Bass Boat

Adapting On the Water

Tournament Tips
Tournament strategies

Tournaments and television fishing shows have a lot in common. 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 of 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-inches everyone can see it. That's the same as in a tournament, they weigh what they weigh, and you can't fudge.

Now that I've been doing some TV shows, I approach them like any tournament. I try to catch numbers first, then 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 like 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. I've discovered tournament tactics that work the best for me.

On most of the shows I've done, the guest is usually an excellent local angler who knows his water. But, of course, we all know the bass don't live in a barrel. They move all the time. Sometimes, the bass can make a drastic move from hour to hour. For several of the shows I've done recently, the bass have been stubborn for us. But, 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 for over ten 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. So we started the show on two different tank dams with no bites. We then Carolina rigged two different points that usually produce a few fish, but with no luck. So we went next to two different good deep-water summertime wormholes. 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. So this show was becoming 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 critical areas on the significant 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 on the drop-off, but we could not entice another one to bite.

So now I did what I would do in a tournament and changed tactics completely. I don't like doing that because it's like starting over again. In tournaments, 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 make the proper adjustments.

So I did something I've never done in summertime fishing, which went really shallow. Like in a tournament, we didn't have anything to lose by changing. Ray Roberts has a lot of grass, so that gave me confidence in moving shallow. But, of course, the 5-1/2-pounder I caught immediately 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 kept moving to different areas, with grass being the main cover we concentrated on. Then toward the end of the day, we hit the mother load of bass. They weren't big, but they were nice, 14 inches to 2-1/2 pounds, and we caught over a dozen in less than an hour. So what had been a tough day went into a great and 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, always keep an open mind and try different patterns and techniques. Then, as we did on Ray Roberts, go to your next tournament and make that winning change.