Bass meteorology 101

I am not a weatherman ... and I don't play one on TV, but when I'm practicing for a tournament and trying to put together a successful game plan for the event, I often find myself looking at the weather forecast and trying to figure out just what the bass will be doing once the tournament starts.

This week's Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Dardanelle is a classic example. During our practice period (Monday through Wednesday), the forecast calls for rain and high temperatures between 80 and 90. Then, on Thursday when the tournament starts, it shifts to mostly sunny with highs that are 15 to 20 degrees cooler.

That's a big difference in weather, and the shift is scheduled to happen just as we transition from practice to competition.

Weather changes like that — even those with such perfectly bad timing — don't make practice worthless, but they do change the way tournament anglers have to approach practice and the first part of competition.

My preparation for this tournament began months ago when I started looking at past events on Dardanelle, most particularly the 2005 Bassmaster Elite 50 tournament won by Davy Hite; it was held at about the same time of year. Those previous events can give me an idea of what weights to expect, and I can compare the weather, water levels and flow rates to get a picture of how similar the conditions might be. I also look back at any notes I made of the events I fished, where I fished and how I did.

Since we're going to have warm, cloudy and rainy weather during practice this week, I'm expecting the fishing to be great. But with a cold front coming through in the middle of the week, things could be much tougher once the tournament starts. Weekend anglers face this sort of thing all the time and rarely have the opportunity to get updated information after the weather change.

The key, of course, is to figure out where the fish will be after the front passes through and what they'll bite. Buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and wake baits might be great in practice, but I doubt they'll be much of a factor once competition begins.

When you're really catching them in practice, it's tough not to go right back out there and try the same things in the same places once the tournament begins even though conditions have changed.

In fact, if you've been tearing them up in one area on power fishing baits, I think it's a mistake not to get right back out there and see if you can still catch them that way.

Mid-season report card

I don't know about you, but when I was in school we got report cards about halfway through the grading period. For me, that tradition is still alive even though I'm not in school anymore. The midway point of the Bassmaster Elite Series season is a good time to look back and evaluate my performance.Of course, the real report card for Elite anglers is the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Those grades don't lie. They tell you exactly how you stack up against the rest of the field. Right now I'm 58th out of 108 anglers — about as close to the middle of the pack as you can get.When I grade myself on the key things that go into my fishing, here's what my report card looks like.Preseason Preparation = CA lot goes into getting ready for a season on the Elite Series, and this year I didn't do as good a job as I should have. I didn't spend as much time on tackle preparation as I usually do, and it's cost me.There have been a couple of times when I wanted to try a bait or technique, but the stuff I needed was back at home. Not only does that hurt you because you can't try some things that might work, but it takes your head out of the game ... just a little — maybe just enough to hurt you. Instead of being completely focused on the task of fishing, you find yourself thinking, "I wonder how I'd be doing if I had this or that with me?"Practice = C


"If we catch a big fish, it's released immediately," said MLF pro Edwin Evers in a Facebook video on Friday morning before the first launch. "We've got a judge in each boat and they've all got certified scales so anything in the slot counts."So you're going to see some really, really big weights," Evers added. "I would expect probably 30 pounds a day to (be necessary) to win this thing over three days."So it's going to be a lot of fun."If that's the "MLF Effect" taking place at Fork this weekend, then what about the actual fishing itself? In other words, what will the pros find on the water?For starters, they will find more water since very heavy thunderstorms on Thursday afternoon dumped several inches of rain into Fork and its watershed.That led to some angler uncertainty on Friday morning since this week's practice has been very good under stable conditions.Still, even with the rainfall and overnight lake rise, most anglers are expecting a lights out event to unfold.Especially given the wide-open nature of this year's fishing options.In most years, the 50 pros competing in this event would be looking almost exclusively offshore to win a mid-May tournament at the 27,264-acre Fork. But given the chilly weather this winter and spring, the 2014 spawning run is a bit behind schedule on the lake near Quitman.This week, that has meant that there are still some big sowbelly bass making babies up in the skinny water.- See more at:

Keith Combs’ World Record Wins Toyota Texas Bass Classic

The world championship of bass fishing, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic was decided by a world record-breaking performance from two-time winner and defending TTBC Champion Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas. Combs broke the tour-level world record today with a amassing 110 pounds following three days of competition at historic Lake Fork. The previous record for a 5-bass-limit was set in 2000 at Clear Lake, California by Byron Velvick with 83 pounds, 5 ounces. Combs’ total over three days broke the record by a staggering 26 pounds, 11 ounces.

Real Winners of the TTBC – The People & Youth of Texas

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic was conceived by current and former TPWD Commissioners Dan Friedkin and Donato Ramos, respectively, along with professional angler Kelly Jordon. The goal for the event is to create a premier fishing event while supporting TPWD’s conservation efforts by delivering significant funding for youth fishing and outreach programs. Their vision was to also focus national attention on Texas’ outdoor resources and TPWD’s programs and successes.Now in its eighth year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and all the citizens and anglers of the great state of Texas are very proud to have the TTBC back on Lake Fork to showcase what Texas’ best bass fishery – Lake Fork is all about. Dave Terre (Chief of Management and Research, TPWD Inland Fisheries) says it best. “We take a lot of pride in the fishery we’ve produced here with our local partners – the Sabine River Authority, Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association which is a local Friends of Reservoirs Chapter, and the local community. We appreciate the opportunities that the TTBC provides us to market our story to a nationwide audience.”Let’s look at freshwater fishing across Texas right now. There are about two million freshwater anglers in the state and they generate about $ 2.3 billion dollars for the Texas state economy. With large numbers like that, Texas is one of the fishingest states in the USA, and TPWD takes their fishing and the management of those state fishing resources very seriously. Freshwater fishing is economically important to the state, and it is a major way of life for a lot of Texas citizens and a lot of local communities that are supported by Texas fisheries – their schools and municipal improvements are supported with the tax revenue that is generated at their lakes by fishing-related commerce. “We need to keep our fisheries thriving, which will help keep our fishing-related businesses healthy – that is important and the TPWD recognizes that for sure,” emphasizes Dave Terre. TTBC FUNDS TPWD’S NEIGHBORHOOD FISHIN’ PROGRAM

Two places

This is one of those weeks where I wish I could be in two places at once — and I'm not talking about being out on the points with a crankbait while I'm also in the backs of creeks with a spinnerbait. It's more than that, and this is one of those weeks where the tournament is not the most important thing for me to be thinking about.I'm off to a slow start this year, but there's plenty of time to turn things around. Going into the Table Rock tournament, I'm in 86th place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings — well back of where I'd like to be.I left the St. Johns River a little frustrated. I thought I had made the cut to fish Day 3, but miscalculated. Instead of trying to add to my weight on Day 2, I decided to save some things for the next day and it cost me.When something like that happens, you have to forget about it and find a way to get excited about the next event. The only thing worse than having a bad tournament or two is letting them adversely affect your performance in the next one ... or two or three or more.For whatever reason, I've always been able to move on pretty easily. I tend not to get too high after a good tournament or too low after a bad one. If you stay with tournament fishing long enough, you're going to have a lot of highs and lows. You have to measure your success or failure by something other than the standings at the end of the day.I try to assess my performance against what I found in practice. I'm successful when I maximize what I found, and I've failed when I don't. Some of my best tournaments were when I finished in the middle of the pack but effectively exploited what I learned in practice.When you're a tournament angler, success is all about making good decisions and fishing clean. If you do that, you've "won."So Table Rock is one of the two places I want to be this week. The other is back home in Oklahoma.My daughter Kylee is going to her first prom on Saturday, and I can't be there because I'm fishing.

Practice: Part 2

Practicing for a bass tournament can be a complicated thing. Over the years, I've found what works for me, but I can't say it’s the answer for everyone. Ultimately, every tournament angler needs to find what works for him based on the waters he's fishing, the time available and the tournament rules and format.When I practice for a tournament, one of the first things I consider is whether the lake or river is going to be all about an area or a pattern. Florida waters tend to be about areas. Man-made reservoirs — especially large ones — tend to be about patterns. It's important to know whether you're looking for an area or a pattern.Another factor is the length of the tournament you're fishing. If it's a one-day event, I'll try to find the best area I can and get there first. If it's a multi-day event, I know I'll probably need a strong pattern to do well.If I'm practicing for a tournament on a body of water I've never seen before, I usually approach it one of two ways. I'll either start fishing right away, working around a creek or pocket to see where my bites come from, or I'll drive around until I find something that looks good to me.A big part of practice is having my tools ready. Sometimes that means lots of rods and reels on the deck, all rigged with different baits that I think could be important in the tournament.As an example, if I'm fishing a midland impoundment during the postspawn, I'll probably rig up a couple of deep-diving crankbaits, a football jig, a walking bait, a buzzbait, a popper, a shaky head, a drop shot, a deep-running swimbait, a big flutter spoon, a couple of flippin' and pitching baits, a finesse jig, a spinnerbait and a Carolina rig. I realize that's a lot of gear, but I want to be able to try different things quickly. If I don't already have them rigged and ready, I probably won't stop to do it on the water.On a midland impoundment in the postspawn, I'll probably pick a big creek and try to find a pattern that involves boat docks or points. I'll try to determine how far along the bass are, too. Are they in the mouths of the pockets or creeks, or are they already starting to settle into their summertime patterns? Is there a shad spawn happening around the boat docks or are there bass guarding fry? The answers to these questions can tell you a lot about how you should be fishing.

Talking about practice

I want to thank everyone who read my first column and especially those who took the time to comment, "Tweet" it, or "Like" it on Facebook. This experience has already been very rewarding, and I'm looking forward to finding better ways to communicate and give you all the kind of information you're looking for and that will help you catch more fish.If you have an idea for a future column, please put it in the comments below. I'll try to get to it. Just bear with me!Since it's almost time to start the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series season, now seems like a great time to answer a question I get quite often: "How do you practice for a tournament?"I'm certain that all bass fishing professionals are different in how we approach a new season. My answer applies only to me, but I'd bet we all have a lot of similarities in how we go about it.I start the year by taking a big piece of poster board and putting my competition schedule on it. I then add a column for the different bait types that might come into play for each event.I do this so I can see at a glance exactly how long my boat and tow vehicle will be gone for each trip. It's critical that I have everything I might need for the duration of each one. I might not need deep-diving crankbaits at one event, but if I need them at the next tournament and I won't be home between events, those baits need to be with me from the beginning of the trip. To leave something behind could ruin my practice or even my tournament.The first two events of the Elite season (Lake Seminole and the St. Johns River) are going be spawn, post-spawn and potentially shad-spawn events. When I launch in practice, it's important for me to have as many of the possibly viable baits rigged up as I can.I may be different than some other professional anglers, but if I don't have something tied on for practice that's rigged on the right rod, with the right reel and the right line size, I probably won't take the time to set it up after I'm on the water.This is all about having confidence in what I'm throwing. Depending on the time of year and body of water, it can mean a lot of different rods to get ready before I ever leave the house. This also helps me have everything I could possibly use in my truck as backups.


Bass Pro Shops, along with its Nitro brand of performance bass boats, is teaming up with the Bassmaster Tournament Trail for another two years at the Premier Sponsor level. The agreement between Bass Pro Shops and B.A.S.S. LLC, owner of Bassmaster events, continues the title sponsorship of the popular Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens presented by Allstate. The renewed partnership also extends the Bass Pro Shops and Nitro top-level sponsorship of the Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Elite Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series and B.A.S.S. Nation events as well as the Bassmaster Opens. Nitro Boats also will be a Premier Sponsor of the new Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship. “We are thankful for the opportunity for Bass Pro Shops and Nitro Boats to continue the relationship with the premier bass fishing organization in America,” said Johnny Morris - See more at:


The Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC), the World Championship of Professional Bass Fishing, brings the best set of qualified Anglers to Lake Fork, May 9-11.  The three-day tournament combines the Top 15 in Angler of the Year (AOY) points from all three major tournaments including the Walmart FLW Tour, Bassmaster Elite Series and The PAA Tournament Series.  Daily tournament weigh-ins, outdoor expos and country music concerts will add to the daily excitement of this event.“We’re extremely excited to have the most outstanding anglers in the world competing in the 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic.  This tournament can truly say that we have the best of the best competing on the most historical bass fishing lake in Texas.  From legendary anglers to Lake Fork rookies, the competition will be fierce, the bass will be enormous and I can’t wait to see who will take home the trophy and title of World Champion,” said Tournament Director Lenny Francoeur. Final field qualification for both last year and this year’s TTBC events are based on 2013-2014 Angler of the Year points races.  The 2014 TTBC field is one of the strongest to date; field accomplishments include a combined $64 Million in career earnings, 234 tournament victories, 21 AOY titles and 18 Major Championship wins.- See more at:


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