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I hit the water this past Saturday to pre-fish for the upcoming King of the Rock 3. This is an annual event hosted by Peach State Kayak Anglers, held at Rocky Mountain PFA in NW Georgia (hence King of the Rock). Rocky Mountain PFA is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and annually produces fish approaching 26” in length. Fishing was tough – I managed to boat one small fish (okay it was a gizzard shad) and I lost a nice 18”+ fish at the Liska. Despite all this I learned enough to help shape my plan for the tournament and got a couple good reminders too.

So first let’s get the gizzard shad out of the way. I hooked into this little guy early in the day – maybe 30 minutes after launching. I’m not sure if it tried to eat the crankbait or wound up getting picked up by the trebles as I cranked, but this little fella is official the “slime” on my 2019 Liska. Good news is fishing can only get better from here LOL.

FYI: Don’t handle gizzard shad. Actually I learned this lesson last summer, but I was smart enough not to forget. If you handle gizzard shad, they have an awful coat of slime that will smell on your hand for hours (and not just a few). The first and only time I held a gizzard shad, my hand still stunk 8 hours later.

So let’s talk bass – or lack thereof – and the lessons learned. Obviously, catching fish pre-fishing can go a long way to build confidence for an event, that’s for certain. But you can look at the flip side and realize that not catching fish can teach you a lot too, namely what’s not working. That gives you a chance to reset your approach for tournament day. Frankly what wasn’t working in large part was me. I didn’t apply things I knew; and while I can’t share with you what changes I’m making right now since the tournament is still ahead of me, I can share with you the things I didn’t do right:

1 – Fish the conditions. We’ve had some warming weather here in Georgia and my gut wanted fish to be in full pre-spawn mode, so that’s where I started looking for fish – where I wanted them to be, not where conditions suggested. That was my first mistake – I spent too long looking for fish where I expected them to be instead of looking for fish based on the conditions. The water temperature where I started was a little cool and I should have (a) changed techniques or (b) moved to warmer water.

2 – Hooksets are free – or at most only the cost of a lure. I finally took option (b) above and moved to warmer water and was working a crankbait where I thought fish might move based on the temperature (learning from 1 above). I’d gotten hung on structure multiple times so when I felt my crankbait stop dead, I thought I had hung structure and didn’t set the hook immediately. Then my line started moving and I didn’t get a good hookset and lost the bass at the Liska.

3 – Don’t give up the leverage. When my bass came to the surface, I missed my chance to keep the leverage and let the bass get slack in the line. I know to plunge my rod tip in the water when she breached and yet I didn’t. The result was as expected: Bass 1, Jon 0.

The bad thing in all this is I made preventable mistakes that affected my day. The good thing is the mistakes I made are all preventable and all happened during pre-fishing, not on tournament day. Hopefully I can take this and put it to use at King of the Rock 3. Check back soon for an event recap.