Keeping the faith at Bull Shoals
April 21, 2012 – by Kevin VanDam
This week’s Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Bull Shoals is the kind that tests your patience, your wit and your inner strength.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this lake. It’s a great place to fish, and the bass are really biting this week.
However, there are times when that can pose some unique problems, like it did for most of the field on Day One.
Take a look at the numbers. There were 95 limits caught by 99 guys in the field. Yet, two-thirds of those limits weighed in were less than 14 pounds.
If you’re gonna win, that’s not going to cut it. Just about every guy in the weigh-in line lamented that they caught a lot of fish but couldn’t get the big bite in the boat.
I was one of them. I can’t even guess how many fish I caught overall, but I know I had at least 30 keepers. Unfortunately, I didn’t boat enough of the quality bites I got to lift me into the upper echelon. My 13 pounds, 4 pounds is respectable, but left me in 48th place.
I had my chances. I hooked several good fish but lost them. It happens, especially when you’re fishing around the spawn season when so many fish are slapping at the bait and not trying to eat it.
I didn’t do anything wrong and I feel good about the way I fished. You just have to learn to deal with it. You can’t stomp around in the boat, throw your rod or let it get to you.
A tournament like this can build a lot of tension that will work against you. It’s easy to start second guessing yourself but that’s only self defeating.
You can’t let that happen; turn those misfortunes into positive experiences and try to figure out what made that bigger fish bite and then duplicate it.
That’s how I’ll approach today. I know I’m doing the right things. I know the larger females are setting up on very specific banks I’m targeting. I trust my instincts and realize days like Thursday are going to happen and the next day will be better.
I’m sure several anglers are fighting the temptation to make changes in lures. You think, “If I change from a crankbait to a jig or spinnerbait, maybe my hook-up ratio will be better.” There’s nothing wrong with that but you can’t stray far from your strengths. I’ll keep throwing what I know works and keep grinding. The fish are there. I know it.
Rain and colder weather will be a factor on Day Two and that could help. You never know how the fish are going to react to changes; you have to keep an open mind. I’ll fish my way and let the bass tell me what they want. Those first few bites will help me determine whether they are aggressive, and I can adapt from there.
The good news is we’re all getting a lot of bites. We’ve had events where we all struggled to get bites, and that’s extremely challenging and can make it harder to keep a good mental attitude.
And like I say…it’s all about the attitude!