Don’t blend

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Hank Cherry went a long time between keeper bites, but then he had a fish on before it got off only to have this one hit and stayed on!
Bassmaster Marshal

Professional bass fishing is an individual sport. If you’re going to be successful, you have to do things your way. That’s something I didn’t do enough of last year, as my 84th-place finish in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race shows. This year it’ll be different. 

A good example of what I’m talking about is practice. Some guys fish from daylight to dark on Monday and Tuesday, and then they fish from daylight to the very last minute on Wednesday. That works for them, and that’s fine. I’m not the guy who tells other anglers how it should be done. But, the daylight to dark thing doesn’t work for me. My attention span isn’t that long.

For me something like six or seven hours is about right. I can concentrate on what I’m doing for that long, and I can make pretty good decisions. When I get much longer than that, though, I start just throwing lures and wandering around accomplishing nothing. I really don’t think about what I’m doing. 

That mixes up false patterns and ideas with true ones. After a while I can’t tell the difference. When you’re fishing at this level that’s the kiss of death. There’s no way to be competitive when you can’t sort things out — quickly.  

So this year I’ll be shortening my practice to meet my needs. What the other guys do is up to them.

The same thinking process will do me when we get to the St. Johns River in early February to start our season. It’s popular for anglers to think that the way to win a tournament on that river is to go to Lake George. The thinking is that it offers a more stable bite and more reliable patterns. They say the river isn’t steady enough to win a tournament at this high of a level. 

That might be true, but if it is I’ll learn that lesson the hard way. My style of fishing fits the St. Johns OK. I know it fluctuates and that the bite can be hit or miss at times. I also know that it’s full of giant bass that haven’t felt the pressure like those in Lake George have felt. 

My approach will be to find some hidden, out of the way places that are overlooked by the other guys. That’s the way I fish and the way I’ve been successful in the past. I’m thinking they’ll bite stickbaits, vibrating jigs and a variety of topwater lures just like they have in the past.   

To be honest, it’s possible I’ll have to move out of the river. If conditions get so bad that’s it just not fishable, I’ll go to the lake. I know where it’s at, and I know where there are some good spots in it. I’m certainly not afraid of it. 

Doing things your way doesn’t mean being foolish, and it would be foolish to stay in the river if it’s not fishable. What it does mean is to do what works for you instead of doing what works for the other guys. You don’t want to be one of the guys. You want to be you.  

Don’t blend.