So your fishing day isn’t going so good. You are overrun by guides taking their customers out, a bunch of people suddenly discover there are bass in the area you’ve been fishing, and the airboaters are making so much noise you can’t think straight. When chaos descends on you, you need to be able to change things up in order to catch fish.
The situation I described may sound a tad comical to you, but this is exactly what happened to me in a tournament a couple of weeks back. I was so frustrated I almost put my new Nitro back on the trailer. Instead, I persevered and wound up winning the tournament. But the only reason that happened was we changed our tactics completely. Let me share with you what we did that day on Lake Kissimmee to catch some bass.
First of all, when Missy and I go out fishing, tournament or not, I rig up a lot of different combinations of baits. I want a range of soft plastics, covering various colors, sizes and shapes. I also want a spinnerbait, a chatterbait, a crankbait, and various topwater rigs tied on rods and ready to grab. Then we go fish. I know it seems like overkill, but trust me, I use them all in search of what may bite best.
In practice, we found that the far shoreline of Lake Cypress had nice bass and we could catch them on a Rebel Pop-R. Who doesn’t like catching bass this way? So that was one spot we were good with. I had fished around Brahma Island and Jack’s Slough the weekend before with no luck. We have countless spots on Kissimmee, but the way the bass bite was on with that Pop-R, I was confident we could catch a limit early … as long as we could get out to the bass and not have a ton of boat traffic.
We no more than got started when two guides with their clients roared up on the same spot I was fishing. Now, these are big areas with plenty of room to fish. The problem I had was that while I was sitting still letting them get their clients set up and deciding which way to go, one of them came within a few feet of running into my new boat. After getting the captain’s attention, he apologized. Then he went right through the area I had intended to fish, followed by his buddy in the other guide boat.
After watching them catch four bass, I decided to move on and let them have the area. It was clear that my bait would be no match for the big shiners they were dragging around. I went to another part of Cypress, nothing there. Hit the mouth of Lake Hatchineha, nothing there. Tried two spots in the river, nothing there. Checked the mouth of the river leading to Kissimmee, nothing there. Went to a spot on the north end of the lake, nothing there. By then, it was 10:15 and I had zero bass in the well.
So what should I do? My pattern of topwater bass had been run over. I hadn’t found any life anywhere else I stopped. I made the decision to head back down the lake to Jack’s Slough and fish the same area that I got nothing in when we practiced.
You may be asking why, and that’s a good question. There was something about that spot in practice that made me not completely give up on it. While we hadn’t caught anything, we did raise fish in there on our Gambler Big EZ swimbaits. Given the conditions we had, I thought it might be worth a second chance.
My first cast saw my braided line wrap around the eye of my rod, cutting the line and sending my bait flying. I was really getting upset by now. But after seeing one big boil inside the sparse grass lines, I retied and started fishing again.
That’s when things got going. We caught a limit of bass inside of 90 minutes. That Big EZ really started to work. We made long casts inside the grass and around the scattered pads and started catching bass one after the other.
We went from one end of the chain just south of the lock to the extreme other end of the chain, and we changed our tactics completely. That is a big chance when you have zero bass in your well.
We went from topwaters to swimbaits. We went from fishing over hydrilla to casting at grass and pads. After getting a read on the day, the conditions, and everything else that was going on, we knew we had to change something. The change was drastic, but it was needed and it paid off. Because we were willing to adapt, we wound up with the biggest bass and heaviest weight of the day
When you get caught in that situation, you need to be able to make a new plan. A lot of this comes from time on the water. You have to have that confidence to know you can make a move to someplace you’ve had success in the past. Maybe it won’t be the exact same spot, but to water that is similar.
Don’t ever get hung up on one area and beat yourself to death. If I’m not catching anything, I’m going to go try something else — preferably something new, something different, and in water I’m not used to fishing. That’s how you gain experience. You’re already out there, so why not explore?
Sometimes those changes won’t amount to much. But sometimes, they’ll reward you handsomely. Don’t get stuck — don’t be afraid to make a change.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.