The upside of any scenario

This week’s Bassmaster Elite Series event on Ross Barnett will be kind of a give-and-take scenario with some of the things I like and some that I don’t. From my past visit to this Mississippi lake, I know there’s a lot of shallow cover and that fits my style of fishing really well.

On the other hand, Ross Barnett’s no Toledo Bend, so the ability for the field to spread out and find our own areas without a lot of company, the way we did at our previous event, will be significantly less. I really don’t think it matters where you go, I think you’re going to see a lot of boats.

That’s definitely something I’ll have to keep in mind, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from tournament fishing, it’s the value of finding the upside of any scenario. So that’s what I’m going to do this week on Ross Barnett. 

I fished here in 2015, and it seemed like there was a good number of fish. The other thing is this: Even though the lake is small, if there’s enough cover, that will spread us out a little more.

If there’s not much cover, it’s just going to be a merry-go-round. But the last time I was there, the lake did have a good amount of cover, and even though it felt like it was crowded, it wasn’t as bad as it might have seemed.

In either case, I think this is going to be a tournament where you’re really going to have to focus on details. It may be something specific about bait choice, cover, structure or depth, or your pattern may involve all of these factors.

You may really get to a specific bait at a specific type of cover in order to feel like you’re fishing by yourself. My preference is always to be fishing by myself, but if you’re fishing a 10-acre flat and there are 10-15 boats in there and you’re doing something different from everybody else, it almost feels like you are fishing by yourself.

It’s also possible that this event might turn out to be what we call a “junk tournament,” where you run over here and fish a dock and on the next stop you fish a ledge and on the next stop you might fish a laydown and then riprap.

You just fish what you can and hope you run into them.

Now, I can tell you that the crazy winter and spring we’ve had have made it hard to figure out the stage of the spawn. I’m thinking that this week on Ross Barnett, it may be difficult to dial in what percentage of the fish have spawned and what percentage of the fish have not spawned, what percentage is coming up and what percentage is spawning.

If I could get the answer to any question about this lake, that would be what I’d like to know. That gives you a big head start on where to be fishing, because you always want to be a step ahead of them; not a step behind. 

In a perfect tournament scenario, you want to be fishing where the majority of the fish are coming to. If 20 percent of the fish are in prespawn and 60-70 percent have spawned, you don’t want to be up there waiting on 20 percent of the fish to come; you want to be out there waiting on that larger number of fish to get to you.

That just puts the odds in your favor. It doesn’t always work out that way; sometimes, guys win on the 20 percent. But I’d rather be fishing for the majority, and I’d rather be a little ahead of them. 

One thing I can say about my practice strategy is that I’ll spend a lot more time fishing than looking. That’s the opposite of what I typically do, but with a smaller lake, I’ll be looking hard to find those small details within an area that can make a big difference in the tournament.

If I can find a few of these particular details and if I can figure what stage of the spawn most of the fish are in, I feel like that could put me in position to do really well on Ross Barnett.