John's Journal...

Looking Back Over My Tournament Bass-Fishing Career with George Cochran

Four More Years

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: George Cochran of Hot Springs, Arkansas, has passed a milestone in his fishing career, earning over $2 million in tournament winnings. This week, Cochran will discuss highlights from his career.

Question: George, how do you catch bass in shallow water all year?
Cochran: Bass live around heavy cover. For every bass living in shallow water, there may be five bass that live in deep water. But bass holding in deep water are often hard to catch. They suspend, move around and don’t stay in the same place. They are more or less nomadic. I’ve learned that in shallow water, you often find what I call “homestead bass” that set up and decide to live on certain pieces of cover in that shallow water. Many times homestead bass can be hard to catch and may not want to feed, but you can aggravate these shallow-water bass into biting, if you’ve learned how. My strength is locating a bass that doesn’t want to bite and making it bite any way.

Question: What are you doing that other anglers aren’t doing to get the bass in shClick to enlargeallow water to bite?
Cochran: I start by looking for the right color of water and for baitfish. If there’s a lot of food in a backwater area, then there must also be bass back there. The bass won’t get far away from their dinner table. Then, I determine what kind of cover – humps, stumps or low docks – that these bass will be holding on to ambush the bait. If I go into a backwater region and see no surface activity, like bass breaking the surface or shad skipping across the surface, or hear bream smacking under the grass, I know that area may not be holding any bass, because there’s nothing there for them to eat. So, I have to identify the right place where the bass will feed, the correct cover where bass will hold, and the right bait to make them bite. This is how I catch bass in shallow water.

I may visit 20-different backwater areas and not be happy with any of the places I’ve found. Then I may go into one backwater region and say to myself, “George, you can catch the bass in here.” Over 40 years of fishing, I’ve built certain instincts that let me know where I can find and catch the bass. To consistently catch bass in shallow water, you need a combination of the right water, the correct cover, the right amount of baitfish in the region and the right lure. After you’ve solved these problems, all you have to do is make the bass bite. There are numbers of bass that migrate into shallow water and stay there, regardless of the temperature or the fluctuation Click to enlargeof the lake.

Question: What other lure besides the spinner bait, the crankbait and the top-water lure do you use?
Cochran: I still fish the plastic worm quite a bit. But generally the worm is my back-up bait. If I go into a shallow-water place, and the bass are really hitting the crankbait one day but don’t want the crankbait the second day, I’ll fish the Strike King soft-plastic worm. I may catch the bass in an area on a crankbait one day, a soft-plastic worm the next and a top-water lure on the third day. Too, I change colors often, depending on how much sunlight is penetrating into the water. If cloud cover comes in, I’ll change to darker lures. If I’m fishing on a cloudy day, and the wind blows the clouds away, I’ll use more-translucent lures. If I’m catching bass on a blue crankbait, and the bass stop biting, I’ll use a green crankbait. Oftentimes changing a lure’s color will cause the bass to start biting again.

Question: George, another one of your well-known traits is fishing ugly places. Fishermen will drive by a clean clay bank with no structure on it and say, “That’s a George Cochran spot,” because there’s no one who can catch a fish on a place like this but George Cochran. Why do you fish uglClick to enlargey places?
Cochran: I look for sites no one else wants to fish, like a big bay with no cover in it, because these regions don’t look pretty and there’s no visible cover above the water. I’ll go into that area wearing my polarized sunglasses and perhaps spot a small stick under the water, a rock here and there, a stump over on one side of the bay and another stump on the other side of the bay. Although there isn’t much cover, the bait’s in that bay, so I know the bass will be there. I’ll go in there and catch a lot of bass. Most fishermen won’t think there’s cover in that bay, and they won’t take the time to slow-down and study what they see underwater. Most times if there’s bait in a bay, even if there seems to be no cover there, the cover may just be under the water. Visible cover is where everybody fishes. I prefer to fish shallow-water cover you can’t see.

Question: George, you’ve been fishing for 40 years. Will you fish competitively for another 40 years?
Cochran: I’m 58-years old right now and plan to fish until I’m 62 - 4-more years. If I continue to feel good and have the enthusiasm and the competitive spirit and still enjoy professional bass fishing, I’ll be good for 4-more years. Then, I want to retire, guide a few days during the week and spend more time with my grandchildren.

Check back each day this week for more about "Looking Back Over My Tournament Bass-Fishing Career with George Cochran"

Day 1: Over $2 Million and Still Fishing
Day 2: Eight Days and One Rod and One Strike King Spinner Bait Equals $50,000
Day 3: I’m Not Going to Fish Deep
Day 4: Catching Bass When Bass Aren’t Biting
Day 5: Four More Years


Entry 463, Day 2