previews Bull Shoals

Elite Series pros hit Bull Shoals next week for the Trokar Quest event there, and will be facing a much different lake than the two Florida waters they most recently fished. BassGold is a huge resource in such circumstances, though it also offers a lot for folks who just fish locally.

Former B.A.S.S. pro Ken Cook and I took a brief look at what the historical pattern information in BassGold indicates the winning patterns and weights will be next week. Note that because BassGold has nearly 20 years of patterns (exclusive data) from the highly regarded Central Pro-Am circuit, the information on Bull Shoals is particularly good.

Macro Factors

Bank-beaters should have a ball because the "Macro Factors" graph (generally where on a lake to fish) shows that "Shoreline" accounts for 51 percent of top five finishes on the lake in the April-May timeframe. That makes sense: In April and May, bass in deep, clear upland reservoirs generally head to the bank.

Ken: "I'm a little surprised coves and pockets [10 percent of high finishes] aren't better-indicated, but this is late spawn time and the majority of the spawners have probably moved out of the back of the coves and are located around secondary points and small shoreline cuts."

Habitat Factors

At this writing, the lake level is up a bit, which should make bank patterns even more important. And that of course means "Wood," a term in BassGold that in the case of this tournament means mostly bushes.

That's no secret to anyone who knows the lake. As Ken noted, "It's a good thing there's lots of shoreline for anglers to work with because everyone will be looking for the same things."

BassGold shows that "Spawning Beds" are the second-most-effective Habitat Factor, with "Ledge/Drop," "Gravel/Clay" and "Rock" following in that order.

Two important things to note:

  1. A lot of the value in BassGold is how you interpret what it's telling you, same as any fishing tool. You'll get different things out of it depending on your fishing experience and knowledge.
  2. You can mine some great info from the detailed pattern summaries. To use a recent example, high finishers at the recent EverStart Series tournament on Bull Shoals fished dirtier water – but not with faster-moving baits, like you'd expect. And one keyed on bushes with bigger bases.


Shoreline, bushes, you know what's next: flipping and pitching. Sure enough, the "Lures/Baits" graph in this April-May "Pattern Report" for Bull Shoals shows that typical flip/pitch baits are best – sort of.

Half to two-thirds of first through fifth patterns incorporated slower-presentation baits like jigs and soft-plastics. But here's where the ability to manipulate the "Pattern Report" graphs is so valuable. Take a look below at the differences between what winners (yellow bars) and second-fifth finishers (orange bars) used.

So if you're fishing this tournament to win it, looks like you should have a jig in your hand.

Though Ken feels that spinnerbaits and squarebill crankbaits could be factors in stained water, he predicts that "the winner will target flooded bushes in main lake pockets and the shoreline with jigs and small crawdad-imitating plastics."

He noted that the topwater bite that develops later in the month on Bull Shoals could be an effective locating technique now.

Winning Weight

The BassGold Pattern Report for April-May shows that winning and placing (second-fifth) weights average in the mid-teens per day. That means a shade less than 15 pounds on the low side and 17 pounds or a little higher on the high side.

More Gold, a B.A.S.S. partner, is the world's best bass patterning tool. It has taken 45 years of tournament patterns, now over 3,500 and counting, and turned them into data you can search and sift, resulting in pattern "gold" never seen before. As a reader, you can get 15 percent off the regular subscription price when you use code BFB001 today.

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