Unless it is a horrible cold front day, we normally head to the lake thinking we’re going to whack the bass today. If the day starts slowly, doubt creeps into our minds, thinking that everyone else is really tearing it up and we’re quickly falling behind. This feeling of falling off the pace leads us to make poor decisions, often fishing like our hair is on fire—running around aimlessly and randomly tying on every bait in our tackle box in pursuit of today’s magic lure.
Fishing most days of the year in a tournament or on a guide trip, I’ve come to realize that the bite is just fair most days, and often downright tough. Sure, even on the toughest days a couple of guys will catch a lot of big bass. More often than not though, scroll down the tournament standings a few rows or talk to a few guys at the boat ramp in the evening and you’ll see that the majority of anglers were fortunate just to fill out a limit, including a lot of seasoned pros and salty locals.
Over the years, I’ve adjusted my thinking from assuming that everyone is smoking them to presuming most days that the bite is actually pretty tough. From the “tough day” perspective, starting the day off with 3 dinks in the back of a creek isn’t a slow start; rather, it is a good beginning. Instead of discounting the early results as just a few dinks, build on that success. Basically, the small fish bites are telling you that you’ve found an area that is holding fish and you’ve hit on a bait that will produce. By thoroughly working that area over and by refining my presentation, I can often catch additional fish and even some big ones.
Normally, if you catch 2 or 3 fish from an area, there are a lot more nearby. Simply by hanging around and continuing to fish a productive area, you can often do very well. Case in point, many of the top finishers in this year’s Bassmaster Classic fished a 200 yard stretch for 3 full days and continued to catch them the entire tourney. After fishing the area to the point that you can longer get any bites, try to find similar areas to the one where you caught fish and you might be able to run the pattern around the lake. Just make sure to return to your primary fishing area again after letting it rest for an hour or so, because the fish will often start feeding again if left alone. It’s not unusual to hit the same spot 3 to 5 times in a day and catch them every trip.
When the bite goes cold on your primary lure or when you’re still getting bit but can’t catch any big fish, a few small changes to your presentation may produce more and bigger fish. Long casts spook less fish, especially big ones; therefore, I often throw low memory lines like PowerSilk and FluoroHybrid with 7’3”, 7’6”, and even 8’ Dobyns rods. Sometimes just staying off the fish is enough to keep them biting. The next step is to try triggering reaction strikes from nonaggressive fish. For hard baits like Lucky Craft square billed crankbaits and Redemption spinnerbaits, put your bait as close to cover as possible, preferably violently crashing into weeds or wood, pausing it, and then explosively ripping it away. For soft plastics and jigs, increasing the fall rate can trigger reaction strikes. I’ll upsize from a ¼ oz MPack Jig to the ½ oz or even ¾ oz size or increase the sinker size on a Hyper Freak or Hyper Worm from ¼ oz to ½ oz.
On the other end of the spectrum, bass that are very turned off sometimes need a bit more finesse to coax them into striking. For hardbaits, it seems like everyone in the spring is throwing loud rattling lures with obnoxious red, orange, or chartreuse color schemes. Silent baits, like LV300S lipless cranks and Lucky Craft RC series and SKT series cranks present a different sound to fish. In addition, more translucent color schemes like their “Ghost” and “Phantom” colors are ultra realistic, giving bass fewer flaws to pick out. For soft plastics, it’s hard to beat the basic green and brown colors like plain Green Pumpkin, Watermelon, or Pumpkinseed, without all the jazzy red, purple, gold, and green metal flake. These natural colors blend in with the background, generating fewer negative cues. Next, try working the bait ultra slow, even “dead-sticking” the bait by letting it sit in place as long as you can bear. Furthermore, if the hard thumping action tails of Hyper Freaks, Hyper Worms, and Fork Creatures stop producing, switch to plastics with a more finesse action. Lake Fork Trophy Lures’ Ring Frys, Hyper Sticks, Hyper Finesse Worms, and Zig Zags all have very subtle actions on Carolina, Texas, Drop Shot, and Shaky rigs without being over-the-top. This sublime action, even when the bait is sitting in place, frequently is the key on the toughest days.
If you’ve caught your early fish scattered around the lake, it may just be a matter of covering a lot of similar water with the bait that has been working so far. In this case, spending too much time in one area will cost you because the fish aren’t grouped up that day. Moreover, experimenting with a variety of baits instead of sticking with the one lure that isn’t producing a lot of fish but is getting bit regularly reduces your success. Put your head down, keep your lure in the water, and grind it out. With more experience on the water, you’ll become better at deciphering when you should cover water vs. staying put and seine key areas.
The next time your day starts slowly, build upon the early success you have and it could turn into a pretty good day—probably better than you think. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork & a FLW Tour pro. He is sponsored by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, & Minn Kota.