Last month I fished the Alabama BassMaster Eastern Invitational on Lake Guntersville. I had never been to the lake but I knew that it had aquatic vegetation in the form of milfoil and coontail. Driving to Alabama I was putting together some possible seasonal patterns for mid-May. Topwaters, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, and Carolina rigged french fries all fished around the grass. New feathering, underwater grass points is what I was going to definitely check out.
I started practice on Monday with the rest of the competitors and ran up the Tennessee River which feeds Lake Guntersville. I pulled into a big bay with several major creeks feeding it called Seabold. I had studied it on the map and liked the layout of the bay. I ran to the biggest point in the whole bay and shut down, jumped on the front deck and hurled a buzzbait about forty yards over the top of a shallow grassbed not yet to the surface. The bait was on retrieve when it hit the water and if there was a fish around it would have to bite my bait, everything was perfect- a slight breeze, overcast, and it was real early. I made about six turns on the handle and a three pounder came up and smashed my lure. I boated the fish and saw some shad getting busted while I was releasing the fish. I made a cast across the action and I had another one on.
This went on all morning and by noon I had caught about fifteen bass. I picked up a Zara Spook at noon and began working it over some deeper grass edges. About twenty minutes went by as I worked the bait and finally one came up and crashed it. My topwater pattern was getting stronger and stronger as the day went on.
I fished the buzzbait and Zara Spook exclusively for three days of practice and caught fifteen to twenty-five bass each day and between eight and fourteen fish a day were over the fifteen inch minimum length. Pretty solid pattern right? Wrong!
The weather has never been more stable during any B.A.S.S. event that I have fished. Being that these tournaments are six days long you sometimes have to adjust to major weather changes. The weather was overcast and foggy the first morning of the tournament with the air temp the same it had been all week- mid seventies.
I arrived to my fish early Thursday morning with a high level of confidence in my buzzbait pattern only to not have a bite on it by eleven. I was in shock and realizing that I had not backed up my buzzbait pattern with anything. I had caught fish on the Zara Spook but they did not want it either. The Zara Spook would not qualify as a back up pattern being that it is a topwater bait also.
What had happened is that the surface temperature had warmed up enough through three warm practice days that the fish were going to come off of the strong topwater pattern. It just so happened that they came off of it during the tournament and they came off abruptly. Usually this is a gradually declining bite and the fish don’t usually come off of this pattern overnight.
To compete in bass tournaments and be successful in every tournament, you must be prepared. Having one primary pattern with no back up plan does not qualify for being prepared. A backup plan is a must in every tournament you fish, never count on one pattern no matter how strong it is. When the fish change to another pattern you have to anticipate that change and be ready to change with the fish to the new pattern. So get yourself a couple of patterns for your next tournament and don’t get yourself sent to “the school of hard knocks” like someone else you know did.
Bill Cannan Professional Fishing Guide – Lake Mohave
– Lake Mohave