Table Rock is not just another tournament

This week’s Elite Series tournament is a little different from what we’ve been doing. For one thing, it’s away from Florida. Grass and pads don’t count for much on Table Rock. The lake is deep and clear. And this winter has been tough everywhere. It’s still cold down there.

My guess is that we’ll be going after prespawn bass. If it warms, and if the water’s high, they might move shallow up into the flooded buckbrush. (Things can change over the course of five days.)

For the most part, though, they’ll probably be a ways offshore and somewhat deep. That’ll make for a very different kind of tournament, but that’s not why Table Rock is so different.

It’s different because professional anglers know so much about it. Over the years, B.A.S.S. has held a bunch of tournaments on this lake. Most of us have fished them. We know the lake well. And, thanks to the computer age, we all have lots and lots of waypoints stored in our electronics. All we have to do is call them up and go looking for bass.

Add to that the fact that there have been all sorts of media and social events down here for years and years — tackle companies, boat makers, public relations firms, local clubs — and you can see where I’m going. Table Rock isn’t new to anyone in this business at the professional level.

Prefishing this lake Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday has not been about exploring what it has to offer, or trying to find new spots. It’s been about finding the bass on the places we already know about, and then figuring out how to make the big ones bite. That’s a much more efficient way to prefish, and it’s very different than what we usually do when we compete.

In most places we go, there’s a lot of unexplored water. Most of us can look around and find something we didn’t know was there. That probably didn’t happen this week.

True, with the recent upgrades in our electronics, we get a better view of what’s underneath us, in front of us and around us. Those anglers who are really, really good with their electronics have, no doubt, been able to find something new. Their findings notwithstanding, however, most of us will be fishing stuff we knew about long before we arrived here over the weekend.

One other thing that’s kind of neat about Table Rock is the way the fish are distributed. In most lakes where there are largemouth, smallmouth and spots, you’ll find each species in a different place in the lake. Not here. You can catch any one of the three in the same place, and often with the same lure.

I’m excited about it. This will be one where true, honest-to-goodness fishing skills will prevail. We’ll have to find the fish — that’ll require a lot of experience and intuition — and then pick the right lure to catch them. It’ll be interesting to see who prevails.

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