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Top Professional Bass Fishermen Say, We Fish to Win

Denny Brauer’s Gambling Attitude When He Fishes

Click to enlargeEditor's Note: Why do some bass fishermen consistently win tournaments and other good, even great, bass anglers never win tournaments? To learn the answer to this question, I’ve interviewed some of the most-outstanding bass fishermen in the nation, and they all agree that to win an angler has to make a conscious decision to fish to win and leave the security of trying to catch a limit behind.

"I never fish for second place," Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Missouri, 1998 Bassmaster Classic winner, says. "To win, you must have a gambler's mentality. There's a conservative way to fish, and there's the gambler’s way to fish. If you abandon the conservative way to fish, which consistently produces points and paychecks, and fish the tactics that don't seem to be rational, if they work, you'll have the opportunity to win.

“For instance, if you're in the last day of the tournament and in first place, but you know the bass you're catching aren't big enough to produce the win, you have to be willing to abandon that pattern. Then you have to go to a place on the lake – perhaps one you've never fished before – and try a pattern you've never used. If that tactic does work, you'll probably win. But instead, most anglers will stay with the bass they've been catching during a tournament and take the conservative road, rather than gambling with their chances to win."

Brauer admits that early in his career, he needed to make a paycheck to continue his career as a professional fisherman. He mainly fished conservatively and catch however many fish he could catch to make a payday, allowing him to go to the next tournament. He hoped to impress potential sponsors by proving himself as a consistent angler and wanted to earnClick to enlarge enough points to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. However, as Brauer’s career progressed, he’d risk ending the tournament in last place to try for the win.

"You only have so many chances to win, so why squander those chances by being conservative?" Brauer asks. "I’ve developed the attitude that I'd rather finish last, miss being in the Bassmaster Classic and go for the win rather than being conservative.”
Brauer confesses that developing his winning philosophy occurred after he won the B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title in 1987, an award for proven consistency. In 1985, the first year Brauer attempted to win Angler of the Year, he came in third place and then second in 1986.

"From 1985 to 1987, I tried to maximize every opportunity to finish and get points for the Bassmaster Classic," Brauer mentions. "I finally realized that there were several tournaments I could have won, if I’d had the courage to not be concerned about winning the title, and instead tried for the win rather than making sure I earned a paycheck and points. I had to really fight with my own fishing philosophy to change from fishing conservatively to fishing to win."

Brauer also learned that when he fished primarily for the Angler-of-the-Year title, he might not earn as much money during the year as the anglers who fished to win. He decided that if he won a couple of tournaments, oftentimes, he’d collect more money than he took when he won the Angler-of-the-Year title.

"Click to enlargeI made a conscious decision to change from fishing conservatively to win the Angler-of-the-Year title to taking every opportunity I had to win," Brauer emphasizes. Thirty percent of the bass Brauer caught when trying for Angler-of-the-Year he took using finesse tactics with small worms and jigs. You'd rarely see him with a spinning rod in his hand. But today, you can hardly win a tournament without using certain fishing tactics.

"If you study how tournaments are won, you'll see that most of the time, power fishing with jigs, spinner baits and deep-diving crankbaits win the majority of the tournaments,” Brauer mentions. “I’ve made the decision to fish every tournament I can with those types of baits that will give me the opportunity to win. I also try to identify bass in patterns that give me the most potential to win. I search for sections of water with little or no fishing pressure and no-so-obvious patterns.

"Many times, I won't fish the pattern everyone says will win. Instead, I may fish with a technique and a lure that reason dictates I’ll never win a tournament with on that lake, at that time of year. However, I'm fishing with that lure and that tactic because I know no other fishermen is using that strategy. If I can get the bass to bite that off-the-wall technique and lure, I've got a better chance to win."

Over the years, Brauer has learned that, "Flipping and pitching a jig in heavy cover gives me the best chance of winning on any lake. Most of my winning strategies have been centered around this type of fishing. Sure, I've caught bass and won tournaments on spinner baits, crankbaits and top-water lures because the water and the weather conditions have dictated that those tactics are the most productive. But I always fish a lure that will catch big bass and not baits that consistently catch large numbers of bass."

An example of Brauer's fishing philosophy occurred when he won the 1998 Bassmaster Click to enlargeClassic. Brauer found some logs lying on a mudflat with little trenches of 1- to 2-foot-deep water beside them. In this extremely-hot weather and very-shallow water, Brauer caught those bass flipping a jig, something no other angler in that tournament had done. No one considered that at that time of year bass might concentrate in that very-shallow water in a mudflat with 90-degree temperatures, and surely few believed you could catch those bass on jigs.

"All the media-hype and the fishermen at that Classic believed that the tournament would be won fishing deep-water crankbaits out in the middle of the lake," Brauer explains. "I know when a lot of great fishermen use the same tactic and fish the same kind of water with the same types of lures, your chances of winning, if you use those types of lures, decrease drastically. Besides, I didn’t feel I was as good fishing deep-diving crankbaits on offshore structures as I was flipping or pitching a jig. I also realized that not all bass were always deep or always shallow. So, I decided I couldn't win using the tactics that were supposed to win. Instead, I fished the types of lures that would produce a championship."

The main channel didn’t run by the shallow mudflat where Brauer fished. Too, a mud bar kept most anglers from even considering fishing those shallow trees lying in the mud further away. However, Brauer noticed a small shallow trough through the mudflat that would allow him to reach trees lying in the mud.

"Too, baitfish were holding in those little ditches beside the trees," Brauer remembers. "So, I knew that the oxygen content had to be really good in that shallow water. I’d identified protected water that no one else was fishing where baitfish were concentrated in the ditches beside the trees. I decided to flip to those logs, and if the bass where there, I'd catch them."

That’s what Brauer did, and he won the 1998 Classic. Brauer proved that to win a bass-fishing tournament, you had to think out of the box, use unconventional tactics and pinpoint unusual places to fish that would give you an advantage to win that other anglers didn’t recognize. But, according to Brauer, "If those different tactics and places don’t work, I’ll try to fish like everyone else who’s catching bass, but better."

Tomorrow: Michael Iaconelli Fishes for Certain Size-Sized Bass

Check back each day this week for more about "Top Professional Bass Fishermen Say, We Fish to Win"

Day 1: Rick Clunn Fishes to Win
Day 2: Denny Brauer’s Gambling Attitude When He Fishes
Day 3: Michael Iaconelli Fishes for Certain Size-Sized Bass
Day 4: Research Tactics from Alabama’s Hot Young Pros
Day 5: Target Fishing with Top-Pro Kevin VanDam



Entry 398, Day 2