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The pitfalls of previous experience

There are times when knowing a lot about a lake can work to your advantage, but there are others when it can work against you.

That’s what happened to me at Lake Guntersville last week. I’ve fished there several times, and with all that history in my head, I had a difficult time fishing with an open mind.

The solution, as simple as it sounds, is to examine the exact conditions of a lake at each moment and make decisions based upon what patterns might prevail.

It’s only natural to fall back on past experiences when things aren’t going well, but you really have to focus and get as much current information before making a decision on where and how to fish.

That’s important on places like Guntersville in the spring where a lot of variables come into play, like the changing grass patterns, enormous fishing pressure and fickle nature of the fish.

Our event was held when vacationing anglers from around the country converged on Guntersville, knowing spring is the time to catch big fish.

I could count at least 40 boats in every area I went.

Another factor was that the bass were in all phases of the spawn and were constantly on the move. Conditions changed by the hour.

Just look how this thing shook out. Skeet Reese said he had a horrible practice and wound up winning. I had a solid practice, shaking off several 5 pound fish, yet I found myself a step behind during competition.

Also, you couldn’t fish fast because the fish were scattered. You had to be methodical, fishing for individual fish that were spawning, just finishing the spawn or coming into the spawning area.

The mood of the big fish and locations they used changed by the hour. That’s what makes fishing spawning bass such a fickle time of the season.

Mike Iaconelli handled it well. He didn’t win, but he did a great job of blocking out the past and fishing the right structures at the right time of day based on the conditions he saw.

A lot of guys who have a good history on this lake struggled because they did the same as me; instead of staying on top of the conditions they fished areas they caught them in the past.

Also, I shouldn’t have let the local fishing pressure affect the decisions I made. I tried to stay away from those areas getting pounded, overlooking the fact that wind direction and conditions were right for many of those spots. I should have gotten right in there and slugged it out with them.

Instead, I’d tell myself I know of a better spawning pocket and drive by several others that better suited the current conditions.

In a tournament like this, you have to make the right adjustments early and then grind it out to get a good stringer. You need the key bite early to clue you in, not four or five hours later in the tournament.

It’s hard to not get caught up in past experiences, but to be a highly successful angler you must force yourself to pay close attention to the weather patterns, water temperature, wind direction and the lake’s power generation schedule when choosing places to fish. You have to monitor conditions by the minute and rely on your observation skills - not what happened in previous years.

Once again, I learned a lot in this tournament and will put that experience to good use in the future!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!