John's Journal...


The Big Gamble

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: George Cochran of Hot Springs, Arkansas, has just finished a tremendous bass-fishing career with a $500,000 FLW (Forrest L. Wood) Championship win, the highest payout for any bass-fishing tournament in history. Cochran, a Strike King pro staffer for 30 years, has won two Bassmasters Classics. Cochran admits, “Winning championships on both the BASS and the FLW circuits is a dream come true.” Only a few anglers in history have been able to complete a double grand slam like this.

QUESTION: George, why did you decide to fish shallow when everyone else was fishing deep, and why did you decide to save your best bank until the last day, not knowing if you would qualify for the finals?

COCHRAN: I was fishing the four-day-long FLW championship, and I knew by the final day, Saturday, that if I hadn’t caught any fish by 9 a.m., I wasn’t going to catch them. I knew I might not get to fish the last day of the tournament, but if I did, Saturday would be the hardest day to catch fish.

Click to enlargeThe tournament lasts for four days, and Lake Hamilton is one of the most-public lakes you’ll ever see. There are jet skiers, boaters and fishermen all having a good time on the lake. You can also expect a large gallery of spectators on the lake, especially when you’re fishing a televised national championship. Too, throw in the group of fishermen who fish this lake every Saturday, and there’s a huge armada of people moving up and down the lake. Most of the time, the only way you can catch bass on Lake Hamilton is to move into the backs of the creeks, where the water skiers, jet skiers and boat riders don’t go. I’d saved my best bank, on a main part of the lake where most of the traffic was, to fish during the first two hours of the last day of the tournament, knowing that if I didn’t win it during those first hours before the boat traffic began to hit the lake, I would be struggling to win.

Click to enlargeQUESTION: George, you also decided to fish within two miles of your home. Why?

COCHRAN: The tournament was held on Lake Hamilton near where I live, so I got to fish the entire tournament within a mile of my home. I chose where to fish the lake based on 30 years of tournament bass fishing. I’ve learned that any lake you fish, no matter where you are in the country, will always have one section of lake that consistently produces the most bass, especially for the shallow-water fisherman. During this tournament, the lower end of the lake wasn’t producing many shallow-water fish, nor was the middle part of the lake. But the upper end of the lake had some catchable shallow-water bass. I found one, four-mile stretch of bank in the upper-end section of the lake that was producing a lot of shallow-water bass and knew this was the best section of the lake to fish. I realized this section in the upper end of the lake would give me the best opportunity to get the shallow-water bass to bite, so I saved the very-best area for the last day of the tournament - make it or break it day.

Click to enlargeIf you’re going to beat the best bass fishermen in the nation, you need an ace in your hand, which you can’t play until the very last card is dealt. Another thing I’ve learned is that most fishermen fish the same areas day after day in hopes of catching enough bass to win. However, if you’ll notice, the weights of the bass being brought in to the scale goes down each day. I try to go with an opposite approach, and save my best bank, only a quarter-of-a-mile long, so I’ll have a fresh new spot to fish and hopefully catch bass where no one else has fished.

I knew I’d have to catch 9 to 10 pounds of bass to win, and I thought this area had the best potential to produce that winning weight in one to two hours of fishing on the last day of the tournament.


Check back each day this week for more about GEORGE COCHRAN’S HALF-MILLION-DOLLAR WEEKEND

Day 1: Getting to Know George Cochran
Day 2: The Big Gamble
Day 3: Days One and Day Two of the Tournament
Day 4: Head-to-Head with Brent Chapman
Day 5: Victory on the Last Day



Entry 311, Day 2