John's Journal...


Know When to Hold 'Em and When to Fold 'Em

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Arkansas, has won three of the five Bassmasters Elite 50 tournaments with the participants chosen from the top Angler-of-The-Year finishers on the Bassmasters circuit for the past three years, along with the top-10 all-time money Bassmasters winners. Bassmasters has designated these 50 anglers as the best bass professional fishermen in the world. The events of this type of tournament include competition among all 50 contestants the first two days. Then the tournament eliminates all but the top 12 fishermen, who have all their fish weights erased to allow all 12 to compete equally. The course, which originally has included almost anywhere on a lake, also changes. Bassmasters declares six areas off-limits, and the fishermen have to fish the final two days in each of these six areas. This Elite 50 competition tests all aspects of bass-fishing skills. For any one angler to win three out of five of these events, he has to know bass inside and out and be doing something different from the other fishermen. This week, I’ll pick Davis's brain to learn how he's beat the best of the best in three out of five competitions and how you can become the best bass fisherman you can.

Click to enlargeI believe that one of the reasons I've fished so well in the Elite 50s is my ability to change lures and tactics quickly when fishing conditions change. Now telling someone how I do it, when I do it, and why I do it is much-more difficult than actually switching my baits or tactics. But, I'll give you what I can. When I make a decision to change tactics, lures or the water I'm fishing, I often try to second-guess myself and talk myself into not making that change. But I've learned that most of the time, when I decide to change water or tactics, I've usually made the right decision as soon as I decide to make a change. Now the problem comes in fighting myself to go ahead and do what I already know I need to do. That war within yourself when you decide to make a change is one of the hardest wars to win. I try to make sure that the fish have really and truly made a change before I decide to change. If you're wondering how you can be certain that the fish have moved or have started biting a different way or want a different type of lure at a different depth, - well, you can't know for sure. You just have to trust your instincts, and because none of us are perfect, many times we'll guess wrong.

Click to enlargeHowever, I've guessed right enough times to know that when I really believe fishing conditions have changed and the bass want a different lure or approach, I need to make my change as quickly and as deliberately as possible. Most of the time, a weather change when the fish stop biting will mean that you need to change your style of fishing to better match the weather conditions as they are at that moment. One of the big mistakes we often make is believing that the bass are going to continue to bite the same way they did bite on the same lures they were biting on after the weather has made a drastic or even subtle change. I guess we just always like to do what we've been doing, even if we're not catching bass. I think my strength is that I can recognize quickly when the weather has changed, and I need to abandon a pattern and try something different to better match the conditions as they are and not continue to fish the conditions as they've been. Another key ingredient that you have to understand to know whether to hold 'em or to fold 'em is when you decide to change the way you're fishing to better match the conditions, you also must decide to stay with that change for as long as it takes to prove that you made the right decision. For instance, if you change lures, and the bass don't instantly start biting, you need to have decided to stay with that new lure until you know for certain that the bass won't take it.

Click to enlargeAnd this is tough, because your sub-conscious is telling you, "Hey, when you were fishing the spinner bait, you were catching bass. And then you didn't have a strike in two hours until you changed to the tube. But now in the last 30 minutes, you haven't gotten a bite on the tube. Maybe you need to go back to fishing the spinner bait." If you're not a serious bass fisherman, you won't have the foggiest notion of what I'm talking about, but if you're a serious bass fisherman, you know exactly what I mean. You've fought these same wars that I have to fight, and I believe the one thing I can say that will help you, is when you make that change, plan to stay the course and fish the lure you've changed to until the bass tells you without question over an extended period of time that they're not going to bite that bait that day. If you wear the hinges off your tacklebox going in and out of the box all day changing lures, you won't catch as many bass as consistently as you will if you stay the course and fish the two or three lures you've chosen each time you decide to make a change. Usually the fishermen who change lures the most in a tournament will catch the fewest bass. Generally, the fishermen who change their lures the least during a tournament consistently will weigh in the most pounds of bass.


Check back each day this week for more about MORE ON MARK DAVIS AND HIS $100,000 WEEKEND

Day 1: Versatility, Adaptability and Reading Skills - Keys to Success
Day 2: Patience
Day 3: Know When to Hold 'Em and When to Fold 'Em
Day 4: Stay in Focus
Day 5: The Streak



Entry 301, Day 3