Looking back on my 35th-place finish at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Grand Lake, I’d give myself a pretty high grade, especially considering the circumstances and how things went down.
But with that being said, I’m very honest about the fact that the whole reason I had a good finish was because of one big bite. On Day 2, I caught a 6-pound, 12-ouncer which was the Big Bass for that day.
That one big fish made the difference between finishing 35th and finishing about 70th. But as important as a big bite is to a tournament performance, an angler can’t plan on getting a bite like that. It was a fortunate moment that provided an example of how important it is to put yourself in the right place, so when an opportunity arises, you’re there at the right time to take advantage of it.
In my last blog, I talked about finding bed fish, and I used a lot of the tactics I described during the Grand Lake tournament. My big fish was on a bed, although I did not see her. I saw the bed, I threw over there and she ate the bait before I got a look a her.
I found that fish in a main lake pocket that had good depth leading into it. In the very back, a nice little shallow spot that was exposed to the south wind and offered a big bass a comfortable spot with warmer water.
All week, we saw increasing water temperatures and on that second day, we saw temps approaching that magical 60-degree mark. I was very optimistic that the spot would hold good fish and, sure enough, I caught my big fish and a 4-pounder back in the same pocket.
Now, what’s interesting is that I caught those two fish, and the majority of my other ones, on spinning tackle and a Neko-rigged YUM 6 1/2-inch finesse worm in green pumpkin/purple. That’s very uncharacteristic of me. I’m a Texas boy, I like the big line and big hooks, but the finesse tactics just seemed to get more bites for me.
I rigged my finesse worm with a 1/16-ounce nail weight and a 1/0 Neko hook, and I’d pitch it into any beds I encountered. With this rig, I could give that bait a lot of action without moving it very far; I could really let it sit there and dance.
I actually went into the tournament planning to sight fish the entire time, but the water wasn’t clear enough and the fish were spawning deeper. I could often make out the beds from a distance, but I couldn’t always see the fish.
In practice, I could get bit flipping a small bait like a YUM Bad Mama, but I couldn’t get bit on my favorite bed-fishing bait — a wacky-rigged YUM Dinger. I believe that was because the water was so cold, the fish wanted a smaller profile.
In practice, I usually like to start big and go small if need be. I like to go for the big bites first, because if you start off small, you can get sucked into the excitement of catching numbers. On the other hand, if you start off with bigger baits, you may get fewer bites, but the quality could be better.
In this event, it just so happened that getting a big bite required that smaller approach. Thankfully, I was prepared when my opportunity arose.