John's Journal...

The Game Plan with Denny Brauer for His Lake Champlain Win in Mid-July

Honey Hole on the First Day

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Last week, Denny Brauer told us how he planned to fish the 2006 CITGO Bass Elite Series’ tournament on Lake Champlain. We talked with Brauer after the first day of practice, and much like a pool shooter who calls a shot, Brauer accurately predicted how he would fish, where he would find the fish, and how he would catch them to win this $100,000 tournament. Four days after we talked to Brauer, he executed the plan he’d laid out for us. Not only did he win the $100,000 first prize, he also passed the $2 million mark in tournament winnings, which moved him into first place as the No. 1 bass angler to win the most money on the Bassmaster circuit. This week, Brauer will take us day-by-day through the tournament and show us how he executed the plan he’d laid out for the tournament won one of the biggest events of his life. We’ll not only see the strategy of a champion, but we’ll also witness the mindset of a winner.

Question: Denny, what did you decide to do the first day of the tournament?
Brauer: I explained yesterday that I felt my best chances to win were on the northern end of the lake. When the tournament began, I throttled down and headed north. This area isn’t as well known for largemouth as the middle of the southern part of the lake, but there are pockets of largemouth in this region. If you go either north or south of the takeout point, you can find more-stained water than you’ll find in the middle of the lake.

Question: What did you find in the area that made you go to this spot the first day of the tournament?Click to enlarge
Brauer: I’d fished the same general area many years ago when the Bassmaster’s Circuit first came to Lake Champlain. Roland Martin won that event. For two days during that tournament, I caught big bags of bass. So, I had plenty of confidence here. This place is huge with several miles of bank. I felt that if I went to this location, historically it had big bass. I’d caught some good bass during practice. I knew if I could find a good school of bass to fish during the tournament, the possibility for winning the tournament could very well be in this region.

Question: What was the key factor that you knew unequivocally should have been your starting point because you caught some good bass there during practice?
Brauer: Practice days are what give me the confidence to go into any region. The success I had in this spot on those two practice days fired me up to fish there. I knew where I was going, and how I was going to fish when I left the takeout point. When I arrived at my spot, I had to make some adjustments. The wind direction had changed the water clarity and moved the bass. The first day I reached my key area, I had a north wind, but couldn’t get a bite where I’d expected to catch a good number of bass. I had to re-locate the bass I’d originally found in practice. I discovered that they moved about 100 yards from where they’d been the previous day.

Question: What pattern were you running?Click to enlarge
Brauer: Every bass I weighed-in, I caught on a Strike King Premier Elite jig with a black-and-blue flake skirt and a matching 3X Chunk Trailer. The only thing I alternated between was the 1/2- and the 3/4-ounce jig. The first couple of days of the tournament, when the bass were on the outer edges of the cover and were easy pickings, I was fishing the 1/2-ounce jig on 20-pound-test Mustad Thor line, just like I told you I’d fish last week. However, as the tournament got tougher in the last couple of days, I switched to Strike King’s new 3/4-ounce Premier Pro-Model jig because it would penetrate cover easier than a lighter jig. I needed that heavier jig to fish heavier grass. I changed lines and started using 60-pound-test Mustad braided line. With this lure and line combination, I could flip further back and drag the big bass out of the weeds.

Question: Did you flip the whole time, Denny?
Brauer: Yes, 100% of the time, I was flipping. I had a Strike King Frog tied on one of my rods because I’d caught bass on that bait before, but I never picked it up. I decided to fish the tactic I fished best, which was flipping, throughout the entire tournament.

Question: Tell me what happened the first day.
Brauer: When I reached the place I planned to fish on the first day, the wind was blowing pretty hard. My key area was about a 50-yard circle of reeds. When I couldn’t get a bite in that reed patch on that first morning, I decided that the bass had moved.Click to enlarge I pulled out of the reeds and started fishing the creek channel adjacent to the reeds. There was a 6-foot drop at the bottom of this creek channel. As soon as I started fishing that creek channel, my partner and I started whacking bass. Two times in less than an hour, my partner and I were both reeling in bass at the same time. Once I got into the fish, I caught a limit in 10 minutes. I’d already spent 15 minutes when I got to the reeds but didn’t catch a bass. However, when I moved to the ledge, found the fish and started catching them quickly, I had a 15- to 16-pound limit within the first hour of the tournament. Throughout the rest of the day, I probably caught 30 bass and upgraded my stringer to about 19 pounds. I didn’t burn my fish out in my primary spot. I moved to several other places that I found. I had enough little areas where I could move around and catch bass, which would leave my primary region alone. I didn’t feel like I’d hurt that spot. When we made the decision to leave, the bass were still biting.

Question: With a 19-pound stringer on the first day, what did you place?
Brauer: I’m not sure, but I think I was in either 5th or 6th place.

Question: Were you feeling pretty good about your odds of winning the tournament after that first day?
Brauer: Absolutely. I knew I could have stayed on my primary spot, beat up my fish and had a bigger stringer. I wanted to stay in contention in the first day. My target weight on that first day was to catch 18 pounds and each day thereafter. I decided that once I caught 18 pounds, or, if the last bass I caught put me over 18 pounds, I’d leave the area and fish my secondary spot. Once I got to those 18 pounds on the first day, I basically moved out of that place.

Tomorrow: How Brauer Fished the Second Day of the Tournament

Check back each day this week for more about "The Game Plan with Denny Brauer for His Lake Champlain Win in Mid-July"

Day 1: The Game Plan for the Tournament and Brauer’s Quest to Fight Back
Day 2: Honey Hole on the First Day
Day 3: How Brauer Fished the Second Day of the Tournament
Day 4: Brauer Reveals a New Tournament-Winning Strategy
Day 5: Going for the Win


Entry 363, Day 2