Jan 22, 2009

Hit your mark, out fish your buddy

Have you ever been fishing with a friend struggled, or even blanked, while watching your partner have immense success? I’ve seen this scenario play out time after time. For example, last year I went fishing with two friends. One got blanked while I and the other combined for 20 or so bass in a few hours. All three of us were throwing similar patterns and we were fishing the same water out of the same boat. It doesn’t make much sense, but I’ve put a lot of thought into why this keeps happening to good people. It has a little to do with luck, and a little to do with your position on the boat. However the key is often skill. I’m not talking about casting skill or retrieve skill. I’m talking about having spent enough time on the water to think like a fish. An experienced bass angler knows where the fish are. For example, knowing that bass go deeper on bluebird sky days can come in handy from time to time.

While the guy on the bow gets first crack at fish, an experienced angler on the stern can capitalize on the bowman’s misses and also have good or better day. The key for everyone on the boat is to hit their mark first. When you pull up to a spot, experience will tell you (sometimes it screams) the single most likely spot to hold a fish. Concentrate on that spot first, then on to the second, third, etc. A new angler will pull into a spot and throw his lure around, wildly searching while you’re more focused. You might not always find a fish on your first cast and he may, but over the course of the day I think you’ll have the advantage. Unfortunately the only way you can improve your skills at this is to either observe your partner’s casts or to try and read up on the subject in a book or websites such as the fine example you’re now reading.

Now on to the good stuff... I’ve taken the liberty to snag some pictures from the net to get my point across and try and transfer some knowledge. Sorry, but I felt it was important to provide examples I’ve never actually fished to better simulate real situations you’ll be in. These pictures were not chosen at random, I chose them to represent some very specific conditions you're bound to find. In each picture I’ve circled my first cast location and provided some commentary on how I picked it. Everyone will have opinions on this, but this is what works well for me.

I'm starting with a nice easy one. It's a picture of a spill way with a log dam floating against it. First off this has a spill way, I love spill ways. You'll always find bass holding tight to the concrete walls so normally I'd pick a corner and start working along the wall. However in this case the situation changes because of the logs. The logs provide cover while the walls provide structure, so you'll likely find bass hanging out where the two meet. After throwing to my circle, move to the corners and finish by paint those walls with little bits of Senko rubber.

The second one is also easy, but only if you know what to look for. First thing to notice is all the rip rap lining the shore. This is always good structure for smallies. Add in the transition between rip rap and sand and you have a definite place to place your first cast. After starting at the transition, fish your way on up the rip rap until you get to the other transition. Also notice the slope of the shore is pretty "shallow." The ground will continue this same slope underwater for a ways, so keep in mind your depth. If you don't find fish against the shore, move a little deeper.

Now we're getting a little more tricky. At first glance you see lots of cover, and a nice submerged log. Most anglers will fish the log first, but I'd take it one step further: I'd cast to the island first. The convergence of two kinds of structure (tree and island) plus the cover (weeds) this is the best spot. However, I don't want to discount fishing along the tree then poking through the weeds, I just want you to beat your buddy to the good spot.

Now we're really getting tricky. First thing to notice is all the structure, most people can't get past that and I agree there are all kinds of places to hold fish here. However, also notice that you're fishing a river/stream, also notice what appears to be a channel on the left. I'd first focus on the structure next to the channel. Bass are ambush predators, so they can sit there and wait for food to just float on by.

Finally I'm posting a good example of one of the hardest things to read but at the same time the most common. You can replace the lilly pads with any sort of weed and my approach would be the same. Most people see all the grass and become overwelmed, not knowing where to go first. However in the above example there are a few clues to help. First notice there is a convergence of two kinds of cover (lilly pads and shrubs). Thats a good start, now for the hard part. Vegetation usually grows in specific depth ranges, so the area infront of my circle that has no weeds indicates there is probably a underwater cove where the water is deeper than the lilly pads can grow in. My circle is where the structure (cove) intersects the two cover types.

WARNING: Use this strategy at your own risk. If you always out fish your fishing buddy, you might soon find them to be just your buddy – no fishing. I’ve never intentionally used this strategy to out fish a novice friend. However, I do use it sparingly (perhaps subconsciously) because who wants to get blanked? First you have to consider your buddy; is he/she the type to get upset, or will they be excited about witnessing your success? I’ve also found myself laying off for another reason: your friend can’t learn how to be successful if he/she doesn’t catch fish; this is the trial-by-fire method. As a counter point, some people will learn better by watching what you do, in that case you both win. The one situation you can always just have at it is when you’re fishing with an equally experienced angler and you’re knee deep in a bragging rights competition, but I have only fished with two such people. Now that I have revealed this strategy, we'll see if anyone but those two will still come fishing with me.


  1. Very nice blog. I found you thanks to a tip from BassfishingDem. I am always on the lookout for bass fishing blogs and frankly it is a little surprising that you have been around so long and I didn't find you. My main blog is Bass Pundit and I have been blogging since 2004. Your the 4th IL bass fishing blog that I am aware of.

    I don't know how the two sidebar thing is going to work out for you. I am used to blogs only having one because that is the way most blogs are and so I prefer it when there is just one.

  2. I've kept this blog for a while now, but until recently was content sharing fishing pictures with friends. Just last month I began trying to attract new readers and it's been slow going. It's hard to write about bass fishing when the water is frozen.

    Thanks for your input and thanks for your cross-link.


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