By Bill Wilcox
This article is about tournament fishing and how to improve your own results.
Anyone who knows me, knows I don't believe in secret lures, secret spots, other people's holes, or just getting lucky. Now don't get me wrong, the lures and spots and luck can all be a factor in how you do in a tournament.
One of my favorite sayings is (and I truly believe it) is, The harder I seem to work, the luckier I seem to be." One of the things that keep a lot of people fishing tournaments is that no matter their level of skill or experience, they always have a chance to win.
There are people who, on their very best day and be at his worst, couldn't beat Tiger Woods. But in fishing, on your best day you can beat anyone from the hottest pro to the highest money winner. Tournament fishing is the one sport anyone participating has a chance to win at.
I know sometimes I catch some flack when I don't do very well in some of the local tournaments that I fish. I'll be the first to admit that it's not hard to beat me, but you're not going to beat me because I didn't do everything I could to win. You must always have a positive attitude - at all times. It's not always easy to be that way and we all struggle to keep the right frame of mind. An example of this situation recently occurred for me in a Pro/Am on Wheeler Lake in Alabama.
Wheeler Lake is a lake I have never fished before. I really don't have much experience with this type of big-river lake. At 68,000 acres, the lake is really just a big river and it fishes very differently from most Texas lakes.
I went there and pre-fished for three days before the cut-off period of the Top 150. During my pre-fishing I only caught three keepers and on a lake like Wheeler that's a 12- inch bass. But I wasn't worried about that because in the early spring I wouldn't expect bass to stay in one spot for two weeks anyway.
When you're fishing a new lake you should just try to learn all you can about the lake. I got to Wheeler a day before practice started and with two other pros, rented a plane to fly over the lake and take a look at it from the bird's eye view. I feel that this part of preparation is one of the least used, but really helps to give you a better perspective of the body of water you're fishing.
What we discovered from our fly-over was that the lake was very muddy for the most part. However, we did see some creeks and arms of the lake that were clear.
On the first practice day I fished the lower arm of the lake and a couple of the creeks that had the clearest water. For me, that was the confidence factor because the water ranged in temperature from 48 to 53 degrees. The fishing was slow and I only had four bites all day, and I practiced from daylight to dark.
The second day of practice the air temperature ranged from 26 to 42 degrees, with winds of 20 to 30 mph. I went far upriver all the way to Gunterville's dam, which was a run of over 50 miles. I only had one bite all day. And I missed it. The last day dawned with an air temperature of 22 degrees, but with light winds. I only caught four bass all day, some on the main lake on spinnerbaits and a couple in a particular clean, big creek. I went to this creek during the two hours of my practice that the water was 55 degrees, with lots of shad activity, and though I only set the hook on two bass I had about six bites in the last 30 minutes or so. This was where I started fishing for the tournament. It was a rock ledge in six to 10 feet of water and I caught a limit in less than two hours. My amateur partner also caught a limit.
To make a long story short, I caught a limit each day from this spot and so did my partners. In fact, in three days of fishing we caught 47 keepers from that one spot. It would have been very easy for me to have gotten discouraged during practice and gone in early. But then I would not have found that school of bass holding in that one spot.
So in your next tournament forget about finding secret lures, secret spots or getting lucky. The most important thing to show up at the ramp with is a positive attitude.
Good fishing and God Bless.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.