Adapting On the Water
By Bill Wilcox
Tournaments and television fishing shows have a lot in common. At least Honey Hole All Outdoors does. The last year I've been co-hosting some of the shows for Jerry. I've been Jerry's guest several times over the years. It's been lots of fun. I've usually had time to pre-fish, have the fish locked down and have a good idea what's in store. But hosting the show at strange lakes is a lot like tournament fishing. You win some, but usually lose more.
The show is done just like a tournament. You get to fish just one day and only during good daylight hours. The big difference is, every mistake is documented on film. You can't call a 12-inch a 2-pounder. It's a 12-incher everyone can see it. That's the same as in a tournament, they weigh what they weigh, you can't fudge.
Now that I've been doing some of the Honey Hole TV shows, I approach them the same way I would any tournament. I try to catch numbers first, then after that try to go for a big one. That's the way you should approach your tournament too. It seems that the bass in tournaments act the same as the ones we'd like to have on the TV show. Most tournament anglers know what that means. They move, or won't bite when you need them to. Most successful tournament fisherman, or any successful angler for that matter, has to be versatile, just like on Honey Hole TV. I've discovered tournament tactics that work the best for me.
On most of the shows that I've done the guest is usually a good local angler who knows his water. Of course we all know the bass don't live in a barrel, they move all the time. Sometimes from hour-to-hour the bass can really make a drastic move. For several of the shows I've done recently, the bass have really been stubborn for us. One show stands out, and on a lake I know better than any in Texas - Ray Roberts here in north central Texas. I guided full time on Ray Roberts and have for over 10 years, so it's not like going to the lake cold turkey.
It was summertime and I really like, and usually do well, deep-water structure time fishing. We started the show on two different tank dams with no bites. We then Carolina rigged two different points that will usually produce a few fish, but with no luck. So we went next to two different really good deep-water summertime wormholes. In fact, one of the spots a couple of years ago produced two bass over 8 pounds and several over 5 pounds on a show Jerry and I did together, but by this time it was mid-morning and we hadn't gotten a single bite. This show was beginning to become a little frustrating for my guest, and me. So then we went to an area that can produce good numbers most of the time, the railroad levee on the east arm of Ray Roberts.
There are several key areas on the great structures there. We fished it all and finally got one bass strolling a crankbait where Buck Creek crosses the old railroad tracks. Several bass were relating right on the drop-off, but we could not entice another one to bite.
So now I did what I would do if I was in a tournament, and change tactics completely. I really don't like to do that because it's just like starting over again. In tournaments, just like in the TV show, sometimes the best laid plans can go awry. Successful anglers must be able to adjust to the bass. The best fish you catch is the one that helps you makes the proper adjustments.
So I did something I've never done in summertime fishing and that was go real shallow. Just like in a tournament, we didn't have anything to lose by changing. Ray Roberts does have a lot of grass so that did give me some confidence in moving shallow. Of course, the 5-1/2-pounder that I caught right away didn't hurt either. Then the doubts came into play two hours later when we didn't get another bite. But we stuck it out and just kept moving to different areas with grass being the main cover we concentrated on. Then toward the end of the day, we hit the motherlode of bass. They weren't big ones, but they were nice 14-inchers to 2-1/2 pounds, and we caught over a dozen in less than an hour. So what had been a tough day went to a great day, and a good show. The same thing could have been said if we had been in a tournament.
Making changes during the day doesn't always pay off of course, but if what you're doing on your tournament lake isn't working then always keep an open mind and try different patterns and techniques. Just like we did on Ray Roberts, go to your next tournament and make that winning change.
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.