Weekdays vs. weekends

It's Wednesday morning at a well-known bass lake as you launch at a practically deserted boat ramp. You glide over slick water to a nearby cove and approach a fallen tree, the most obvious piece of cover along the entire bank. Your first cast of the morning goes astray; your spinnerbait sails 6 feet wide of the tree's trunk. You briskly wind in with the intention of making a better cast, but a respectable bass pounces on the lure.

 You chuckle, release the suicidal fish and lay the next cast right along the trunk. Pow! Bass No. 2 nails your spinnerbait. Throughout the morning, your spinnerbait dances past windfalls, brushpiles, boat docks and other visible targets and coaxes strikes with satisfying regularity. You later head home, reassured that you are one heck of a fisherman, and that your favorite lake supports a bounty of bass.

 The following Saturday, you impatiently wait in a long line at the same boat ramp. You finally get on the water and bounce over boat wakes to the cove you fished the previous weekday, heart set on starting at the same fallen tree. When you get there, a pair of anglers in another boat is already working over your tree.

 The rest of the day is equally frustrating. Many spots that produced during midweek refuse to give up bass to your trusty spinnerbait. At day's end, you find yourself arm-weary despite catching few fish. You leave, doubting your skills and wondering if this could possibly be the same lake you fished only days before.

 Bass fishing ranks have swelled to the point that popular lakes exhibit dual personalities, one for weekdays and another for weekends. As a result, we must deal with schizoid bass that often strike with abandon Monday through Friday, yet grow tightlipped when fishing's working masses venture out on Saturday.

 This phenomenon is something professional tournament anglers and fishing guides have coped with for years — some more successfully than others. Now that bass anglers, as a whole, grow increasingly capable, it's more important than ever that you adjust your fishing according to the day of the week.

 Take a ride

 Texan David Wharton, an established BASS professional and former Sam Rayburn guide, sometimes avoids the weekend crush by making long runs from popular boat launching facilities.

 "When I was guiding," says Wharton, "the wind was my ally. Most people won't go far when the lake gets rough. If I was willing to ride the big water and cross Rayburn, I could get into areas away from ramps and leave most people behind."

 Under normal conditions, however, Wharton's primary strategy is to fish structure in open water. He correctly reasons that the majority of weekend warriors concentrate on shallow, visible cover. Fishing offshore, he points out, doesn't necessarily mean fishing deep.

 "If you want to fish shallow," says Wharton, "check out creek channels in the backs of creeks. That way you don't have to beat the banks along with everybody else."

 Wharton's most productive offshore spots have been places he has located himself. Even though most fishermen are more comfortable fishing the bank and visible cover, "community holes" away from shore also get pounded on weekends. A tip regarding a hot structure spot may yield good fishing during the week, but will likely be overrun on weekends, just as with shoreline cover.

 If you can locate your own offshore bass, chances are good that you'll have them to yourself. This strategy came though for Wharton when he once competed in a BASS tournament held at South Carolina's Lake Murray, which he had never fished before. Fortunately for Wharton, Murray has submergent vegetation, something he is accustomed to fishing at Rayburn. Rather than pump local anglers for locations of their productive grassbeds, Wharton set out with a topographic map and a depthfinder.

 He eventually located a 200-yard stretch of weeds in 10 to 12 feet of water on a long point. The grass grew up 4 to 5 feet from the bottom and was easy to overlook. Best of all, there wasn't another angler in the vicinity. When Wharton slow rolled a spinnerbait over the weeds and plucked a number of quality bass, he had an inkling he was on to something good.

 On four consecutive tournament days, including the final round on Saturday, Wharton fished his weedbed in solitude. The fishing was slow but steady as the weeds eventually gave up 48 pounds, 12 ounces of bass, enough poundage for first place.

 Loose lips sink ships

 Another thing Wharton has learned about overcoming weekend anglers and fellow tournament competitors is to keep a good thing to himself. He never let on exactly where he was fishing at Murray. Two years later he returned to the lake for another tournament and keyed on the same weedbed. He won the tournament hands down by fishing the same area as before. Had he revealed the spot after the initial event, local weekend anglers would have fished it dry.

 Mike Auten, who guided on Kentucky Lake until he began making an impact on the professional BASS trail, also knows how to keep mum.

 "A lot of structure fishing goes on at Kentucky Lake," says Auten. "It's hard to keep your best spots to yourself. When I found something really good, I never fished it on weekends, especially if it was something I had developed by planting cover. All it takes is for one guy to see you fishing a secret spot. Before you know it, everybody is fishing there. "

 The weekday boom

 Of course, Auten also took his clients to community structure holes that were visited regularly by other anglers, as well as to shallow cover. He learned early in his guiding career that well-known structures yielded far more bass on weekdays than on weekends, the same as with shoreline cover.

 "After a weekend of heavy fishing," says Auten, "it takes a few days for the bass to come around. Along about midweek, things really pick up. Then the weekend masses hit the water and the cycle begins all over again."

 The weekday vs. weekend cycle taught Auten to be wary when prefishing tournaments. Professional and amateur competitors alike often overrate the places they find when scouting on weekdays. This trap is particularly hard on those who take a day off during the week to prepare for a weekend tournament.

 Because weekday bass are more aggressive, they may fill you with unrealistic expectations. Unless you are fairly certain you've found water that will be overlooked, you must anticipate the effects additional fishing pressure will have when the weekend rolls around. In most instances, you'll have to share the bass with other anglers, and the fish may be much less cooperative.

 The truth is, you may be ahead if you can prefish a weekend tournament on the weekend preceding the event. You probably won't catch as many bass as on weekdays, but you will see which areas receive the most fishing pressure and which lures and presentations get the most play. Given this information, you then have an opportunity to search for overlooked fishing water and to come up with alternative methods the bass haven't seen countless times.

 "When I fish on weekends," says Auten, "I try to beat everybody to the best spots first. But that rarely works. I've had better luck trying to show the bass something different from what everybody else is throwing. What I really need to do is work harder at finding less obvious spots."

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