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Chaz Hickcox

Bouncing Back?

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Everyone, in every sport has times where they go through down cycles in their performance. For me it has been recently. This spring and early summer I was doing quite well in most if not all of the tournaments I fished. I didn't win them all, but had big fish at a few and stayed around top 5. Lately I have had two tournaments where keeper sized bass haven't hit the boat, or I haven't had a limit, even after having great results and multiple patterns with good fish in practice. It's times like this I wonder what I am doing differently in practice where I can't put it together in the tournament. In more conventional sports we have coaches who are there to ensure we learn from the down cycles, but I feel a little lost right now. The most recent tournament I had an issue with was yesterday. I worked my butt off putting a few patterns together, and catching good fish and numbers in practice. Only to have tournament day fall victim to a cold front that dropped the water temps almost 20*. Normally I would say this to be a contributing factor, but talking to the other anglers they claimed to be on the same pattern I had been on in practice and came in with 18+#, when all I could put together were a number of dinks. Grant it, their spots only dropped about 10-12*. I dunno.

What do you all do to pull out of a slumming end of season?

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Just keep fishing your strengths, changing things would only make it worse. I started off the first half of this season great and was leading the AOY for my clubs co-anglers(yes I am just a lowly co-angler). Then I had two bad tourney's in a row, actually two complete skunks, no idea why. The last two tourney's I have finished 4th, then won. Everyone goes thru slumps, keep plugging along.

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Slumps are something we all deal with; I've found through the years the best way to handle them is to get back to basics. I know what my strengths are and fish towards them; I suggest you should do the same. If you are good at Flipping/Pitching, Texas Rigs, Cranks, Spinners, or what ever concentrate on those techniques. If you are good at shallow water, deep water, or grass concentrate on those areas.

I've learned to down size my tackle to just the basics, it is extremely hard to be a master of all the available techniques. I'm very good at Jig-N-Craws, Texas Rigs, & Spinner baits so I fish where I can maximize these strengths. I'm not that great with Crank baits so when in a slump I don't waste time fishing them. I don't try new techniques either when in a slump.

The most common mistake I see my students make when in a slump is with the hook set. They are not sure if they had a bite & so they use somewhat of a lazy hook set. I cannot over stress the importance of a solid hook set; speed is the key not strength. If you are a smaller person or woman use a heavier rod to gain the speed needed, if you are a larger person use a medium heavy rod to limit pulling the bait away from the fish.

So when in a slump I would look for small things to change, like timing of the hook set, speed of the hook set. My partner & I have been fishing together for about twenty five years & we don't hesitate telling the other when he is not on top of his game. It is not a major change that is usually needed when you are not getting bite.

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Catt -

Speaking of hooksets, I usually set harder when in a slump. If I go a few hours fishing a T-Rig or flipping a jig and get hit, Lord Almighty help the fish if it's a dink. It's usually then when I set the fish out of the water. I'm not having a huge issue catching fish, but putting good fish in the boat come tournament day. I haven't been skunked since this spring and my first time on the Patomac. With that being said, I can go out and put a number of four pounders in the boat during practice only to fall on my face in the tournament, in size that is. My tournament yesterday we still caught fish, but no keepers.

Thanks for the info though. I have been thinking about what I tell my students here at work, 'Go back to the basics and you will succeed.' Usually when they do that they pass their evaluations. I tell them to swing for the fences, but if that's not working to just keep it simple. It's a lot easier said then done. I guess everyone needs a reminder from time to time.

One difference may be when prefishing I am more inclined to thouroughly work an area because I don't have a time hack. I am more apt to use different techniques because there's nothing to lose. So with that being said I am more comfortable to think, what could be used differently here that is a simple adjustment. Not necessarily a change, but adjusting more efficiently.

Brian -

You're right too. Thanks.

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You mentioned 18 degree water temperature change (*) with no explanation of the *. The fall transition period is all about changing weather & water temperatures; the bass are moving.

If the * met surface water temperature at 1'; no bass live at that depth with the water temperatures dropping 18 degrees, they can't tolerate more than a 10 degree change within a short time period. The bait and the bass moved to warmer water; usually deeper this time of year.

While I agree with fishing tournaments with your strengths is essential, you should fish where the active bass located. Fishing too shallow or too fast is a common mistake during the fall.

My advice is fish with your electronics to locate the bait and bass, before trying to determine what lures to use. Ounce you know where they are instead of where they were, then use lures you have confidence with. You did this pre fishing, but didn't make the adjustment when the tournament started. It's very hard to slow when under the gun during a tournament and take the needed time to relocate the bait and bass.

Tom

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The temp drop went from between 79 and 81* and fell to between 60 and 63*. The fish out here haven't a choice. Max depth at a channel that is 5 miles from where I had located the fish was 12 ft. Average depth is 3-6ft. I caught fish first thing in the morning in shallow water, little guys though. I figured they would have used the thick grass mats where I was at to get some relief, and I'm sure they were there. Just in a bit of shock. Regardless, I know I was in some good areas just couldn't put it together. This is not lake fishing where the bass can have some reprieve and retreat to deep water. Had it been a lake I would have reverted to football heads, t-rigs or any other ledge fishing technique. Just wasn't the case here. The change in conditions is less of my issue because I was hitting a slump before then. I've just peaked my frustration. I came across many large schools of bream and minnows. It wasn't that there were no fish there. I just didn't get it together.

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Tournament fishing can drive you crazy. Last year I finished 4th in my club of 50 guys and went to the Best 6 tournament and we won a boat valued at $28000. Everything just seemed to go right that year. If my gameplan fell through on tournament day, my back up plan always produced. This year has been the exact opposite. I had to get towed in one tournament. I had to leave early and go to the hospital to get a treble out of my leg that had wrapped around my achillis tendon one tournament. I got DQ'd one tournament for leaving too early. We could launch at any one of 3 separate launches and the group of guys at my launch was told that we left to early, so DQ for all of us. My boat broke while prefishing the day before one tournament. So I know what its like to be in a slump. Our slumps are a little different, mine being terrible luck with hooks, boats, and rules, and yours being with catching quality fish, but it will turn around. Just keep doing what your doing. It will come back I promise. At least that's what Im telling myself! :lol:

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Welcome to the club. Started out ranked 3rd out of 50 and ended up 14th out of 50. We qualified to go to the TOC at Guntersville next March but haven't decided if we're going. Never weighed in a limit but had a big bass in most of our bags(caught the biggest bass in the club this season). Worst thing about it all was we always did well during prefishing and during the crappiest weather conditions. Conditions that one would consider ideal we could never put it together.

I never let it get me down. Life's too short and it's just fishing(plus I know I'll never make a living doing this). I have been doing this for 6 years and each year we(my son and I) win more money and finish with a higher ranking. Next year I'm planning on spending more time on the water and joining a 2nd club. Some of the guys I fish with are talking about getting together during the winter and talking spots and lures. Haven't decided if I will participate yet. Hate to be cliche but as Ike says "Never give up!"

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