So close, and yet so far

I just finished my worst tournament of the year. It was an 80th-place disaster at the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork. It’s pretty bad to weigh less than 25 pounds in an event where the winner weighs more than 112 pounds. In round numbers that means Lee Livesay caught over 4 pounds of bass for every 1 pound I caught. 

Frankly, that hurts. But the weight isn’t the worse part of it for me. It’s where I was fishing, and where Livesay was fishing. 

Before we go any farther, though, I want to say congratulations to Livesay. He fished an impressive tournament. He ignored the dock talk, found his fish, executed efficiently and caught them. That’s what a winner does, and he’s the winner — rightly so. He earned everything that comes from and with a Bassmaster Elite Series win.

So anyway, last time I wrote about the importance of doing your homework. That’s about checking out all of the factors that go into catching bass. I thought I did that this time, but maybe not as much as I should have. 

After the tournament was over I realized that the anglers who did the best fished out, away from the back of the pockets. I was not a part of that group. But, I was fishing just 100 yards away from Livesay, and not much farther away from some of the others. 

Subtle changes in positions, techniques and lures is common enough at this level of professional bass fishing, and they make a huge difference.

Over the course of my career with B.A.S.S., I’ve fished 249 professional level tournaments. I’ve won three of them and had a total of 28 Top 10 finishes. In all three wins and most of the Top 10 finishes there were other anglers fishing around me. It was simply that I was doing something different, something that was working.

When you don’t read the temperature — air and water — correctly, take water clarity into account and consider what the current is doing you will pay the price.

The thing I didn’t mention above is the wind. The thing many anglers don’t realize is the major effect it has on bass. It’s probably the most important factor I deal with on a daily basis, in tournaments and in fun fishing. 

The thing about the wind is that it doesn’t have to be all that strong, and it doesn’t always matter how deep the fish are holding. It’ll have an effect on the deep ones just like it does on the shallow ones. It’ll trigger a feeding response. We all know that. But, it’ll also position the fish. At times bringing a lure at them is the way to catch them. At other times, though, bringing a bait over them from behind is the better option. There aren’t any reliable rules for this. It’s just different from time to time. 

What went wrong for me at Lake Fork is still an open question. I’ve thought about it and I’ll think about it some more, but in reality I have the 2021 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry to fish. It’ll be substantially different from Lake Fork.

That means tackle and technique changes, a change in attitude and lots of time doing my homework.