By Mark Lassagne
Guys are catching them all around you, looking to your left; a boat not 20 yards away grabs the net, what’s going on. The fish are turned on and you can’t buy a bite. You take a quick look to see what they are using, (we all do it) looks like a jig, what color was that patiently you wait for their next cast to get a quick view of their bait. Then frantically you dig through your tackle box, looking, trying to match that lure. This one is close good enough? Should I ask that guy if he has any extra? What if I told you, you have that special lure already? The problem is you’re just not using it!
Bass anglers are a funny breed we would drop fifty bucks for a hot new lure and spend a few hundred on miscellaneous tackle we probably won’t need and then we’d sleep in our truck because we don’t want spend the cash to get a room. Seems uncanny to the average guy; however, it’s a thought process inbred in us after we have caught a few thousand bass. Hey I could catch fish on that! Right? It happens pro guys who have more tackle than they could ever use in a life time will drop a $1000 bucks if they think it will give them an edge. Some might call it a disease, but I’d like to think about it more like a condition. Also, have you noticed that the more bass you catch the more mono species you become?
If you were told that a lure was hot you would most likely get it even if you weren’t going to the lake its working on, right? Hey if it’s good there it might work here too. Seeking to gain an edge, bass anglers turn into tackle junkies. If you were to look into any pro angler’s garage you will find an enormous amount of tackle and tons of baits still in their boxes unused. Just a short time ago I was catching quality fish on a Black and Blue Pure Poison with a 10 inch Black Power Worm, sharing this information with two good friends (well name pros) they went and bought a hand full of these baits. Talking to them after the event they didn’t even use the bait.
A few months ago, after a very tough event on Lake Havasu I head of anglers using a bobber and small crappie jig to catch some elusive smallmouth bass. Even though I never used this method I rationalized that it would work; twenty hours with out a bite you might try anything. I was fishing up the river in the current and with eight feet of visibility I could see the bass waiting for me to get close. The fish would watch my lure go by then swim off and tease me. After the bobber rumor I started thinking I could cast up and let it drift down river and catch them before they saw me. Unfortunately the event is over and I found out a little late. However, I would have gone out and bought whatever I needed for the set up. And I will remember that for next time I’m fishing those type of conditions.
Each outing whether fishing is good or bad we learn something and the more often we go the better we get, it’s a natural progression. I leaned more at Havasu in few days with the super tough bite than I did practicing on my home lake for a week, where the bite was good. I know anglers who were not accomplished anglers then and now after a few years of many days on the water they have become accomplished anglers and a few have even gone on to win major tournaments.
Getting the edge on the bass is something all bass anglers seek and it is anything that will help you catch more fish. What’s your edge?
Here are some things that can help you gain an edge. For me I have a multitude of things that feel help me. Mechanical things help you get your mind right and keep you from worrying about something that you can control. Fill up with gas night before so no fuel smell will be on your hands. Applying sun screen early and washing your hands before hitting the water does two things, one is it will soak into your skin (takes about ½ hour) and two sun screen is deterrent to the fish. I use scent on many of my lures and a little on my hands. I remember Larry Hempill a few years back rubbing scent all over his hands and I thought it might be excessive but it can’t hurt. Scent is like insurance to me it doesn’t hinder the bite but it could it hurt without it. For most subsurface baits I use fluorocarbon, fluorocarbon is nearly invisible and has a very low stretch giving a better hook set. Fluorocarbon has come a long way the last few years and most of the lines are as song as any I have seen. Note; fluorocarbon line sinks so it is not a good choice for fishing top water baits. Before using a rod from the locker I test the drag to insure it’s not too tight or loose. My hooks are always sharp and I use a stone to sharpen them rather than a file, a stone takes a little longer but the hook comes out sharper. There’s more and you most likely have your own methods the point is these mechanical items will give you a better mind set.
Make sure you have that special lure tied on…… the one that catches more fish than any other… “Confidence”. Confidence is the most important key to bass fishing with out it you will never win. You know that feeling, when you just know your lure will catch a fish. Confidence causes you to work the lure in a more enticing way and thus increasing your catch rate. When I sit down to tie up for the next day, I envision if I can catch a fish on the lure I am putting on, if I can’t I put it back in the box. Do you have a lure in your box you always catch fish on? Most of us do! That special lure won’t always catch fish so you will need to gain confidence in a variety of baits. How do you ever get confidence in a new lure? “Fake it” if you don’t have time to test it toughly. You need to believe that what you are using will catch fish and then simply it will. I went to a seminar almost 20 years ago with Gary Klein and he was talking about a Rattle trap and that he hadn’t built a lot of confidence in the bait yet. He went on to say he had only caught a few hundred fish on it. We each have our own threshold of what is confidence.
Kevin Van Dam told me time efficiency is what gives me an edge. I need to use every second of the tournament day in the most efficient manner possible. I don’t have “one” single item that gives me an edge on the bass or other competitors. However, when I go into an event everything I use is 100% ready from sharp hooks, line, every rod set up, batteries charged, I know where each lure is located. I don’t leave any mechanical item to chance and when I hit the water I’m ready to fish and not a moment is spent getting ready on the water. Control your variables the things you can control because things change on the water all the time. Being mechanically ready will get you one step closer to more fish.
Ken Cook avoids the obvious. With the new high tech Lowrance units most anglers have it is much easier to find those popular fish holding areas. I do my best to avoid these high traffic areas. We all know main lake points are good bass holding areas; however, my thought is if there are 100 bass on a point and 20 boats fish it that equals
only five bass per boat. My chances lessen with each boat the fishes it. About twenty years ago I fished an US Bass event on Granbury Lake in Texas. I had been fishing a main lake point and then watching the other anglers come by and hit that same point, a light went off. We are all competing for those same fish from that day on I have worked hard to avoid those obvious places and look for one I can have to myself. I look for a bank that is ugly and will search these ugly banks until I find one with good fish holding structure. I remember one event where I found an ugly bank that no one else would fish except this bank had a stump every 50 yards or so and every stump had a fish. I had this all to my self and the fish were easier to catch with out the competition.
Ken Cook has compiled tournament data for 20 years patterning the bass showing what the edge was during these events and is an awesome tool for all levels of anglers. www.kencookoutdoors.com
Alton Jones our 2008 classic champion has that special lure. In my arsenal I have a number of prototype lures that no one else has. An edge is when I am whacking um on one of my special lures; I am the only one who has it. Besides these prototypes I have modified many of my own lures to act different in the water. Experiment with your lures and find different methods of using them.
A key advantage is how the fish relate to the surroundings. I pay close attention to what is going on around me and what the fish are doing and how they relate the current conditions. I won the event at Clear lake a few years ago keying in on spawning bass that were not visible. When most of the anglers were catching average size bass I was fishing a weighted Yum Dinger in seven or eight feet of water catching five to Seven pounders. Another instance comes to mind on Guntersville last year I finished second. Like many of the other anglers I found the fish on ledges. However, while most guys were targeting the shallow bass I found if I let my spinnerbait sink to almost 15 feet I could draw out the bigger fish. Though I finished second I lost several big fish that would have put me way over the top. Sometime you have to grind it out in the crowd but reading the condition and search for something different can give you an edge.
Ken Brodeur, confidence is the key to catching more fish. Confidence is one of those things you can’t buy at the tackle shop, it’s a feeling of knowing what your doing will work. After practicing on a lake and getting ready for the first day my mind is reeling sometime all night long. I run through the next day and envision how the elements may affect my areas. Do I feel good about where I am going, if not I scrap that spot, at least at the start but I may revisit it later. When I have confidence in the area I am fishing I can stay there until they bite be it an hour or even all day. After fishing for years you get a feeling of what is going on around you. Have you ever brought you car into the shop and the mechanic says sounds like a bad u-joint or ????. How did he know? “Experience” Experience is an invaluable tool in fishing and the guys who remember more excel faster.
Something I found helps me boat a few more bites is, Loctite super glue gel. When fishing plastics I dab a little on the eye of the hook to hold the top of the bait in place so instead of my worm falling down it stay and I get a better hook up ratio.
Each pro has a different method to increase their catch rate and gain an edge. Get the edge and gain confidence in you methods and you will catch more bass.
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Mark Lassagne free lance writer, pro bass angler, publisher, and bass guide would like to give a special thanks to his sponsors: