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There is a saying that goes “10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish”. If you “buy into that theory”, why would that be true?
We’re in the information age, where anglers are inundated with internet info, videos, reading material, cable TV shows, magazine articles and more. Unfortunately some of the information is more a matter of opinion and not totally accurate. This misinformation can lead anglers down the wrong path and have them scurrying to the tackle box and the outdoor store to reload and try again. There are multiple fishing factors that have proven true over the course of the years and also things that have changed the sport which deserve a level of consideration.

What’s changed? Fishing pressure over the last several years has skyrocketed, in my home state of Tennessee older data from 2013 to 2014 shows license sales increased over 16%. More anglers, more fishing pressure, more fish caught, more on the water activity. The advancement in electronics has been astronomical. From archaic paper graphs and little round sonars that showed multiple lines indicating bottom and depth to the high resolution screens that now offer a real screen shot of bottom, contours, cover AND fish it’s a new watery world. Using the tools is essential to learning new water, determining water temperature, depth bottom changes and the location of bass and the baitfish they depend on for food. Dependency on the electronic tools can block you from common sense adjustments and the puzzle pieces to honing your skills to fooling numbers of fish and BIG bass. The exposure to social media and other forms again like TV and other informational outlets can create a jumble of doubt. One of the highly respected bass anglers ramps up the conversation saying, “We’re catching em’ good on crankbaits”. Fired up, the bass angling community goes into a frenzy. What kind, deep diving, square bill, lipless, what weight, on what kind of cover, in how many feet of water, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted Kentucky bass, what’s the secret color, which rod, reel and line? Could be as early as that day weather might change, a front moves in, three inches of rain falls or even just a major change of wind direction or speed and things go haywire. All this requires a serious revisiting of the tactics not found on any screen or app. It’s not panic time, just take a deep breath and employ a common sense approach.

BASS BASICS – The smallest compacted area that serves all the needs of the fish is a veritable gold mine. Oxygen needed to breathe, food to sustain their lives, cover as a security blanket and an ambush point, plus deep water close by as an escape route are all the components to keep bass consistently in an area. They, the fish, will leave when the food source migrates, or when pushed by fishing pressure, falling water and or an increase in boating traffic. Most anglers have a fundamental understanding of the fish but fall short of comprehending their behavior, seasonal patterns, lifestyle and their underwater world and the land that surrounds it. Once you grasp the details of what bass like, dislike and how they react to certain stimulus they become more predictable in their reaction, location, movements, feeding patterns and how to minimize the search by anticipating where they will be. I’ve said it many times before, “It’s not hard to catch fish, it’s always harder to find fish”. In weather extremes the strike zone of a bass decreases greatly.

Very hot weather depletes the water of oxygen making it difficult for all fish to breath. Very cold water can dramatically slow down the metabolism of a bass. Both these circumstances require a slowdown approach and a few other possible adjustments. Location changes, lure size, probably most important retrieve speed. Artificial baits need to look realistic and move like the real thing. Anything appearing injured or easy to catch signals to a fish attack, eat and retreat to digest. Studying the everyday motions of the shad, crawfish, frogs and every other creature on the menu for a largemouth tips the odds in your favor. When you can mimic and match the look of your bait to simulate the natural thing you’ll catch fish every time out. Upsizing your offering positions you to fool a larger fish. It’s nothing more than a return on investment. If a fish has to travel an equal distance to eat a small meal or the jumbo version they always go big. The problem with a bigger bait is any defect in the look or presentation is magnified to a fish that primarily feeds and survives by use of its sense of sight. Working heavy cover pays dividends. While many bass casters are fearful of pulling an eight dollar crankbait through a deep water, tangled brush pile the deflection bite on cranks is awesome and extremely effective. The accuracy required to “pitch” a jig or worm into a matted mess of aquatic vegetation can frustrate many bass enthusiasts but the payoff is the potential hook set on a hog. Likewise burning a buzzer or lipless crankbait over hydrilla beds is tiresome until a monster crushes the bait, similarly working a frog throw a scum patch and waiting to feel the weight of the fish before setting the hook is tough somehow and still there are swings and misses.

Tapping into experience, yours or someone else’s, is highly recommended. When you just look at a spot and pick up another rod, draw a strike on the first cast, that’s the unbeatable combination of bass savvy, using every tool at your disposal and most important the intuitive sixth sense that connects you to the bass. The feeling is undeniable. As important as anything is the understanding that no one ever conquers the sport. When you stick your thumb of a giant bass, even if just for a moment, you beat the bass at its own game. Congratulations, you’re on your way to being one of the 10% that catches 90% of the fish.