It’s so easy to get caught in a pattern. You go to the same lake and you fish the same way every time. You throw the same baits at the same spots, hoping that the fish you caught there in the past are still around. But you start to see your results dwindle and it becomes less fun. How do you get out of this rut?
Trust me, as someone who just loves to fish — whether it is in a tournament or just for a fun day on the water — this has happened to me more than you know. I’ve found myself visiting the same areas on the same lakes every time I went there. I became a victim of my own previous success and now thought that every time I went to those areas I would be rewarded with big bags of bass. (Insert buzzer sound here) Not true; it just don’t work that way.
You really need to challenge yourself to do something different. Look at fishing techniques that you have seen on TV or read about in articles. It’s very easy to go out, make a few fruitless casts with a crankbait and say, “Well, that didn’t work — back to the old reliable.” I would challenge you to look deeper into what makes certain baits work. What conditions are they best suited for? Under different water clarity and depth, what colors work better than others?
This past fishing year in our club was an eye-opener for me. Missy and I started off the year pretty good in some trying conditions early and did OK. Then, we hit a two-lake stretch where we caught nothing. I looked back and analyzed the situation. The conditions of the water on those two different lakes had changed dramatically, but I fished the same spots the same way. It’s like trying to pound the square block into the round hole. It isn’t going in.
After that second tournament I told Missy we wouldn’t be revisiting old spots unless we knew the conditions were right and we could make them work. We ventured off and found new water in the same lakes, which absolutely improved our fortunes. We went on a string of successful tournaments that included top-three finishes in a four-month span. In that stretch, we won big bass twice as well. All because we did what we should always be doing: We looked for biting bass based on conditions instead of beating the banks of the same old spots.
So how do you just pick different spots or different techniques to catch bass? For me, it’s easy. It’s something I used to do when I was really chasing, trying to fish professionally. First, you determine your favorite way to fish and then don’t use it on that trip. Then you look at all of the characteristics of the lake you’re going to fish. Determine what techniques would be successful, outside of what you always like to do, and go out and give it a try. This will force you to move around a little bit and try techniques that you maybe have never used before.
Basically, it gets you out of your comfort zone. For most anglers who fall into these ruts, that’s all it is. In the end, all we want to do is catch bass, so of course we try to go back to what has worked before. But by opening up your thought process and trying other techniques, you can stumble on things that are very successful.
I did this about six years ago with swimbaits. My buddy and I were getting clobbered in a tournament. He suggested throwing a topwater bait. Well, I wanted to fish in and around the pads, and I was not about to do that with anything that had a treble hook. I asked if he had anything in a soft plastic I could throw on the surface. He handed me a big swimbait which I put on a regular hook and fired it back in the pads.
Did it work? Let’s just say that after that day, I have never put the swimbait down. Now I use it in all kinds of different situations — and I catch bass with it. We limited out in about 30 minutes that day I first tried it, and I have never looked back.
But had I not been open-minded enough to try it, I would have never known what that bait is capable of doing. So I challenge all of you anglers out there: Get away from your comfort zone and try something new. You may be surprised at the results you end up netting.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.