John's Journal... Entry 238, Day 1
THE GREATEST DAY OF FISHING I EVER HAD WITH GEORGE COCHRAN
The Greatest Day Of Bass Fishing Ever
Editor’s Note: Never before in the history of bass fishing does George Cochran know of a tournament angler who threw back 5-pound-plus largemouth because he had bass in the livewell that weighed more. In the BASS tournament at Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama the last weekend in February 2004, Cochran produced a four-day limit of five bass per day that totaled 99 pounds, 10 ounces. On the final day he had his greatest day ever of bass fishing. He won the tournament and the $103,000 prize. But more importantly for this two-time Bassmasters Classic champion, he proved that old pros still have what it takes to be one of the hot pros in today’s world of bass fishing. In this tournament, Cochran also demonstrated that wisdom can overcome youthful enthusiasm, and that patience and perseverance often are the keys to catching more bass. If you’ll read each day of this week’s information, you’ll learn some valuable secrets for catching more bass every time you fish.
George, why was the final day of the BASS tournament at Lake Guntersville
in February 2004 the best day of bass fishing you ever had?
The first thing that morning I caught a 4-1/2-pound bass and put it in the livewell. The next fish I caught only weighed 2-1/2 pounds, and although it was big enough to keep and measure, I threw it back because I knew it wasn’t big enough to win the tournament for me. Besides betting on that one stretch of bank, I also bet on one lure—Strike King’s Wild Shiner in the bone color with a green back. Earlier in the tournament, I had established that the Wild Shiner was the bait that the big bass wanted. Through the process of elimination, I determined that the big bass preferred the bone color with the green back on that day, on that lake and on that weed line. I used a different technique from everyone else in the tournament who fished jerkbaits, and even those fishing the Wild Shiner. I would cast the jerkbait into 3 or 4 feet of water where the weeds were thick under the water. I would work the bait out to about 10 feet of water. I would make sure I had my bait about 3 or 4 feet into the water, twitched it two or three times and then allowed it to sit still for 6 seconds. If you counted 6 seconds off slowly, each second seemed like an eternity. I learned this technique from a fisherman in Arkansas named Doyle Caine, about 10 years ago. Caine called this technique “soaking the lure.” I never had the patience to fish this way before. If the bass didn’t take the Wild Shiner after I had “soaked” the bait for 6 seconds, I would twitch it two or three times and move the lure about 12 to 18 inches. Then I’d soak the lure again for 6 seconds. If I didn’t catch a bass, I would reel in the bait, make another cast and fish the lure the same way. I learned that most of the time, the big bass would take the lure after it had soaked between 4 to 6 seconds. The bigger bass I caught wouldn’t take the lure until the 6th second.
My best fishing was in the middle of the day when the larger bass moved up out of deep water to feed in the grass. The water temperature was about 47 or 48 degrees, which was cold for an Alabama lake in February. I had noticed early in the morning I would see large numbers of shad flipping in the shallow water, but by about 10:00 a.m., I wouldn’t see any shad. I believed that the shad pulled out of the water later in the day and swam along the edge of that grass line. I thought those larger bass would move up to that 10-foot water to attack the shad when they would pull out of the grass. Then the bass would see my Wild Shiner when I twitched it, and they would very slowly move up to it and attack it when it sat still in the water. At 11:30 a.m. on the final day, I had about 18 pounds of bass in my livewell. At noon the big bass began to bite. I began to catch 5- and 6-pound bass on nearly every cast. At 2:00 p.m., I caught a bass that weighed 5 pounds, but compared to the other bass in my livewell, this 5-pounder was too small to increase the total weight of my catch for that day. I caught 11 bass that weighed over 5-pounds each during the final day of the tournament, and I can’t begin to count the number of bass I caught and released that weighed between 3- and 5-pounds each. I’ve been fishing for fun for 45 years, and I’ve fished in tournaments for 25 years, but without question, that was the most-phenomenal day of bass fishing I’ve ever had in my life.
QUESTION: What was the key time to catch
the big bass?
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TOMORROW: HOW IT BEGAN