Knowing when to move

When I’m working sports shows or speaking at various fishing clubs, one of the most frequently asked questions I hear is, “How do you know when to move, when to give up on a spot that’s producing but suddenly shuts down?” 

That’s a really good question, but not one that’s easy to answer.

No matter where you fish, there will be times when the bite goes cold — regardless of how stable the conditions might be. Bass sometimes move for no apparent reason. Other times they may stay put but refuse to bite.

When it happens in a tournament situation, it can be devastating. And it can destroy your chances in the event … maybe even the season.

Hold ‘em or fold ‘em

I recall a number of tournaments where this has happened to me. I was on a strong, steady bite and, for whatever reason, the fish just quit. On some of those occasions, staying put and changing my approach made a difference. Other times, I had to move to find new fish.

When the Bassmaster Elite Series first visited Falcon Lake in south Texas, I got on some tremendous fish. They were holding in flooded brush in the back of a creek, and they were killing a black and blue jig on nearly every pitch.

On Days 1 and 2, I weighed limits of more than 32 pounds. And on each of those mornings, I was done in an hour.

Because I managed them, I was confident there were a lot more fish to catch from that spot. But when I arrived on Day 3, something had changed. I couldn’t buy a strike. Everything seemed the same. The water clarity and level, the air and water temperature … even the wind direction. But, for whatever reason, the bass either left or just quit biting. 

I remember spending hours trying to figure them out, eventually having to give up on the spot. I didn’t go far, though. In fact, I gradually worked my way out of the creek, putting together a decent stringer in the process. It wasn’t enough, however. I narrowly missed the cut to fish on Sunday.  And that was heartbreaking — especially when I felt I had found the fish to win.

Poles up, poles down

Every touring pro has had to choose whether or not to stay on more than a few occasions. It’s part of the process. And those anglers with a knack for making the right decisions consistently finish atop the leaderboard … and qualify for Bassmaster Classics. 

But how do they do it?

In many cases, it’s purely by instinct. In others, it’s experience. When you spend as much time on the water as we do, you’re going to see a lot of different scenarios — situations that will offer insight for something similar down the road. And if you have good instincts to go along with all of that experience, then it’s that much better.