The Art of Keeping It Simple:
A Guide for New Tournament Bass Anglers
As a new tournament bass angler, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the latest lures and gadgets flooding the market. You may find yourself tempted to chase after new lure technologies or the hottest fad baits, thinking that they hold the secret to success on the water. However, seasoned anglers will tell you that success in tournament fishing often comes down to mastering the basics and sticking to what works. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of keeping things simple, focusing on proven techniques, baits, and gear to help new anglers increase their chances of success.
One of the key principles in successful tournament bass fishing is to focus on the techniques and baits that have consistently produced results in your region or the specific area you intend to fish. Before diving into the latest trends, take the time to research and understand the tried-and-true methods that have worked for other successful anglers in your area. These techniques often include flipping, pitching, Texas rigging, and working topwater baits, among others.
The basic baits have stood the test of time for a reason. Lures like plastic worms, jigs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater frogs have consistently produced fish for anglers across the country. Rather than constantly chasing the next big thing, invest your time in mastering these fundamental baits. Learn how to fish them effectively, adjust your presentation to different conditions, and become proficient in their use.
When it comes to bait colors, less is often more. Stick to basic and versatile colors like green pumpkin, black and blue, or white for certain baits. These colors mimic natural prey and are more likely to entice strikes from bass in various water conditions. By keeping your bait colors simple, you eliminate the confusion and overwhelm that can come with a wide array of color options.
Statistically speaking, anglers who focus on the primary baits, colors, and techniques for their specific region tend to outperform those who constantly experiment with new, unproven offerings. Success in tournament fishing is often a game of percentages, and sticking to what works consistently yields better results over time.
Having the right gear is essential, but it doesn’t mean you need a vast collection of rods and reels. In fact, keeping your total rod count between three and five is often more effective. Invest in high-quality rods that are versatile and suited for your preferred techniques. For example, a medium-heavy, seven-foot rod with a 7:1:1 gear ratio reel is an excellent choice for river fishing and can handle a variety of common and successful techniques.
When it comes to rod and reel combinations, it’s better to invest in a few high-quality setups rather than buying numerous cheaper ones. Quality gear not only performs better but also lasts longer, saving you money in the long run. Focus on acquiring the core group of rod and reel combinations that align with your preferred techniques and fishing conditions.
As a new tournament bass angler, your journey to success begins with simplicity. By focusing on proven techniques, baits, and gear specific to your region, you increase your chances of consistently catching bass. Resist the temptation to chase every new lure technology or trend, and instead, become a master of the basics. Remember that success in tournament fishing often comes down to making informed decisions, refining your skills, and trusting the tried-and-true methods that have worked for countless anglers before you.
Things to Avoid:
As a new angler you’re sure to have the fire inside to succeed quickly and prove your worth amongst your fellow anglers. After a couple of tournaments that may have you humbled, your mind may begin racing on how to out perform others more quickly. You will consider the new “flying lure” or maybe a fourth or fifth fishing rod will open more avenues to success. It is at this point you need to remember nearly every angler out there has gone down this road before and failed. Those who have the proper mindset buckle down and resist this expensive and unnecessary phase of learning how to succeed as a newer angler. If you simply can’t resist and need to do something, upgrade a rod or reel instead. Maybe you could spend a little more on better fluorocarbon line and get away from the cheaper and less user friendly bargain brand, rather than investing hundreds into a rod and reel combo that will clutter the boat, confuse your mind and eventually lead to less success.
Proven things to make you better:
The next time you are able to go fishing only take two rods. Pick two of your favorite rods that you have the most confidence in. Bring a spool of line incase you need it, but leave the family of rods home. Tie on your trusted black jig or plastic worm and focus on fishing it all day. No matter the weather, stay with that lure and fish it everywhere. If you get bored, move your boat out and fish the same jig in deeper water. You will soon realize a black jig is like a new lure in eight feet of water, rather than pitched in a tree or bush. You might have to put a heavier weight on, but stick with the lure. Bass live everywhere on a lake or river system, keep the proven bait on and bring it to them. Be patient, slow down and focus on what you are feeling, seeing and experiencing.
A true story on how less is more:
Over 20 years ago I woke up early and went fishing with a close friend.
He is an outstanding jig fisherman and has won many tournaments doing so. I had drawn him in several tournaments and watched him win time and time again with a jig. He would fish shallow, midrange and deep and was successful at each. He rarely took his jig rod out of his hands as he knew it was a tournament winner. Over time we’d become very good friends and I fished from the back of his boat on numerous occasions.
This day was to be a new and exciting day for me but I had no idea what my buddy had in store for me. Early that morning I’d arrived in the dark and put my rods in his boat and my tackle box in the truck. We drove to the dock and he’d asked me to drive the boat as he backed me in. This was unusual but I was glad to do it. Once he arrived back to the boat we took off got and soon arrived to our first spot.
I stood up and couldn’t find my tackle box, I was sure I’d put it in the boat. My friend looked at me and explained he’d taken my rods and tackle box out of the boat and today I was going to learn how to fish a jig; all day and in all ways. Initially I was not happy but figured what choice do I have. My friend, Gary, reached into his rod locker and handed me a brand new jig rod with a reel far superior to any I owned. He told me today I’d be fishing with that rod only and I was to focus on the cast, the depth, the speed and my patience during each cast.
We started the day flipping around brush and Gary caught several while I was left without a bite. I did however start to feel things like I’d never had before. The lift of the line over a limb, the drop that ensued after and the tap of the bottom of the lake once it settled back to earth. Gary stopped fishing and asked me what I’d learned so far, to which I explained the above. He asked why I had continued to fish in the same manner he did and right behind his jig. Before I could answer he said I was to fish the lure in six feet or more, no more flipping into the cover. He reminded me how unsuccessful that had been in previous outings and proclaimed it was time to learn something new.
As he moved the boat out deeper, I wondered what the heck I’d do with a jig in open water. I started casting and Gary watched. “Slow down.” he repeated over and over until I finally slowed the bait down. He smiled and said “Do you feel that? The same bush, the same lift and the same fall back to the bottom. The fish live here too, especially on high sunny days.”
Gary was right but I’d never even thought of fishing like this before. I was starting to understand what he was teaching me. I’d watched him win more than one tournament in water deeper than eight feet, but never stopped to realize it. The day grew on and Gary had his limit and culled a few while I was fishless. He turned to me and said, you’ve finally slowed down and seem to know how to fish a jig. Are you ready to catch a bass with it?
We moved to a long drawn point and Gary set the boat off the point in about 8 feet of water. He had me tie on the same jig but this time a slightly heavier head. Gary didn’t pick up a rod and told me to fish the deeper side of the point and pointed to open water.
I wanted to cast shallow and drag over that point before Gary decided to, but he insisted I cast deep. The jig flew perfectly into 18 feet of water and fell quietly to the bottom where I felt the line go slack. Gary said slow and easy, drag it back to you just like before. Two slight rod tip pulls and the jig was headed back to me. Gary encouraged me with the word “Perfect”. As I pulled the third time the jig pulled back and my line was stressed. I set the hook and reeled in my first jig fish of the day and my first ever in water deeper than ten feet. Gary smiled and told me I now know how to fish a jig properly, what I decide to do with that knowledge was up to me.
The day finished soon after and I’d only caught two bass, but I now knew how to do it properly. When we arrived home Gary helped me move my things to my truck and also handed me that brand new rod. He’d thanked me for some projects I’d helped him with prior, just for being a friend, and said I’d more than earned it. He also told me that on any give day, in any given tournament, if I used a jig liked been taught that day, I had as good a chance as any in cashing a check for my efforts. I’ve never forgotten that day and those parting comments.
I’ve won a few tournaments of my own since that day as well an Angler of the Year title. I will forever be gratefully for my friend taking the time to teach me how to fish properly. When I won that AOY title, Gary was one of the first people to shake my hand, and yes, I won it using jigs I’d bought from Gary.
That fishing rod still sits in my fishing office next to a few trophies, plaques and awards. I smile every time I see it and think of my old friend who cared enough to help me, just because.
Tight lines anglers.