I plan to fish Lake Oahe and the Upper Mississippi River, the final two events on the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series tour, with the same strategy I employed at Pickwick Lake and the St. Lawrence River. I’m going to leave history in the past and not look for bass anywhere I caught them in previous tournaments.
At Pickwick I ignored all my waypoints from earlier events and used my Humminbird LakeMaster maps to search for offshore bass on water I’d never fished before. What I’d learned from prior tournaments at Pickwick gave me a good idea what depth and bottom structure was likely to hold bass.
By exploring new water, I got a better understanding of what the fishery was doing that week and not two or three years ago. It’s a huge part of why I won that tournament.
The next Elite tournament was at the St. Lawrence River. In past tournaments there I fished the river and the bays on Lake Ontario near the mouth of the river. This time I left that water behind, ran 50 miles out into Lake Ontario and found heavy smallies on the Canadian side of the big lake. That’s where I fished during the tournament. I sacked 98 pounds, 6 ounces of smallmouth by fishing new water, which was good enough for fourth place.
It will be easy to leave history in the past at Oahe. The lake is massive, over 200 miles in length, and we won’t be taking off from where we started the last time we were there. The water I fished then is so far away that I won’t have enough gas to run to it. There are no gas docks on Oahe. One thing from history that I will keep in mind is the unique bait source there. The smallmouth target rainbow smelt. They’re 7- to 9-inches long and have a thin profile. Swimbaits and jerkbaits represent them really well.
Gas won’t be an issue at the Upper Mississippi, but I still intend to check out new water. I believe one reason the new-water strategy has been working for me is because it keeps my mind fresh and focused. Now that I’ve been an Elite pro for 10 years, I need to change things up to stay motivated. Exploring new water perks me up and lets me fish with more spontaneity.
If I fail to find anything worth fishing, I can always fall back on what I know. That helps me relax and focus on learning new areas.
A big mistake I see on tour is a lot of guys fish where one of the pros won a tournament before. That never works out. Everyone knows the spot, and locals and tournament anglers fish it out.
The next time you go out on your home lake, try avoiding the same spots you always fish. Approach the lake like it’s a blank slate. Spend time with your electronics checking out new places. Even on a lake you know very well, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you can learn in one day by leaving history in the past.