Unlocking Bass: 3 keys to a kicker

Once you have your limit, it's time to upgrade!

2. Explore

Changing things up and getting away from my primary pattern is more than just changing locations; it's also about changing my mindset.

Instead of wanting and needing lots of bites to fill my limit, now I'm thinking about getting a couple of bites from the kind of bass that will really help my bottom line. I'm not looking to cull up an ounce or two, but by several pounds.

Over the years I've caught most of my best bass from isolated cover, and that's usually where I'll go after I have a solid limit. The cover doesn't have to be big, but it does need to be away from other similar cover.

I like to target isolated logs, boat docks, brush piles, mats of vegetation or anything else that might hold a big fish. The isolated cover is a big fish magnet because it's the only holding area around and other anglers will often overlook it, preferring to fish bigger spots that might hold more bass but which take a lot longer to fish and generally don't hold the biggest bass in the area.

Once I have a solid limit I may also consider making a long run to get to an out of the way spot or making another change that's otherwise too time-consuming or risky. Having a solid limit is freedom — you can do other things that have the potential for a big payoff.

A lot of guys will make those kinds of moves after they've had a bad first day or two in the tournament, but then it's almost always too late. You need to make those moves when you're in a position of strength and have the right mindset, not when you're in a position of weakness and pressing too hard.