One bite can make a difference

Sometimes just one bite can clue you into what’s happening on a body of water. That’s the story I want to tell about a recent fishing trip with my son, Max, to the Tennessee River. 

The fishing was tough the first day or so after we arrived. As I recall we caught three fish, but none of them was a bass. It was frustrating. That was especially so because conditions were pretty good. The water was 64 degrees, and it was fairly clear. On top of that there was a pretty stout current flowing. I’d estimate it at around 3 or 4 miles per hour.  

Nevertheless we kept fishing. Trips with your son are about a lot more than catching fish. I’ll never let a slow bite ruin the experience.

Of course, the other reason I was fishing was that I’m trying to get ready for next year. I’ve been taking my rehab slowly, just fishing a few hours at a time this fall. It seems to be working, too. I’m getting better every week. But it’s getting closer to the start of the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series season so I need to be able to fish all day for several days in a row. The only way to get ready to do that is to do it.  

But, let’s get back to fishing the Tennessee River this fall: Somewhere along the line, I made a cast with a spinnerbait that changed our whole trip. The river is full of effluents — places where water flows out from the chemical plants into the river. I was using a high-speed Lew’s reel with a gear ratio of 8.3:1. I burned that spinnerbait back under the effluent about as fast as I could. And bang — there she was jerking back hard on my bait.

I realized right away that it wasn’t the current from the effluent that was holding the bass. It was the deeper water in front of the current break it created.  

At almost the same time I realized that we had been fishing too shallow. Fishing shallow in a river is nothing to be ashamed of or feel bad about. We all know that bass hold shallow in rivers, unbelievably shallow at times. In this case, however, the fish were deeper than normal and biting fast moving baits. 

So, we tied on some deep running Strike King crankbaits and went to work cranking them hard and fast. We caught more bass, too.

The whole experience reminded me of fishing up in New York. The fish are often holding deeper than you think they should. You know, it’s like they didn’t get the memo. And, they often hit baits that are moving really fast. 

The speed thing is something we should all keep in mind. Bass might slow down when it’s cold, but they can still catch forage. That means they can also catch our lures when they’re moving fast. It’s not about what they can do. It’s about what they want to do.  

The lesson here is that every fish you catch was where you caught it for a reason, and it grabbed your lure for a reason. We may not know why, but we do know what. Don’t let that escape you.