Staying within your comfort zone is probably the best advice an angler will ever receive. Given a choice I’d always rather fish shallow. It’s what I do, where I feel confident. It’s my comfort zone.
You might think that’ll change next week when we fish Cherokee Lake, but it won’t. The lake is incredibly deep, incredibly clear and the water’s cold. I know that sounds like a guy needs to go out and fish something deep. I might do that but it’ll only be after I find out the hard way during practice that I can’t catch them shallow.
To be honest with you I’ve never fished the lake. I actually went down there with the intention of prefishing it but the weather was so bad I turned around and came back home — snow and freezing rain. We’ll know shortly if that was a wise decision or a foolish one. Either way, it’s done. I’m at peace with it.
I’m a firm believer that some bass live all of their lives shallow and others live all of their lives deep. I’m confident that Cherokee Lake will be no different than anywhere else I’ve ever fished, and I’ll fish it no different than anywhere else. I’ll go shallow until I can’t.
When the official practice starts I’ll make final decisions about what baits to try. As of right now I can definitely say that one rod and reel will be rigged with a flat-side crankbait and another will be rigged with a jig.
Sometimes we get caught up in all the hype about a certain lake at a certain time of the year. That hype can be useful but it can also send you on a wild goose chase. Fishing in your comfort zone — fishing to your strengths — is rarely a bad place to start.
The idea behind that thought is simple. If you’re fishing in your comfort zone, you can make adjustments quickly and efficiently. It becomes a part of your nature. The fish move. You move with them. The fish change their mood. You change your presentation.
But if you’re fishing another way you don’t always know what to do. An example would be me on Kentucky Lake throwing deep-diving crankbaits on the ledges. That’s fine as long as it works. When it doesn’t work, however, I get confused and don’t know what adjustments to make to stay with my bass.
At the same time I’m saying this I have to say something else. I don’t want anyone to take me wrong but the truth is that anyone who’s fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series can do a lot of things well. You can’t be successful at this level as a one trick pony. It’s not that we can’t be successful when we’re out of our comfort zone. It’s that we do better in it.
I’m never afraid to start shallow. I believe in myself and my shallow water skills. I encourage you to do the same with whichever bait or technique puts you in your comfort zone.