly and not catch any. If we’ve got confidence in the area, we’ll spend some time there. We’ll wait them out until they bite, or maybe fine-tune it a little bit.”
The subtle part of the success formula comes from their understanding that angler traffic can reposition fish. The fish are in a particular area for a reason, but they do react to traffic. That’s why it’s important to back off a bit, camp out and see what the fish want and where and how they want it.
Elshout explains, “We mostly fish shallow, and a lot of times we’ll find that fish will still be in an area with a lot of traffic, but they might drop off to a little deeper water because of the pressure. That’s where our plastics and jigs come into play a bit more. You might not be catching any, and the boat in front of you might not be catching any, but they’re going to bite sometime during the day. That can come back and hurt you if they never bite, so we always try to have four or five places that we hit hard and fish real thoroughly.”
When asked, Elshout revealed that his No. 1 pressure bait is a Texas rigged Zoom Speed Craw, which has won the team various championships in and amongst some of the best jig pitchers in the region.
This longtime U.S. Angler’s Choice team hails from the Sterling, Ill., area and most often fishes the Mississippi River, where the backwater bite dominates. They routinely fish behind lines of boats and within crowds, yet have won three boats and a few championships within their region.
“A lot of our success comes from watching what the other guys are doing, then doing something different,” Majewski said. “If they’re flipping, we might throw a swimbait. If we’re moving down a bank quickly, we might set up and pick the area apart with a tube or jig. But we also prepare for the crowds during our pre-fish.”
Such prep is essential. The duo might already know where the fish are, and they’re experienced enough to know how to catch them under normal conditions. But in anticipation of the tournament, they seek out different targets.
Majewski explains, “Typically we’re fishing 3 feet deep or less, because we’re in backwaters. I think a lot of times guys tend to fish to targets that are visible. But we try to fish cover that’s not visible. A great example is the spring, when everyone’s fishing flooded cover. In practice, we’ll try to spend time finding cover off the bank that isn’t visible – maybe a stump, an isolated stickup or a small patch of grass the size of the boat. Any of those could hold a good fish and not get bothered.”
In essence, the odds flip. Fishing pressure can turn high-percentage targets into low-percentage ones. So savvy teams can flip the odds back in their favor by working hard in practice to find adjacent or nearby hidden-cover options.