Making something from nothing

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Alan McGuckin

I had an interesting experience on Toledo Bend that I think is worth writing about. It illustrates the importance of making something out of nothing. We all need to be able to do that regardless of our skill level or why we bass fish.

I’d never been to Toledo Bend before, and I didn’t prefish it before it went off limits. My research did tell me, however, that most of the bigger tournaments were won in the middle and lower sections of the lake. I also knew that there was a little less timber in those areas so I could run without quite as much worry of hitting something.

On Sunday, the day before official practice, I decided to go deep.

After two full days of catching 2-pounders I realized that was a mistake. I could have caught between 50 and 80 fish a day out there but that would have got me nothing in the tournament. A Bassmaster Elite Series tournament isn’t about numbers, it’s about size.

When I finally started fishing shallow — late Tuesday and Wednesday — I realized my mistake. The big ones, the kind that get you a trophy or a check, were shallow. That was valuable information, but I learned it too late to put together a decent game plan. I was basically “just fishing” when the tournament started.

I got a little bit lucky on Thursday and caught a big one. That kept me in the running but my luck didn’t hold out on Friday. However, I did finish the day with enough weight to make the first cut. That earned me a paycheck, and it kept me competitive in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings for a Classic spot.

It’s pretty clear that I did one thing wrong and one thing right.

I should have moved shallow sooner, a lot sooner. That’s one of those things that looks obvious in hindsight but wasn’t so obvious at the time. It’s a lesson learned, and one that probably applies to a lot of anglers.

Regardless of whether you’re fishing a tournament or just fun fishing don’t spend all your time in one spot or on one type of place. If they aren’t there, they aren’t there. All the casting in the world won’t make them appear. You can’t force bass to do what you think they should do, or be doing.

The thing I did right was that I moved and didn’t let myself go back to what I first thought. That’s important because you have to adjust when you’re fishing, and you can’t let past thoughts get in your head and cause you trouble.

I still wonder why the big bass weren’t deep. My mind tells me that they should have been. But they weren’t, at least not for me. And so, while I didn’t have a great tournament, I at least salvaged something out of it. I would say the same thing if I had been on a fishing trip with my buddies.

We bass fish on their terms, and we’ll do better if we keep that in mind.