Feature Article: WON BASS Little Lake

WON BASS: ‘Little lake’ thinking for the U.S. Open


LAKE MEAD, Nev. — With the announcement of an even heftier top prize in the West’s iconic U.S. Open this October, there has been a buzz in the air. And more than that, the buzz has stimulated more potential competitors to check their calendars, put aside resources and make real plans to compete.

smalllakesSMALL LAKES CAN teach you things about fishing crowded big lakes. You have to be smart.

But with every action, of course, there is a reaction. Growing fields have progressively led to heavier prefishing, and that reality has in turn had its effect on bass in the more popular parts of the lake. But with an anticipated boost in the size of the actual field — some estimating a full 500 competitors in 250 boats — there is concern that “crowded water” could truly affect the outcome.

Although tournament fishermen are generally known for their respect of other competitors and their fishing areas, the fact is, the parking lots will be full at Callville Bay. And certainly, the areas that show the most potential during the prefish period are going to be the ones that will see the most fishing pressure during the competition.

If not an actual physical battle, the Open most certainly will become a psychological battlefield. What can you do to prepare? Here are some ideas, taken from decades of fishing much smaller bodies of water than beautiful Lake Mead — but which may help this fall.

Practice on Busy Days

An old trick on little lakes is to take a day and fish the lake when it is plugged — of which, most Saturdays fit the bill. Whether the bite is on, or so-so, anglers fish when they can. And given the information pipeline, people seem to know the hot areas, and in very short order, the hot baits.

For those, however, that don’t know the top areas, it’s still easy to see where the boats are working, and (even as you run by at 50) it’s not hard to see the methods employed. You don’t need to know which ninja is in what wrapped boat in a given area, you only need to recognize that he (and so many of his fellow anglers) are working the east sides of the coves and they’re fishing baitcasters.

The inverse is also true. At those same busy times, if you blow by islands in Overton and there isn’t a boat to be seen, that’s a pretty good indicator that’s not a hot zone. As my team partner and I like to say, “Let’s let the other guys prefish for us.”

GO TO THE ends of any arm or bay in practice so you know what’s there.

Go to the ‘ends’

From the Gary Klein (former Open Champ) book of prefishing, you need to go to the ends of the lake (or cove or bay) and don’t stop short. While most entrants in the Open, even those coming from Japan or Korea, can tell you what you’ll likely find at the end of the Overton or Gregg Basin or Vegas Wash.

But it wouldn’t hurt to see for yourself. By the same token, if you haven’t checked the back of Bonelli Bay or Temple Bay or any other substantial cove, how will you know what’s back there? I’ve written it so many times, but it always jabs me. Klein said, “You don’t want to get beat by the guy who went around one more corner.”

Find contingencies

Every top pro I’ve ever interviewed has a steely resolve and a core-shot of confidence that allows him to believe he’s going to succeed. But over a career, many have confessed that they stayed too long in their best water, when their best water turned on them — as in changing due to high winds or muddy run-off.

Sometimes bad conditions are forecast, and sometimes they happen while you’re running to the area. I would never advise a top pro to look elsewhere, but in the back of their heads, I know they usually have a back-up plan to get them to similar locations that are wiped out.

Still, it’s hard to abandon that which was so promising. It’s hard to be stone logical and not believe the fish are not still present. But these pros all know when it’s not fishing the same. So, what is reality? Is good water that isn’t producing really better than so-so water where you can actually get a bite?

Whenever practicing, keep an eye out for something (area, compensating bait, retrieve) you can fall back on. And then break glass in an emergency.

dontfishtoDON’T FISH TO a spot in competition, go right to the key section first or you may come up short. Photo by Kona Borja

Never fish ‘to the spot’

Most of the conflicts on busy lakes (or portions of lakes that are busy) are caused, initially, by un­real angler expectations. In the case of encroachment (real or imagined) it kind of goes like this. You stop short of the sweet spot (maybe only 100 yards) with the idea it is a decent bank and you’ll just mine a few and then stop on the prime rib.

You are disappointed after a few casts that you didn’t get the bonus bite or two and as you are mulling the situation, you don’t hear the closing outboard roar on the other side of the “spot.” But, still confident, you know you haven’t hit the best section yet so you keep casting and moving forward.

And then what happens? Now 50 yards away, the other boat and its occupants have moved in, sight unseen with trolling motor down and are casting to your key spot. It’s a punch in the gut. And if things are really turning to fertilizer, one or both of them hooks up!

But whose fault is that? On a little lake you would never fish to the spot, you would go right to the sweet spot and then try to protect the 25-yard zone by edging forward (or backward).

Same should apply to a key spot on a big lake. Get to it and make yourself big, meaning show your broadside to any boats looking to come within half a mile of your area. Point yourself toward what you might also like to fish, possibly even backing up to create that illusion. Most guys don’t want the reputation of cutting others off, and they assume the bow of your boat is pointed the direction you’re moving. Help them think that — or it’s on you.

A ROUND PEG means having the right tool for each and every situation on Lake Mead.

Put round pegs in round holes

That junk-fishing, 3-time Open champ Cliff Pirch got me thinking about this one. The Arizona man with 15 rods on the deck — what is he really doing?

The whole principle of pattern fishing is that bass in certain areas or conditions tend to behave the same, leaving the angler who figures it out to catch several on one lure or method. But big schools of bass at Lake Mead are unheard of and even wolfpacks are rare.

For that reason, there can be fish at a variety of terrain, cover and depth options that lend themselves to specific methods best suited to the task. In other words, for every round hole, you choose a round peg. Maybe you don’t need three rods for every possible option, but Pirch has proven you need to be able to match any niche with an appropriate tool — if you have it with you. Search bait, target bait, contour hugger or whatever. That’s the match-up you want.

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