Culling while you catch

This week we’ll talk a little about culling by fish choice and by bait selection. That’s what I did on Alabama's Smith Lake last week, and it worked pretty well for me. But first we need to talk about what a fishing tournament is, and what it isn’t.

You always have to keep first in your mind that bass tournaments are won by weight. It doesn’t matter how many fish you catch. It’s how much they weigh that makes the difference at the end of the day.

You’ll remember that I said in my preview column last Tuesday that I’d found some largemouth in the backwater areas that were starting to feed. That bite was pretty good. The problem was that they just weren’t big enough to win a professional grade tournament. They would have been fine if you wanted to have a fun day out fishing but they didn’t interest me much. I needed weight.

That’s why I went out and found some better spotted bass in deep water around points and in front of bluff walls. When I say deep water I mean just that. There were times when my boat was sitting in 180 feet of water and I was throwing into 50 feet. To be totally honest, I did fish shallower than that at times but you get the idea. That was my first step in culling for bigger bass — fish where they’re at.

The second one involved my lure selection. I chose a big, shad colored Luck “E” Strike RC (Rick Clunn) STX Jerkbait. This was not a numbers lure. It was a quality fish lure. I’m sure I could have caught a lot more spots with something smaller, and maybe even a few big ones. That’s not what I wanted, however.

What I did want were big fish that would push me up in the standings and put me into a position to win if things started going my way. The price I paid was not catching very many. That can be discouraging but it’s something you have to learn to deal with as a professional bass angler. This is a competitive sport. You have to have a plan and go with it.

That plan didn’t win the tournament for me. It did put me in the running, though. I was in good shape after the first day and moved up even more on the second day. But I didn’t get it done on Saturday. Congratulations to Hank Cherry who did get it done. He fished one heck of a tournament.

Before I go, I want to tell everyone how much I enjoyed the tournament. It was a well-run tournament located in a very nice community. The fishing was extraordinary, too. I hope we go back there again. I’d like another crack at those giant spots, and at the local guys who really know how to catch them.

Next week we’re going to start a multi-part series on how I learned to fish in Florida, how it helped me in my career, why we moved to Guntersville and how that’s helped my career.

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