Stick to your guns

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Bassmaster Marshal

I’m pleased that I qualified for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic in my first year of fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series. But I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied with finishing 27th in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

The ultimate goal for any serious Elite pro is to be the Angler of the Year. Anyone who claims the AOY title is an extraordinary fisherman beyond question. You can’t measure the respect that comes with that accomplishment.

Looking back at last season, two tournaments prevented me from being much higher in the AOY standings. I finished 74th at the first tournament of the year on Lake Martin in early February. That was my second worst event. The next tournament at Grand Lake in late April was my worst. I limped in near the bottom of the pack in 93rd place.

I’m proud that I overcame those horrible tournaments, but I don’t want to go through that again. I’ve been thinking about how to get off to a better start next season.

Some guys in my situation might think they would need to change their baits or how they fish in similar scenarios. I believe I’m better off not trying a bunch of crazy stuff and sticking to my guns.

If you match basic baits to normal seasonal patterns, I think you’ll catch more fish than you would by getting sidetracked with offbeat stuff. Many fishermen make catching bass harder than it really is.

A spinnerbait was my main lure at Lake Martin and Grand Lake last season. Some of the higher finishers in those tournaments fished spinnerbaits, too. That tells me my bait selection was on target. I just didn’t get on the right fish at those lakes or on the right spinnerbait patterns.

I think I was fishing behind the fish. They had moved closer to the spawn than I realized. I was fishing close to the steeper drops. I probably should have been focused on 45-degree banks or the backs of pockets.

I always tie on a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait from TrueSouth Custom lures. I can run it high if I want to with the rod up or drop my rod and slow my retrieve to get it deeper. I like double Colorado blades in muddy water and a Willow leaf blade behind a Colorado blade in stained water.

Depending on the weather and the water temperature, spinnerbaits and square bills might play at in February next season at Lake Lanier. There could be a good largemouth bite on those baits in stained water upriver if the water warms to the low 50s.

My favorite square bill is the 6th Sense Crush 50x. I love the old school chartreuse and black back color. I do like red early in the spring in stained water. But the closer it gets to the spawn, the more I go with chartreuse and black.

The jerkbait is another of my basic baits. It could be key on Lanier’s main lake where the water’s clear. If the wind blows, a jerkbait will catch them off points and humps. If we don’t get a lot of wind, the bass will shy from jerkbaits and other moving baits. That’s the way it is a lot of times on clear blueback herring lakes.

I am a 100 percent moving bait fisherman. I would always rather be casting and winding, but I can fish a drop shot, shaky head or underspin if I have to.

When we get to lake Hartwell next April, I’ll have a walking topwater bait or a popper tied on. There’s always a topwater bite from spring into summer. It could be a first morning thing, or it could last all day. I always start off the day with some type of topwater no matter where we are at that time of year.

If the topwater bite dies or never gets going, my first response is to head to the bank. I love to flip shallow cover and to skip a jig under boat docks. If that doesn’t work, I’ll look for offshore bass.

Whatever I end up doing, I’m going to stick with tried-and-true baits that I know work.