What size bass do I target?

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Bassmaster Marshal

Mike Pryor asked me about what I do when it comes to choosing between the number of bites I get and the quality of bites I get. Basically he wanted to know if I fish smaller baits to try for a limit quick and then upsize my lures to try to upgrade my weight when I’m fishing a tournament.

I really don’t do either one. What I do is fish for better than average size bass in the lake or river we’re fishing. In some waters that might be 3-pounders but in other waters that might be 6-pounders. It just depends.

Lure size is a part of that but so are a lot of other things. Maybe it’s moving my lure real slow, or maybe it’s moving it real fast. But it could just as easily be a specific location — sun, shade, wind, wood, rock — or depth. And, let’s not forget about water color. Sometimes they like it clear, sometimes muddy.

Big fish don’t get that way by accident. There’s something about their genetics, their instincts or whatever else is in them that has allowed them to live longer, eat better and grow bigger than the other fish. My goal every single day I’m out there is to figure that out and take advantage of it.

Here’s the deal: I’m fishing for five of the biggest bass I can catch. They need to be bigger than the five the other guys catch. It does me no good to catch two dozen 2-pounders if one of our other guys catches five 3-pounders. I win the numbers game. He wins the tournament and gets to cash the check.

Fishing for fun is a totally different game. If you’re a recreational angler, it’s great to catch high numbers, watch them tailwalk and jump and then go back to work on Monday and tell all your buddies about it. But that doesn’t work for me. The only thing that interests me is weight, in a tournament at least.

If you’re fishing local club tournaments, your goals are, or should be, similar to mine. You need to find the five biggest bass you can and then bring them to the scales.

I want to be honest here. I do sometimes fish for keepers. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. But again, it all goes back to being a full-time professional. If I’m right below a cut, but not in a position to win, I’ll sometimes make sure I have a limit so that I can fish the next day or move up a place or two.

There are two reasons for that. The first is money. Making the Friday night cut is the difference between fishing for nothing and cashing a $10,000 check. That matters. The other reason is that one fish can make the difference between qualifying for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods and not qualifying. That matters, too.

I appreciate the question, Mike, and the opportunity to answer it. I hope my response gives you some idea of what I’m trying to do when I’m out there. All fans, but especially informed fans, make the sport better.