Switching gears overnight

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Bassmaster Marshal

The Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is always a challenge because we must compete on a wide variety of bass waters across the country. It forces us to fish shallow and deep, in stained to crystalline water, and for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.

Back-to-back Elite events are especially taxing. After a grueling week of competition against the best bass anglers in the country, we have to suck it up mentally and physically and give it everything we’ve got all over again.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I love being an Elite pro and actually like fishing back-to-back events. But there is one caveat. I prefer when the two tournaments are on completely different fisheries.

That makes you prepare for two dissimilar situations before you leave home. Even if you’re not comfortable with the techniques you’ll have to use at one of the events, you can get your tackle and your mindset in the right place ahead of time. This gives the pros who are versatile and who excel with preparation an advantage.

It’s easy to make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on the first of two consecutive tournaments. If you do that, you’ll be behind the eight ball when it’s time to fish the second event. I’ve been guilty of making that mistake in the past.

Another of my past mistakes is trying to force something that did well for me in the first tournament to work in the second. That can payoff when the two bodies of water are similar and lend themselves to the same techniques, but it’s the kiss of death when back-to-back tournaments are as different as night and day.

That has already happened two times this year, and it’s about to happen again. The first two Elite tournaments for 2019 were back-to-back events. The first stop was at the St. Johns River. I finished 26th there mainly by catching largemouth bass from shallow docks on a wacky rigged Senko.

We went straight from the St. Johns where I had been fishing no deeper than 4 feet to Lake Lanier where I fished as deep as 30 feet for spotted bass. I caught about half of my spots at Lanier slow-reeling little swimbaits in drains. I caught the rest of them cranking rocky points about 10 feet deep on the main lake. That one-two punch carried me to 7th place. 

The back-to-back New York tournaments we just fished were 180 degrees different. At the St. Lawrence River I dragged a Ned rig and a drop shot 20 to 40 feet deep in heavy current for smallmouth bass. I caught fish, but not the quality I needed to do well. I landed in 50th place.

The following week at Cayuga I targeted largemouth bass 15 to 25 feet deep. I caught enough of them on crankbaits, swimbaits and a drop-shot rig to claim 17th place.

The final two Elite tournaments for 2019 are also back-to-back events. First we go to Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma where we’ll fish for largemouth. The lake is higher than normal right now. That tells me there will be a lot of targets in shallow water, such as flooded bushes, logs and laydowns. There will be a lot of flipping going on, as well as square-billing and top-watering.

From Lake Tenkiller we drive straight to Michigan’s Lake St. Clair. I’ll switch gears and go for smallmouth 15 to 20 feet deep with drop-shot rigs, swimbaits and deep-diving crankbaits.

No doubt about it, back-to-back tournaments keep you on your toes. You have to switch gears quickly in order to make the most of them.

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