John's Journal...

Top Professional Bass Fishermen Say, We Fish to WinClick to enlarge

Research Tactics from Alabama’s Hot Young Pros

Editor'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.

Aaron Martens of Leeds, Alabama, has finished second place in the Bassmaster Classic three times and many other events on the FLW and the B.A.S.S. tournament circuits. He’s also won four B.A.S.S. tournaments, the latest in March, 2007 in the California Delta, an FLW tournament and quite a few western tournaments. Even though he’s known as the bridesmaid because he’s finished second so many times, Martens always fishes to win. Click to enlarge

"To learn to win, I fish with other bass fishermen who know how to win," Martens reveals. "For instance, after the Lake Amistad tournament in the spring, I stayed over an extra day and fished with Michael Iaconelli, who has won both the Bassmaster Classic and the B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title. I wanted to learn what he was doing that I wasn’t. When you fish to win, you want to learn all you can from the people who consistently win. Too, you can’t second-guess yourself. Winners operate on pure instinct. If they’re catching bass, but they get an idea that they should leave those bass and search elsewhere, they leave immediately.

"Sometimes, I’ll feel like I need to change baits or location or do something different. Winners rely more on their instincts than their ability to reason. When you get an idea that you need to do something like move, change water or try something different, regardless of how ridiculous that idea may appear to be, you need to follow that instinct. Remember, sometimes you can fish your very beClick to enlargest and lose a couple of big fish, have one bad day in a tournament or have another fishermen just find more big bass than you do. All you can control is what you can control. You can’t control what the bass do or what the other competitors do.

"The real key that produces the most wins is that really-good fishermen who win tournaments rely totally on their instincts and don’t try to argue with themselves when they get ideas that they should make some changes. You can’t fish conservatively, and you can’t fish strictly on reason. There’s an intuitive sense that a bass fisherman develops that he can rely on, and if he follows that intuitive sense, it will lead him to a win. I’ve also learned that you always go to your best spot first, when you’re fishing to win."

Tim Horton of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, another hot young pro, won one of the first B.A.S.S. tournaments he ever entered and the B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title, and has fished in eight Classics. He names winning bass tournaments as what’s important to him and his sponsors. Click to enlarge

"No one remembers a second-place winner," Horton mentions. "When I fish to win, I’m not afraid to fish areas that don’t look like they hold bass. Winning a tournament is very difficult to do in a region where everyone’s fishing and knows where you’re supposed to find bass. However, when you’re fishing to win, you try to locate places to catch bass that no one on that lake has found before and be willing to gamble. If you’re fishing where you’re finding 15 to 20 pounds of keeper bass a day, then often you can stay at the top by fishing there. But if you know you have to catch 16 pounds per day, then you have to leave that section of water where you know you can take enough bass to finish in the top 10 and search for the spot that will produce a stringer of bass that will win the tournament. Sure it’s a gamble, but gambles like this pay off.

"When you fish to win, you fish for bigger bites, using larger lures than you will if you just want to place in the tournament. My go-to baits are big, deep-diving crankbaits and the jig, which are both known to produce big bass. I’ll fish a Booyah jig around really-thick, heavy cover or a Bomber BD7F Fat Free Shad on offshore cover in deep water. I prefer black and blue colors for my jigs, and for the crankbait, I like citrus colors.
"I know that when I fish these two lures, I’ll reduce the number of bites I get, but I’ll increase my chances for catching bigger bass. Big bass don’t waste their time eating finesse worms. They prefer big baits. I’m not saying that you can’t catch a big bass on a finesse worm. However, you’re more likely to catch a big bass on a big bait.

“The second key in fishing to win is once you get that big bite, you have to be able to put that bass in the boat. That’s why I use heavy line like 17-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XTS fluorocarbon line, and I must have a strong-enough rod to get those bass away from heavy cover quickly."

Horton also mentions the importance of understanding the cover you fish. "If you’re fishing to a submerged tree, don’t fish across the biggest limbs of that tree. Pull your bait down to the little limbs. Then if a bass does get on your bait, you don’t have to pull the fish over or around a big limb, but instead, pull it through those little limbs. If the fish wraps around those little limbs, that strong line and rod will help you pull it through those limbs. Also, if you’re casting to a bush or a submerged tree, pull your bait toward the direction of the tree. Then you won’t try and pull a bass through a branch or brush that’s too small for it to come through. You always want to try to pull a fish out and away from the brush instead of across or into the brush."

Tomorrow: Target Fishing with Top-Pro Kevin VanDam


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 4