Learning to adjust when conditions change

Anglers who competed in Brandon Card’s 4th Annual College & High School Open learned a lesson about fishing that even we pros have a hard time grasping.

Last weekend, I helped Brandon emcee the event that attracted 100 teams on Norris Lake near Knoxville. As we interviewed each team, it was interesting to see how some anglers caught them and others didn’t.

The winners caught them cranking, yet some of the teams said they cranked all day but only caught one or two.

Man, have I been there. In fact, it reminded me of a tournament we had a few years ago on Norfork Lake. I caught the fire out of them in practice on a jerkbait and was oozing with confidence.

However, when competition began the next day we had a fog delay followed by high skies and no wind. I hit all of the banks were I caught them in practice and the fish were still there – but not taking the jerkbait. I had several followers and some would nip at bait and not quite get it.

I kept trying new areas where I caught them the day before with no avail. Same deal; they’d follow or nip at the jerkbait.

But I couldn’t put that jerkbait down. I just kept getting sucked in and telling myself they would bite it. Afterwards, while reflecting on the situation, I realized conditions had changed and all I had to do was try something else, such as a shaky head or finesse jig. The conditions took the aggressive bite away.

And the thing is, I did fish a shaky head, but only a cast or two before I would pick up the jerkbait again. I just didn’t give the shaky head a fair chance.

One of the hardest things to do in fishing is to get a preconceived notion out of your head and figure out the mood of the fish based upon the kind of day it is - especially when you have so much recent history catching them on a specific technique.

Instead of running to different banks, I should have gone back through the areas where I was getting follows and fished slower or different presentations.

Often times it may just be a matter of casting at a different angle, or changing colors, or changing up retrieves with the lure. A tweak here and there can turn a tough day into a productive one.

And that doesn’t mean you should completely abandon what was working the day before. Maybe the cloud cover will move back in or the wind pick up and the fish will resume biting that jerkbait or crankbait.

Recognizing mood changes and adjusting accordingly is what makes great fishermen so great, yet it’s often hard to do. But when you know the fish are in an area, oftentimes you can make them bite something that fits their mood at the moment.

Power fishing is a great way to catch bass, but it can bite you on those days when conditions change and the fish are moody.

Learn to clear your mind of what you thought they wanted and you will be able to salvage those days that started out poorly.