While the new generation of bass pros finished in the top spots in the Bassmaster Elite event on the Delta this weekend, it should be noted that several of the 12 finalists on Sunday were among the “household names” of the last 25 years.
Yes, California’s Skeet Reese lost by a mere ounce to Virginian John Crews who weighed 72 pounds, 6 ounces in the win. But I found it heartening to see the likes of Shaw Grigsby, Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer, Gary Klein and Zell Roland all around on the final day.
While none of these long-timers is ready to retire, the fact is, the pro game’s best have gotten younger and younger over the last decade. We now see mostly 30 and 40-year olds holding up the oversized checks, and there is a reason for this.
Many of the national tournaments are held when the water is warmer and the fish more aggressive. Those conditions favor the hard-charging, athletic fisherman who can cover water all day long with some type of reaction bait. In other words, the advantage goes to the younger pros.
But some conditions, typically colder water or unstable weather, require more deliberate fishing. Brauer, Grigsby and Klein are all known for their flipping prowess. However, it was Rick Clunn who voiced the changes he made in his game, which put him in concert with many of the rest of the top finishers.
At least twice on the ESPN broadcasts, he spoke about his analysis of his own approach over the last several years when he has not been as successful. He admitted, “I don’t do well in the spring tournaments,” and he determined the reason, “I like to fish fast.”
In kicking off his pro season in California (of course he must travel to Clear Lake next week) he determined that he needed “to slow down.” While he did not ultimately vie for the Delta championship, it a long season based on points, finishing in the top 10 is a major upgrade in his admitted “down” season.
Of course, there is part of me that is sort of disappointed that one ounce cost Reese $75,000 in winnings. On the other hand, he didn’t disappoint with his solid sacks each of four days, in a tournament everybody described was tough as nails. And his arch-rival Kevin VanDam—another fast-paced angler--was well down in the standings.
So from a fishing lesson point of view, seeing that slower, more deliberate presentations and not 400-pound thrust trolling motors on wrapped boats can produce for anglers of any age. And while the race may indeed go to the swiftest, when the fish are sluggish, you need to follow their lead.
Bass columnist George Kramer, having dropped 15 pounds in the last two weeks is also much swifter, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.