By Steve Graf
As humans, we tend to repeat things over and over. We like routine and we hate change. Bass fishermen are no different in this respect. As tournaments go, we usually pre-fish for three days, which seems to be the norm. For me, when it comes to scouting, I’ll always start in shallow water (less than 5 feet) and see if I can catch a few fish early as bass go through a feeding frenzy as the sun is on the rise. Then after the sun gets higher in the sky, I’ll move out into deeper water searching brush tops or deep structures. This is the routine I have followed for years, but I’ve always been known as a shallow water angler.
This time of year, I have another routine of always starting out throwing a topwater bait like a Zara Spook or a Yellow Magic. Some days the bass want a walking style bait like the Spook, but on other days they want a popper style bait like the Yellow Magic or a Pop R. The fish will tell you what and how they want the bait. There are times when you must slow down, and other days you can’t turn the reel handle fast enough. Once the sun has risen and I have determined whether the topwater bite is on or off, I will pick up my flipping rod and see if I can put a pattern together using soft plastic.
As for boat launching, anglers are very picky and follow their own specific routine in order to get the boat ready to drop in the water. For me, first I unhook both trailer straps, then I turn on the power supply for the boat and remove the trailer tow bar that the motor rests on. Then I make sure the plug is in and my life jacket is out and connected to my kill switch. The last thing I do is unhook the front strap from the boat (if I have someone backing me down the ramp), so I can slide the boat off the trailer. So many times, I’ve had co-anglers or partners try and help with these chores, but that’s when something gets forgotten and can get a little embarrassing when you can’t get the boat off the trailer because someone forgot to unhook the trailer tie downs. Advice…let the boater do everything himself! He’ll ask for help if he needs it. This way, no steps get missed on the boat launching procedure.
Another thing tournament anglers are very conscious of….making sure they have fresh lines on their reels. Nothing will make an angler madder than to lose a big fish due to his neglect of having fresh line on his reels. After three days of practice, I will always take the reels that I plan on using for the tournament and put a fresh line on each of them. It’s attention to detail like this that can be the difference between finishing in the top 10 or 35th.
One more thing, that may be the most important…where will we eat each night? The group I travel with has a routine that we will not waiver from. Example: At Lake Sam Rayburn, we will always drive into Jasper on Thursday night and eat Mexican food at Martin’s. Then on Friday night, we’ll eat at Rayburn Country Clubhouse (which has a great chef). Even the snacks I carry during practice and tournament days will be the same for each event…a handful of turkey, string cheese stick and jerky. This is probably why I lose weight every time I go fishing! Oh, and I will always have three bottles of water and two small screw top bottles of Coke. (No canned drinks are allowed in my boat due to the potential of spilling them.)
As you can see, anglers really are creatures of habit, and we prove it each and every tournament we fish. If you want to mess with a bass tournament fisherman, take him out of his routine. It’s almost the same as a pitcher in baseball, if you can break his rhythm or routine, it can take him completely out of his game. Tournament anglers are no different! Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook!
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