BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Mark Tyler built a dominating tournament resume years ago as a skilled tidal river fisherman on the West Coast. It’s that experience that paid off with a win at Bass Pro Shops Central Open #3 presented by Allstate.
After three days of fishing on the Arkansas River, the Oklahoma transplant amassed a winning weight of 42 pounds, 14 ounces. Following are keys to his winning game plan beyond the textbook techniques.
Key #1: River experience
Tyler developed his bass fishing skills with flipping stick in hand on the California Delta. It’s an unforgiving teacher. Strong tides shift bass around on a daily basis. Bottom cover is scarcer than what’s typical for river systems to the east. Learning under the toughest of river fishing circumstances paid off years later in Oklahoma.
“River fish move on a daily basis,” he observed. “Trying to consistently draw a pattern around a single technique and lure like you can on a manmade lake is impossible.”
Recognizing the fickle nature of river bass and the willingness to be flexible under changing conditions meant all the difference.
Key #2: High percentage areas
Heavy rainfall muddied key areas of the river by the final day, forcing Tyler to look for new water. New water for him didn’t necessarily mean fishing an entirely different area of the map.
“I fished the same areas but just expanded on the presentation,” he said. “Fishing more water was another key.”
So was dialing into areas on the river known by Tyler to consistently hold bass. And even when the fish moved slightly off a given piece of cover, those were the high percentage areas.
“This river doesn’t replenish very well,” he said. “For a three-day tournament like this you need different water for every day.”
Tyler looked for subtleties in a given area before giving it up as unproductive.
“A lot of times that meant something as subtle as the tip of an underwater point that’s three feet closer to a dropoff,” he said.
Key #3: River reactions
Tyler learned long ago that reaction bites are key to catching river fish. Also recognizing how the heavily pressured bass might ignore popular baits proved key.
“A key to bass fishing, and especially river fishing, is to use lures capable of creating reaction strikes.”
That meant making crankbaits strike bottom cover or imparting additional action to soft plastic baits.
“The fish were so accustomed to seeing the same baits that I feel like putting more action in the lures made a difference.”