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John's Journal... Entry 238, Day 4


Age And Experience Make The Difference

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.

QUESTION: On the first day of the tournament, you were in 10th place. On the second day, you were in 6th place. On the third day, you went from 6th place to the leader of the tournament, but you only had a 1-pound lead. What was the boat traffic like? What was the third day like as far as spectator pressure goes, and how were you able to deal with that pressure and catch enough fish to move into first place?

: I had 31 boats of spectators watching me and cheering for me on the third day. They would cheer when I’d catch a fish, and they were real sportsmen. Even though I had all these people watching me, no one pulled out a rod and tried to fish down the bank that I was fishing. Now, they would use their trolling motors to move close to the bank so they could see what type cover I was fishing, but they never spooked the bass or tried to catch the ones I was catching. They showed me a lot of respect, courtesy and were some of the finest spectators I’ve ever known. I said on the stage when I won, “I love Alabama, and I love the fishermen in Alabama, because those fishermen had just as much right to that water as I did. Yet, they were conscious enough of what I was trying to do to let me use that water for the days of the tournament without any interference. That’s what I call real class.”

QUESTION: With that many spectators and that many boats, how did you concentrate on your fishing?

: When I was a young fisherman, that much spectator pressure would’ve bothered me, and it would’ve caused me to lose my concentration. However, I could focus and concentrate because I knew how important this tournament was to me and my sponsors—not just because of the money I would win, but I needed that confidence boost that comes when you’re 53-years old competing against anglers half your age. I’ve had loyal, faithful sponsors throughout my career, but I hadn’t won a major tournament in the last five years. So, I knew if I could win this one, I could repay that loyalty and that belief in my ability that my sponsors had demonstrated even during the years I didn’t win very much.

If you watch ESPN and all the tournament shows that are on television, you’ll see that young, intelligent, aggressive anglers have won most of the bass tournaments lately. Every now and then, one of the older tournament anglers will sneak up on those young boys and win one. It was important to me not to just finish high in this tournament but to win one for my team of sponsors. On the night of the third day of competition, Jerry McInnis from ESPN, interviewed me and asked, “Do you think you’re going to win?” My answer was, “Yes, I am going to win.” I knew that by being this close to winning this tournament, I had to stay focused, true to my beliefs and give it my best shot. I really wasn’t interested in second place. This was an “all-or-nothing” tournament for me.

QUESTION: How critical was your age and your ability to fish slowly to win?

: There’s no doubt in my mind that I couldn’t have fished that slowly, been that patient and stayed with that area as long as I did if I hadn’t been older and more experienced than many of the other competitors. The technique I used was an extremely slow and patient tactic. The water I fished wasn’t producing bass every minute. I went from fishing two miles of shore line on the first day down to only fishing 440 yards of shore line on the last day. There were stretches of time when I didn’t get any bites. I fished that same stretch of bank intensely during the time we had to fish.

QUESTION: Were there any changes that took place in the fishing environment during the tournament?

: The last day of the tournament, the big bass started biting really well because the water had warmed-up 2 or 3 degrees. On the first couple of days, when I would catch a bass, they would wallow around for a little while, then I could easily reel them in, but on the last day of the tournament, the bass fought like Bengal tigers that had been hit on their tails with sledgehammers.

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Check back each day this week for more about THE GREATEST DAY OF FISHING I EVER HAD WITH GEORGE COCHRAN ...

Day 1 - The Greatest Day Of Bass Fishing Ever
Day 2 - How It Began
Day 3 - With Age Comes Wisdom
Day 4 - Age And Experience Make The Difference
Day 5 - Why I Believe

John's Journal