Lane: Go with what you know

We’re going to talk this week about how to deal with unfamiliar situations you’ll encounter from time to time on the water. There’s no playbook for this. Nothing is written in stone. There is, however, one approach that might help, at least it’s helped me over the past few years.

I’m talking about going with what you know.

Last week we were on the Delaware River. The tide there is something that most of us had never seen before. I mean, a 2- or 3-foot rise and fall is fairly normal, 3 or 4 feet is manageable. But 6 and 7 feet is hard to deal with. Basically the water is moving up and down continuously, and noticeably, except for very short periods of time when it at its highest or lowest points.

That was a situation I’d never fished before, but I do have a fair amount of tidal experience from Florida. As I was trying to decide how to attack the Delaware, I remembered that on the west side of Florida we could catch them during the low tide periods from what I call sand holes.

Sand holes are bare spots in the middle of weedbeds. Some of them are no bigger than a plastic bucket. Others are as big as two or three bass boats. Regardless of their size, however, they’ll hold bass when the tide is low.

Knowing that, I decided to see if the same thing would work on the Delaware River. I spent a lot of my low tide practice time finding and marking visible spots that looked like Florida sand holes. It worked. I was able to catch a limit three of the four tournament days by throwing a variety of topwater baits, including a black Luck “E” Strike buzzbait, as well as a drop shot rig. (I only had three fish on the second day.)

Almost all of my bass came from the low tides. I struggled at high tide. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t catch them when the water was up. If I hadn’t put together the sand hole pattern, I would have been in a world of trouble. Actually, my tournament would have been over Friday afternoon.

True, I didn’t win the tournament. I finished second. I’ll never say I’m satisfied with second place but given the conditions and my lack of experience with the venue I will say I’m half-satisfied.

The lesson for all of us who fish is not to let unfamiliar conditions get the better of you. When we’re faced with them we need to remember that nothing is totally new. We can draw on what we know from our past and adapt it to the present. It might not always work but it’s a darn good place to start.

I don’t want to end this without saying congratulations to Mike Iaconelli and his family on their win. Winning a big tournament on your home waters with all of your family there is something every angler dreams about. And the wild and crazy Philly fans had to make it all the better.

Chris Lane’s column appears weekly on You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website,

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