John's Journal...

Denny Brauer – Preparing the Tournament

Managing Your Bass and Dealing with the Weather

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Missouri, was a chess master, he’d be one of the best in the world. Tournament bass fishing is much like a game of chess in that you have to lay out a battle strategy first with plenty of options, so that you can react and move properly, depending on your opponent’s plan. Over the years, Brauer has proved he knows how to play the game. In mid-July 2006, Denny Brauer passed the $2 million mark in earnings for tournament fishing on the Bassmaster’s tournament circuit. The only other angler to achieve this goal is Kevin VanDam, who’s also a Strike King pro. No one ever can doubt that these two anglers know how to find and catch bass anywhere in the country, under any water and weather conditions and against the toughest competition in the nation. As most athletic coaches know, preparation is the key to winning. This week, we’ll talk with Brauer about how he prepares to fish the Lake Champlain tournament, and what he does to win.

Question: What kind of tournament is this that you’ll be fishing at New York’s Champlain in mid-July, 2006?
Brauer: All the contestants will be fishing the first two days. Then the field is cut to 50 contestants to fish day three. At the end of day three, the field will be cut to 12 to fish the final day.

Question: How do you lay a strategy to fish in this type of tournament?
Brauer: The good news is that the weight of your fish for all four days counts. In other words, if you make all the cuts, the winner is based on the total weight for all four days fished rather than all the weights at the end eliminated after each cut. The first two days, I’ll be trying to catch two big bags of fish to make the cut to fish the third day. I’ll be trying to fish day three to build that stringer to get into the finals. To make all the cuts and win the tournament, I know I can’t burn out an area (catch all the bass there). If I have a key spot where I’m catching most of my bass, I have to manage it so that I continue to catch another bass each day to stay in the tournament and possibly catch bass in that spot on the last day. There’s a lot of dClick to enlargeecision-making that takes place once you locate a bass hot spot.

Question: Denny, how do you know when it’s time to leave a spot and not overfish it? Aren’t you afraid that another tournament angler will find that spot and fish it if you leave it?
Brauer: Finding someone in your fishing spot can happen. You have to decide how many pounds of bass you have to catch each day to stay in the tournament. For instance, does it require you to catch 15 pounds of bass each day to stay in the tournament? Or, do you need to take 17 pounds per day to remain in the tournament? On a lake like Champlain, I know that bringing in 15 pounds each day will cause me to become disappointed. I also know that if I catch 17 to 18 pounds per day, I can make any cuts and stay in the tournament. Only a few pounds difference each day can be huge in a tournament like this. I know that when I hit that 17- to 18-pound mark (pounds of bass in the boat) I need to back off those bass and save them for the next day. But, until I get to that 17- to 18-pound mark, I have to continue to fish hard until I reach that weight.

Question: In other words, you set a goal for how many pounds you want to catch that day, and once you catch that poundage, you back off your fish, right?Click to enlarge
Brauer: That’s right. But you never know. If the other anglers are all catching 20 pounds, and you’re stopping at 18 pounds, you’re still going to get blown out of the water. You still have to have some goals for when you stop, so you can manage the bass you find and still have more to catch for all four days.

Question: Okay, Denny, how do you deal with weather in a tournament like this? Let’s say you start off with bluebird days, and the weather forecast is nothing but bluebird days throughout the tournament. However, for some unknown reason, you have one of those freak storms blow in that produces a torrential downpour, muddies-up the lake and makes the water terribly rough. How do you adjust to a situation like this in a tournament?
Brauer: I prepare for that to happen during practice. If I’m making a long run into the north or the south end of the lake during practice, I’ll attempt to find some spots close to the takeoff area where I can fish and catch bass, in case I get one of those bad weather conditions. If we get a wind blowing 25-miles per hour on a tournament day, and I have to make a long run to get to my fish, that long run isn’t going to happen. It will take too much time, I’ll have to go slow, and even when I arrive at my spot, the weather may be too rough to fish. At practice, you have to consider all weather variations that may happen and create backup spots that you can get to and fish if you have bad weather. Lake Champlain is a huge body of water. Therefore, weather’s a major factor to consider if you fish a lake like this one. The weather can mess up so many different places that I have to have backup plans where I may be able to use two or three different tactics to catch bass close to the takeout point where I have protected water.

Question: You’re pre-fishing right now. During pre-fishing, besides finding the spots that you want to run into to win the tournament, are you also finding backup spots that you can fish if you have bad weather?
Brauer: Absolutely. I’ve had a reasonably good practice day, today, which is the first day. Tomorrow, I’ll be going to a totally-different area, which will offer me protection if the weather goes bad. You have to do different things and fish various ways to be prepared for that bad weather. You want to make sure that you don’t lose the tournament by betting on a few good spots that it takes good weather to reach. Click to enlarge

Question: Denny, that’s pretty much the difference between professional and amateur anglers, isn’t it? The pro has backup plans regardless of the weather and water conditions.
Brauer: That’s exactly right. I always have plans A, B and C, no matter what the weather does, what area of the lake I can fish, and how I need to fish it. Even if everything goes as planned, according to the weather, you may get to your spot where you plan to win the tournament and four or five other anglers, either locals or other competitors, already may be there. You have to have all these other plans in place for the “what ifs.” You can’t go to a place, find out you can’t fish it and then have to ask yourself, “Now what do I do?” Once in awhile, during a tournament, I’ll go to regions I’ve never fished before because they’re part of my plan. I feel that those areas are right for that situation.

Tomorrow: Pattern Fishing vs. Small Fishing


Check back each day this week for more about "Denny Brauer – Preparing the Tournament "

Day 1: Before I Get to the Lake
Day 2: How Will You Find the Big Bass?
Day 3: What Type of Lures Are You Going to Use to Catch Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass?
Day 4: Managing Your Bass and Dealing with the Weather
Day 5: Pattern Fishing vs. Small Fishing


Entry 362, Day 4