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Playing in the mud

Playing in the mud

If you’ve been following Bassmaster LIVE, you know that the lake conditions we’re dealing with here at Lake Texoma in the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest are flood-like.

It’s part of being a pro angler and fishing around the country. You have to be ready to deal with whatever Mother Nature deals you.

This week she dealt us a doozy with high muddy water that began dropping rapidly.

We’ve faced similar situations over the years. I remember a Bassmaster event earlier in my career on Buggs Island when the lake was extremely high. We also had to deal with it on the Mississippi River a couple of times.

You can’t let that get into your head. You simply have to keep up with the changing water levels and make daily adjustments, if not hourly.

Years ago, we didn’t have the Internet to check up-to-the-minute lake levels. All we could do was get the schedules of when dam operators planned to pull water. We had to fish by the seat of our pants.

And while we do have more timely information we can utilize, it’s just as important to adjust to what you see happening on the lake.

Here, for example, the lake was rapidly rising during practice and was every bit of 9 feet above summer pool. When competition began, it started dropping and likely will drop a foot a day.

Most anglers know that when the water is rising, bass move to the bank and when it is falling they pull out. But that isn’t always the case. I’ve learned over the years that fish will react differently from one lake to another.

For example, the bass in the Buggs Island event stayed in the bushes when the water was falling until their backs were out of the water!

And on Sam Rayburn during a spawning tournament, the minute the water dropped an inch the bass fled the bushes and schooled out in the lake along a grass line.

Bass’ natural reaction is to move into the flooded cover and creeks when the lake is coming up. But muddy water can change that, because I believe they don’t like that silted water in their gills.

So, if you can find clear water in muddy, flood conditions that can be key. It’s really important in river systems, where I’ve found fish will stack up in a clear corner when the rest of the lake is muddy.

Having said that, you have to factor in the body of water. If this were Table Rock where the water is always clear, the fish would be freaked out by the clarity. But at places like Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula and here at Texoma, the fish are accustomed to dirty water and can tolerate it better.

So, the key in this event is to move and adjust with the ever-changing water conditions.

The fact the Top 12 after Friday will have Saturday off adds another element to the strategy. The guy who wins here will be the one who figures it out the quickest.

Me? Well, I had a terrible practice and was pleasantly surprised with my first day catch. I know to make adjustments every day and it’s challenging.

On the other hand, I love tournaments like this that make you pay attention to every detail and adjust on the fly. I learn something every day and am amazed at how much I’ve learned about bass habits this year.

It’s what I live for and why I love tournament fishing so much.

And like I say, “It’s all about the attitude!”