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Twitch, twitch, twitch, ‘whoosh’ the water boils but the bait floats back up, dam she missed it. She’s back a giant swirl your bait fly’s into the air and lands back in the water, another boil the bait disappears your rod doubles over, drag is slipping, feels big, “Get the net” She’s makes a run in the weeds you can feel the pulse, you bring the boat directly over the fish, is she there? You don’t feel anything but your not letting any slack in the line just incase, finally she breaks free your line is heading toward the surface she jumps “Holy Crap it’s a big one, still pulling you heart is racing, just get in the boat. Slowly she tires and slides into the net, WOW it the finals and we’re looking good already. A six pounder in the well and boats are still blasting off. You tell your partner lets both throw top water we can win this thing.

This time of year the fish are active, spawn is over for the most part, and the decisions you make are critical to your success. Do you go for the win or insure you catch a limit and go on to day two? No one except you can make that choice.  Every angler has their comfort zone and technique that fits their style.  This time of year, top water and big baits (swim baits) account for most of the bigger fish. Cranks, spinnerbaits and worms catch big bass to but on the average the bass are smaller. Make the most of your time on the water. KVD says he insures every single thing that can be done before hitting the water is done, leave nothing to chance. Here some examples of what KVD has ready. Every bait in the boat has sharp hooks, every bait has it place and he knows where they are. Every rod is pre rigged new line and anticipated lures tied up. Fill up with gas and oil the night before; this gives you less to worry about and no fuel smell on your hands. Make sure the batteries are charged, trolling motor is secure and prop is in good shape. Check the prop on the big motor for fishing line on the shaft.

There are several steps to a successful day on the water. Practice is very important if you have the time. Practice will help you locate were the fish are and hopefully an idea where they are going. If you can fish the lake a day here and there following the fish can be a big help especially if you run out of fish or the bite changes in the middle of the event. (This happens all too often) Practice gets you in time and betters your accuracy. The better caster you are the more places you can target that other angers are unable to reach. Timing and feel can be huge the better your senses are the more fish you will feel. Many times we set the hook on instinct and then it’s “fish on” you never felt the bite but somehow it happened. This is something that happens, with more time on the water the better your will become. Practice also gives you confidence in certain baits and techniques. Ask any pro angler and they will tell you confidence is the best lure in your box. Think about it, your fishing with your buddy both using the same lure and one of you is catching a lot more fish; I can almost guarantee confidence is the difference.  Confidence causes you to work the lure in a different fashion; if you don’t have confidence in the lure you are using change it to one you do have confidence in. Before you change, “thy this” while on your retrieve with the lure you are going to change, envision the new lure you’re going to put on color, style and type, see if you like it. You don’t want to be changing lures all day long, a two-minute lure change 10 times a day equals 20 minute of lost time.  Now after you envision the new lure and if you like it, think about where it is in the boat, then when you sit down to change it you saved several minutes, maybe a half hour or so during the course of the day.

Hopefully your practice has led you to some quality fish but what if it hasn’t? Don’t panic and definitely don’t worry about what the other anglers are doing. That’s a huge mistake all anglers have made.  Some guys get spun out when they think someone else has the upper hand on them. At times (no me) I’ve seen anglers go to another anger and tell them know they are catching big fish just to intimidate them.  So now that angler may scrap his entire plan because now he thinks it not good enough, or now he is at the tackle shop trying to find these new hot baits. Don’t fall for it! If someone is really on them good, most likely they will just keep there mouth shut. Keep an eye on the big talker too most likely he’ll weight in a small bag, then it your turn to talk smack.

If you haven’t found those quality fish don’t worry all is not lost.  If it’s available try to find out the quality of the fish that are being caught. Check other recent tournaments, internet postings and tournament from the same time of year in previous years.  In your research, find out the weights and the differences in the top 10 places. It may be close from the top down or there may be one or two places that have considerably more weight, which may mean a specialized pattern or the top places were in one area. You might be able to decipher this in your research. If the weights are all close most likely those fish can be caught most anywhere in the lake, using standard methods. However, if there is a big gap at the top, try to determine there method. Swimbaits have been the rage of lately and accounted for many large weights. Last week I went out using the Black Dog Bluegill bait and landed two fish over six pounds, my friend was using convention methods and he landed more but smaller fish (two pounders). I only got two bites but if we were both throwing these types of baits and we landed four or five fish it would have been a big sack. Using a different method can be the difference in just doing ok or winning the event.  Using these big baits takes a great deal of confidence to throw them for hours and get one or two bites.

Where are the bass? Usually the male bass, which guard the fry, stay in the shallows longer than the females. A spinnerbait is an effective way to catch these males. As you fishing the shore line keep an eye out for bass fry scattering away from your bait, once found target the fry and don’t worry about the guardian. The male will find your bait if he is around, make repeated casts at the fry, 10, 20 or sometimes more can draw him out to strike. Bright colors seem to work better during these situations. Fishing for these males is usually just to fill your limit. The Larger female bass moved back to deeper water where they remain throughout much of the summer, on occasion they return to shallow waters to feed. These post spawn females feed in the shallows mostly during low light conditions, which is a good time for both anglers to be focused on big baits or top water. Even though many fish move to deeper water during the summer, a large percentage of the bass population can remain in shallow water.

The determining factor of how deep bass will travel is the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the water. During the summer many lakes go through a stratification, or layering, process. This means that warmer water remains on top and cooler, denser water remains on the bottom. Oxygen depletion can be particularly severe in productive lakes, which become stratified during the summer. The fish cannot live in an oxygen-depleted area for extended periods of time. This zone of depletion occurs is different in every lake. Shallow lakes often do not stratify and there is oxygen at all depths. In deeper lakes the oxygen levels vary. For an angler this information is very important – knowing where the most oxygenated waters are can greatly increase one’s success.  The best way to test this is with an oxygen meter however many anglers do not have one readily available. Another method is to use a bait that attracts all sizes of fish and fish it in the most common places. Say a small worm on a shaky head or a small grub trying a variety of main lake points starting shallow in the one-foot range and work it to twenty or more feet down. Using a smaller bait will give the smaller bass an opportunity to bite and allowing you to see if there is activity at a certain depth. Once you find the depth there active start targeting other areas at that depth. Hopefully more fish will be available at these depths and if they are upsize you’re offering. Switch to a jig, big tube or another bigger bait that can travel through that zone, rather than the small worm.

TIP: Insure you have a follow up bait for your missed top water bites. Yamamoto lure company makes a lure called the Senko which works awesome for this. Match as close as possible the color of the bait your using if a good fish misses the bait toss the ‘Senko’ out (needs to be with in one foot of the strike) then let it fall weightless on a slack line and don’t move the bait, let it fall even if it twenty feet deep. The most important part is falling weightless on a slack line; if you see the line jump, set the hook, otherwise let it sit for at least 30 seconds. “And” watch closely for followers as you reel in your fish many times the bigger bass are below the hooked fish. Sometimes it a little frantic but worth it, when your partner is reeling in his fish toss the Senko out near his bait (use your best judgment on this) then let it sit and watch. Another method for getting some of these bigger bites is to use a Fluke type bait under your partners top water.

During the summer, a portion of the bass population will concentrate on structure that is visible to the eye. This includes grass beds, fallen trees, standing trees, docks and rocky banks. Bass will relate to grass beds, either on the edge or in the middle of the bed, depending on the weather. On hot sunny days, fish will relate to structure more tightly, like in the middle of the weed bed. This could be a good time to toss a frog.  Cloudy days or low light will increase the strike zone bass will roam farther away from cover in search of food. When targeting these types of shallow cover watch for the shade line that’s where the bass will be. When fishing docks be cautious for suspended bass as they are usually very spooky and the suspenders are often the biggest fish. Attempt a long cast first with a bait that doesn’t make much of a splash, like a small tube bait then work your way in close.

Offshore Structure can be key, especially if you’re the only one fishing it. Ken Cook’s philosophy is to find a good area, that doesn’t look good this way he has the area to himself. Anyone can go down the bank the fish the visible structure but it takes work to find the offshore places: humps, island tops, roadbeds etc. A good topo map is can provide much of the information but the best one are the ones not on the map. It takes work to finds these place but when you do it’s usually well worth it.

Fishing to win is hard work; you can’t take the easy way out. It’s an argues task fishing for just a few bites and sometimes not very fun.  Fun fishing is for just that fun, during the tournament your not there for fun, its competition go for the win.

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