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John's Journal... Entry 243, Day 5


Knowing When To Hold 'Em And When To Fold 'Em Pays Off

Editor's Note: The most-difficult question for a bass fisherman to answer is, "How do you know when to change lures, when to change water and when to change fishing techniques?" Often the difference in catching bass and not catching bass is your ability to know when to change. Making the right decisions at the correct times will spell victory or defeat for a tournament bass fisherman or a weekend angler. On Table Rock Lake in Missouri, during the second week of March, Mark Davis' ability to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em was the reason he won $100,000 in the BASS tournament there. If you'll read each day's upload this week, you'll see how Davis made those critical decisions at the right time each day to catch more bass than the best 150 fishermen in the nation. This week's information may be some of the most important you'll learn about catching bass. So, don't miss a day this week.

Question: Mark, tell me about that last day.
Davis: After the takeoff, I made the run down the lake without any problem. The weather was good, and I felt confident I could fish the Wiggle Wart and the Series 3 crankbait in the same places where I'd caught bass the day before and produce a winning stringer. As soon as I shut the engine down and began to fish, I caught two keeper bass. By 8:30 a.m., I had a five-fish limit caught, and I was feeling pretty good. About 9:30 a.m., the wind began to blow about 30- to 35-mph and continued to blow all day just that strong. To make accurate casts with the crankbait, you don't need any wind, so casting was really difficult and being able to hold the boat where I wanted to fish was a real challenge. Another problem the wind created was it blew a lot of leaves and pine needles into the water. So, on almost every other cast I'd get some type debris on my crankbaits.

I felt I was in good shape, however, because I had about a 15-pound limit in the livewell, and I'd caught those fish before 8:00 a.m. when the wind started blowing. I felt that unless the other competitors had caught a limit early like I did, I really had a shot to win. When the Wiggle Wart and the Strike King Series 3 failed to produce, I went back to my Strike King spinner bait and caught two nice bass. I also took several fish on the Strike King jig, but the Wiggle Wart produced two big bass.

Question: When you arrived at the weigh-in, were you concerned because you were 2 pounds behind?
Davis: Sure, I was concerned. But I was confident that I'd caught the best stringer of bass that I could catch. As bad as the weather conditions were, I thought I had a chance to overcome that 2-pound deficit. I was going to the scales with 17 pounds, 9 ounces, and I won the tournament by 8 pounds. Roland Martin, who had the lead, only caught 7 pounds. Roland was the only one I was really worried about because he's a seasoned pro who knows how to fish in any kind of weather and has as much, if not more, experience as any angler on the trail. I knew that if anyone could beat me, more than likely, it would be Roland Martin.

Question: What do you feel was the key to your success in winning the $100,000 in this tournament?
Davis: I had to scramble every day of the tournament. Every day but the last day, I had to change where I was fishing, how I was fishing and the baits I was using. I didn't find the bass that won the tournament for me until the last 30 minutes of the next to the last day. However, throughout this tournament, I made right decisions about when to change water, baits and tactics. Experience has taught me not to be afraid to change strategies when the tactic I'm using isn't producing bass, and/or not producing bass that are big enough to win.

Question: Mark, how do you fight the battle with yourself to abandon the plan that has produced bass the day before and go look for new water and a new plan?
Davis: I've learned from experience that if I'm not willing to change when fishing conditions change, then I can't do well in a tournament. Ten or 15 years ago when I first started tournament fishing, making those changes was much more difficult for me than it is today. Experience has taught me you've got to be on the best pattern and use the best lures and the best tactics based not only on the day you're fishing, but the fishing conditions at the moment you're fishing. When fishing conditions change, you can't be afraid to change tactics and lures and look for new water. If I'd been hard-headed and decided that during this tournament I only was going to fish certain creeks with specific tactics, I wouldn't have won. I'd established that stained water was where the bass were. So, if the creek where I was fishing and catching a lot of bass on the day before began to clear up, I knew I had to leave that creek and find stained water in another place. Something I knew about this lake was that most of these creeks didn't carry large populations of bass. So, if I caught four or five bass out of one creek, I may very well have caught all the bass that were in that creek or at least all the bass that were actively feeding in that creek.

Question: Mark, what does this win mean to you, other than the obvious, the $100,000 paycheck you will take home?
Davis: This win is the first BASS win I've had since winning the Bassmaster Classic in 1995. I've won Angler of the Year three times since then, and I've fished consistently well on tour. However, this win is the first one I've had in a major tournament on the BASS circuit since 1995. I feel that it really renews the faith that my sponsors have in me and will continue to have in me. I really needed this win to further my career and prove at least to myself that I could still win a tour event. This win was a great one for me and not only for me, but also for my family and all the people who have believed in me for so long.

Visit the Strike King Web site to learn more.



Check back each day this week for more about MARK DAVIS - BASS FISHING'S TOUGHEST QUESTIONS ANSWERED ...

Day 1 - Establishing the Pattern
Day 2 - Throw It All Out The Window
Day 3 - Throw It All Out The Window Again
Day 4 - Having To Share Water
Day 5 - Knowing When To Hold 'Em And When To Fold 'Em Pays Off

John's Journal