Know Thy Enemy
Going fishless is not something you should just take as a fact of life. There is almost always a way to make bass cooperate with you. The trick is figuring out what it's going to take and then doing it.
Every angler has experienced aggravation as a result of a poor day fishing. Before you break your rod, call it quits, and decide to go home empty handed, there are a few things you may want to consider. By simply changing your mindset, you can rule out a large portion of nonproductive water and baits that simply are not working. Altering your game plan can put you back on quality fish in a hurry.
Understanding the habits and patterns of bass can be one of the biggest deciding factors in fishing. Knowing where a fish "should be" can eliminate a great deal of dead water. A rising star on bass fishing's horizon, Bruce "Bam" McQueen, sums it up rather nicely. "Most anglers think of bass as their friends. Not me, I look at them as my enemy. The only way to defeat your enemy is to know your enemy. If you know where a bass should be during any given condition, it greatly increases your chances of hooking them. Once you land the bass, the battle is over, and you have defeated the enemy", McQueen explains. Take into consideration the changing weather conditions; is it sunny, raining, hot, or cold? Start to think like a bass. Ask yourself, where would I be in this situation? If it is raining fish will still bite, but often times during a storm, thunder will drive them to deeper water. When the sun is high overhead on a 90 degree day, where do you feel most comfortable? Bass too will prefer a shaded area away from the blazing sun. Although there is science involved with locating bass, the formula can frequently be determined simply by using your mind.
Nearly every waterway is going to fish a little different. The key to success is analyzing the body of water you are fishing. Look at your topographic maps to locate areas that have obvious fish holding structure. Examples of structure are long shallow points near deep water, ledges, creek channels, and flats. Next, use your electronics to locate the precise position of the structure beneath the surface of the water. Current is also a major factor in determining holding areas of bass. Locate current and fish the areas that offer the best structure and/or cover. Current will cause an eddy to form. The importance of an eddy is that it will cause bait fish to be in a more tightly grouped pattern. It also provides a great ambush point for bass to stage near the edges of strong current.
Downsizing is often times one of the single most productive presentation changes. It almost seems as though fish are less intimidated by smaller finesse style baits than they are of a big jig or worm. However, downsizing extends farther than just the bait. It is equally as important to use the lightest line possible without jeopardizing your ability to effectively handle a fighting bass. FLW and Bassmaster Touring Pro David Lefebre, refers to this approach as "Minimizing Hardware". "I don't care what anyone says, when fish are extremely pressured and turned off, downsizing everything from your line size, hooks, snaps, and even split rings can make a difference," Lefebre explains.
Casting accuracy is something that receives little attention from most non-professional anglers. It is extremely vital to be able to drop your bait perfectly in the strike zone. During tough conditions, the strike zone is typically very small. Bass are not always willing to chase down a bait, but they will hit a lure if it's right in their face. Casting is something that should be practiced on a regular basis. Major league pitchers still go to baseball practice everyday, so why would anyone assume that their casting accuracy couldn't be improved upon?
The single most important factor to being able to successfully catch bass is not your lure, your equipment, or a top secret miracle scent. It is your pure confidence in your abilities. If an angler doesn't believe that he or she is capable of catching fish, chances are good that they won't. Confidence is more than just going out and telling everyone that you are going to catch an eight pound bass. It is more psychological than anything. You can say whatever you want but your brain knows the truth. To be effective, you have to believe with all of your heart that you are going to go out and catch quality fish. Illinois tournament angler Chris DeVries employs his own "go to" method. "Whenever facing a tough bite, I always go to my bait of confidence, a Texas rigged 7 ½-inch Red Shad worm. This forces me to slow down, think about the conditions and allows me to evaluate the way the fish are biting", Chris explains.
The next time you find yourself in a hard fought battle with uncooperative bass or high pressure fishing situations, take a break, and clear your mind. Analyze the entire situation including all of the aspects previously mentioned. You have the knowledge and ability to catch these bass but you may need to search for it within yourself.