Recently, a partner and I fished a bass tournament on the Le Homme Dieu Chain of Lakes in Alexandria. This was my first bass tournament in several years and, even though I’ve been an avid bass angler for more than two decades, it once again served as a good reminder that every fishing trip can be a learning experience, regardless of how many times you’ve “done it before!”
The pattern we had discovered going into the tournament revolved around targeting bigger largemouth bass that were holding on flats in mid-depth waters ranging from 6 to about 12 feet. A few weeks earlier, those big fish had been holding in deeper coontail weeds, but a few hours on the water during the tournament’s “prefish” period indicated that most of those fish were gone.
We surmised they moved shallower as fall’s first cold weather snap had probably moved the baitfish shallow and the bass followed. When we moved shallow, it quickly became apparent that our theory was at least partially correct as we were able to catch bass in the 4- to 5-pound range from shallower weeds.
Tournament day saw us start on a spot that we had confidence could produce several bass in short order and often holds a “big” or two as well. We caught one 16-inch largemouth before moving to spots two, three and four where we never had a bite!
With more than two hours elapsed in our eight-hour day, we moved to another lake on the chain and put our jigs and other bottom-oriented baits to work. We did catch a pair of 2 3/4-pound bass in the next couple hours, but a big wind gusting over 30 mph, a finicky bite, and trolling motor batteries that were showing signs of tiring from running on high power to battle the winds had us rethinking our plan.
We decided that rather than battle the wind, we would use it to our favor. One particular stretch of shoreline that spans nearly a half mile had been producing bass for several weeks earlier in the summer for me and various guide clients. My partner and I used what was left of our trolling motor batteries to keep the boat near the flat’s drop-off edge in 10 to 14 feet of water and let the wind push us down the flat.
We also used the wind at our backs to make long casts with crankbaits and quickly retrieved those baits back to the boat. This “chuck and wind” technique allowed us to cover lots of water and we surmised that the speed and vibration of our crankbaits would also combine to trigger a reaction bite from the finicky fish.
Our plan quickly came together as we started catching bass in the 2 ½ to 2 ¾-pound range almost immediately! By day’s end we were able to assemble a good bag of fish, though not big enough to cash a check, that kept us in the tournament field’s top third. While satisfied that we had made a good adjustment, we were disappointed that we couldn’t catch at least one bigger fish that would have moved us up “in the money.”
Nevertheless, as I reflected back on the experience the next day, I was once again reminded of how things are constantly in a state of change in the outdoors and that, while a good plan sometimes results in good successes, oftentimes change is needed. Keeping an open mind and adjusting to the current conditions helped my partner in our tournament and can help you on your next fishing trip too!
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest to see more fishing tips and view recent TV episodes as well!