Peter Thliveros says that the key to catching fish on tough days is to take note of the subtle clues that fish may be providing.
A Bassmaster Top 100 tournament he won at Lake Norman in North Carolina in 1994 is a case in point. His attention to details enabled him to jump from 19th to first on the last day.
"It was a typical fall pattern; fish scattered everywhere and chasing shad," he recalled. "There was no rhyme or reason for when or where you caught a fish."
Because of that, Thliveros put together a variety of patterns during practice that he thought would help him scratch out a limit. On the third day, he discovered bass schooling on the tips of large trees that had fallen into the water off steep banks and over channel bends.
"The midsection of the trees were in 8 to 10 feet of water and the smaller branches dangled over 20 to 25 feet," he described. "Fish would follow a topwater, but they wouldn't hit it."
The Florida pro tried other lures — crankbaits, spinnerbaits and worms — but the bass ignored them.
"That told me they were suspended in the limbs and were focused on baitfish activity overhead," he offered. "They didn't want anything that ran down or through them."
So he Texas rigged a weightless Zoom Fluke (soft plastic jerkbait) and threw into the same area where the topwater "follows" occurred.
"I worked the bait slowly out to the tips of the branches, then jerked it erratically on the surface. That's when they hit it."
He surmised that the slow moving lure attracted attention but the erratic action triggered the bite. And the more fish that were in the area, the more aggressive they were.
"I had about five trees that I worked in that area, alternating from one to the other," he recalled. "Once the school in a tree spooked, I'd switch to another tree. I didn't catch a lot of weight (almost 7 pounds in five fish) but it was enough to win on a day when everyone else struggled."