When fishing gets tough, veterans like Woo Daves get going. It's the time when tournament anglers need to open their minds, consider a shotgun approach and start pecking away at anything that can produce strikes.
"Some may call it junk fishing, but I don't care," said Daves. "It's a matter of doing whatever you can to catch a limit."
That philosophy paid off for Daves when he won the 2002 Bassmaster Open on the Hudson River after a slow morning on the last day.
"I was in fifth place and had been catching my fish by flipping soft plastics into cover along the shore of a creek," he recalled. "But with only one fish in the livewell and an hour and a half to go, I had to change."
Daves ran to an old bridge from which he had caught fish in a previous BASS event. He tied on a small framed spinnerbait and placed a 1/4-ounce sinker on it so he could slow roll it in current swirling around the bridge.
"In tidal waters, smaller spinnerbaits produce better, but the little ones don't run deep enough. By adding the sinker, I could present the right-size lure at a slower speed."
He worked the spinnerbait slowly along bridge abutments and riprap, where he eventually caught a trio of 3-pound largemouth.
"I began hitting other bridges in the creek between me and the weigh-in," he said.
With only a few minutes to go, Daves broke off two spinnerbaits on underwater obstructions around a bridge near the weigh-in. He grabbed a rod rigged with a small swimming worm and flipped it into the same spot, and out came a 2-pound smallmouth that gave him a winning margin measured in ounces.
"When you have an area that held fish and suddenly you can't catch them with one method, don't leave. Just try new tactics. If the bite is slow, don't get hung up on one tactic. Try to hit every place that could hold a fish or two and use whatever lure or technique fishes it best. Those tough periods are when junk fishing can save the day."