Developing a pattern

Last week we talked in generalities about my frog success. This week we’ll look at how I developed my pattern and the lessons we can learn from it.

First, understand Oneida. It’s not a lake with lots of sharp breaks and well-defined underwater structure. Most of what’s out there is transition stuff. The exceptions are few and far between. If you’re going to put a pattern together, you have to understand your water.

My bites came from banks that dropped from a foot to a foot and a half. They did not come off areas that fell 4 or 5 feet. That meant that you had to run the big motor and spend time looking around. It wasn’t a matter of dropping the trolling motor, setting it on high, and fishing a long stretch of bank.

And all my spots had heavy grass on them. Bare banks, wood or scattered greenery under the water didn’t get it. The fish were under the mats.

I threw a modified frog. (We’ll talk about how I modified it next week.) I worked it really hard. The nose dug down into the mat and made a ruckus on top. It looked like it was fighting something or struggling hard to survive. But that’s not when I got my bites.

My bites all come on the edge of the mat in somewhat open water. The trick was to force it across the mat and then just barely twitch it when it dropped off the edge. Too much action on the edge and you wouldn’t even see a swirl, much less catch a keeper.

The way you put details together like this is to make careful mental notes of every bite you get. It wasn’t enough to target grass mats on gently sloping banks. You had to understand what technique or retrieve to use and repeat it over and over. It’s work, but at the same time it quickly turns into fun when you realize you’ve figured them out.

I’ve said in a dozen interviews that during practice I didn’t get a lot of bites on my frog but the ones I did get were top shelf. The same thing happened during competition except that I started catching more fish.

On the first day I caught 10 bass, at the most. That was enough to keep me in the hunt but not enough to put me on top. On the second day, I caught about 20. From that number I was able to upgrade my weight and make the cut. On Saturday I caught at least 40 bass. That’s a lot. It allowed me to move up and finish sixth.

Make a note of what I’m about to say. You won’t hear it often — I’m tickled to death with what I did. It’s the best sixth place finish I’ve ever had. Putting together a successful pattern with a new bait is about as good as it gets.