I’ve had issues in the past knowing when to bail on my primary pattern and go to a backup pattern for emergency bass. We all want to win, but there are many days on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour when you have to catch keepers just to survive.
I failed to make the Classic last year because there were multiple times when I did not bring in a limit. If I had gone to a backup plan in those instances and filled my limit with keepers, I could very well be fishing in this year’s Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe.
Small keeper bass may not be impressive, but they are huge when you consider how competitive today’s Elite Series field is. At the end of any tournament, the weights are so tight that it doesn’t take much to make a big jump in the standings.
Consider the recent Okeechobee tournament. When all was said and done, the difference between 52nd and 65th place was only 2 pounds. One 2-pound bass or two squeakers would be worth a whole lot of points if you didn’t have them to complete a limit. You just can’t afford not to bring in a limit, ever.
My goal this season is to do my darnedest to always bring in a limit. That didn’t happen at the first tournament on Lake Cherokee. I struggled to get on anything there, let alone a backup emergency bass pattern. I finished near the bottom. I knew I had to rebound at Okeechobee or my entire Elite Series season was in deep trouble.
Day 1 at Okeechobee everything went according to plan. I had a solid topwater bite going, and it lasted all day. I caught them on frogs and propbaits and walking baits in an area where many of the other guys were sight fishing for spawners. I weighed a 19-10 limit and was in 11th place.
I couldn’t wait to get out there the next day. I thought I was in it to win it.
I went back to my primary area and went to work with my topwater baits. For whatever reason, I was not getting the bites. It was a nightmare. There were several other guys around me throwing the same topwater baits I was, and they were catching big ones.
I kept telling myself I was doing the right thing. I just needed to hang in there. I stuck with my topwater baits until noon, but my livewells were still empty. If there was ever a time for emergency backup bass, this was it.
I switched to a bait that was catching small keepers for me in practice, a 5-inch swimming worm. I finally boated my first keeper at around 1 o’clock. I stuck with the worm and brought in a limit that weighed less than 9 pounds. It was a tiny limit for Okeechobee, but it was still enough to make the 50 cut for me.
The next day I started on a spot where I had caught a few keepers the first two days on the way back to the weigh-in. I was hoping to get off to a better start than on the previous day. I never left because the topwater bite was on fire there all day.
I must have had over 30 bites. I lost a 7-pounder right at the boat and had a few other good ones pull off. I culled a limit that weighed just under 16 pounds. If I had landed the big ones I would have had well over 20 pounds.
I ended up in 41st place in the final standings. I had opportunities to do better, but you can’t complain whenever you make the 50 cut in an Elite tournament.
If it weren’t for those emergency bass on the second day, I might have finished near the bottom of the pack. You just can’t afford not to bring in a limit on the Elite Series. Five a day, every day is my motto for the rest of the season.