I really respect the knowledge, experience and insight of tourney bass anglers. There is an incredible amount of competition twelve months of the year that drives innovation in tackle development and fishing tactics. Many of the saltwater lures and techniques that we use for striped bass, redfish, snook and sea trout have their origins in freshwater bassin'. There is also an amazing array of media coverage of the tournaments, personalities, tackle and skills. I've been listening to various podcasts this spring while waiting for the snow to melt, working on the boats, cutting the grass. My friends and clients who would never stoop to tie on a gummy minnow would be dismayed, but I subscribe to podcasts of Bass Champ Journal and Bass Edge.
Bass guys are always talking about trying to pattern the fish - where are the fish and what are they doing now - based on season, water temp, forage availability, weather, fishing pressure, water clarity, reproductive cycle, currents and more. We do the same thing when we fish for striped bass but we just don't have a hundred anglers on the same watershed being interviewed by every imaginable media type after each day on the water. Repeat this event in multiple states (really around the world) and then do it again next weekend and every weekend throughout the year and you really start to collect some information. Maybe the most amazing thing about this whole phenomenon is that guys in the same tournament (same watershed, environmental conditions, seasonal influences) can be successful with wildly different techniques and tackle all on the same day.
There are times when I've been cleaning the shed, listening to an interview with some recent winner when I've said out loud, "YES." The striped bass and the largemouth bass aren't even in the same family, but there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the guys you see on Saturday morning TV. As anglers we try to figure out a pattern or patterns while we're on the water but we also try to predict a pattern while we hitch up the boat, make sandwiches, check the weather, rig rods, select a launch ramp, review charts, tie up something special. One of the things that a client is paying for is the guide's experience on the water yesterday and the day before and at this time last year and the year before. Some nights I set my alarm and fall asleep reviewing my plan for where we'll fish at what time and what we'll use and what we'll try. Other times I've got all sorts of alternatives and possibilities and I don't know which way I'm going to head as I pull away from the launch ramp.
The easiest decision is to go where the fish were yesterday (well, more specifically, where you caught fish yesterday) or not go where the fish weren't yesterday ( or where you didn't catch them yesterday). That is certainly better than someone relying on memories of where they caught fish two years ago (in a different month, during different weather) but it isn't always the best decision. Most of us will start with the belief that past performance will predict future earning despite the disclaimer that we hear from our broker. More often than not, that's a good decision. But on the days of "not" how long do you stay with your faith in a pattern and how quickly do you discover a new pattern? What will be rewarded, persistence or innovation? What is needed, a subtle shift or fresh approach? Should I stay or should I go?
I can't recall if I was cleaning up the lawn scars from the plow or packing away our ski gear and I can't recall if it was Kevin VanDam, Alton Jones or Gary Klein but I do remember hearing some pro say "you can't fish yesterday's bite". The phrase has stuck with me since then and I think about it almost every day now that the fish are in. These are guys who spend significant time, energy and money to develop a plan for the next tournament stop but they get paid to catch fish today. I share that economic reality and my clients don't want to hear about the epic day we had in this spot when they weren't in the boat so I go to bed thinking should I stay or should I go? When I pull out of Morse Cove in six hours which direction should I head and when the plan doesn't go as planned do I need to change flies or change my mind set?
Capt. Peter Fallon