This article was published in Bass Angler Magazine. In case you don’t get that publication I want to share it here.
My rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series was nothing short of a dream come true. Through 9 tournaments in I made six Top 50 cuts. My best finish came at the final stop of the year at the AOY Championship where I finished 9th after leading on Day 1. Many of the guys who I called my heroes before this year started I can now call my friends and frankly that means the world to me. Perhaps a lot of people think the Elite guys are a bunch of uptight yahoos who take bass fishing way too seriously but I assure you we are for the most part just good down-to-earth guys who all share a dream of competing at the top level of our sport.
Most of us read fishing magazines to learn how to catch more fish so I am sharing my lessons learned this year on tour with you now. Looking back over my rookie season thus far there have been several lessons that I have learned I will take with me for the rest of my career. As I reflect, three lessons really stand out in my mind.
The first lesson learned this season involves fishing in the moment versus fishing “patterns” as we call them. On two different occasions this year (Toledo bend and Dardanelle) I was burned by being hard-headed and not listening to what the fish were telling me from one day to the next. At each of those tournaments the same thing happened to me. I had good practices and one good day in the tournament flipping matted vegetation – one of my favorite ways to catch them. But for whatever reason, the next day of the tournament the fish moved out from under the mats and everyone started catching them on the edges of the grass. I never picked up on it until I watched the Bassmasters TV show and saw the winners fishing the outside edges. The moral to the story is this, when you find fish in practice and you go back to them and they don’t bite the same way you caught them the day before, that doesn’t mean they’ve left. It’s usually always a small adjustment that makes all the difference in the world.
The second lesson I’ve learned this year is how to practice for a multi-day tournament. Practicing for a four day tournament is hard enough, but practicing to find enough fish to last four days against these guys is almost near impossible. These guys leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding fish and very rarely will you find a group of fish that you have all to yourself, even if there in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had to learn to take everything into consideration during practice and try to remember everything I see that I think might be relevant habitat for a bass. You never know when the fish may completely change from one day to the next and you may have to run a new pattern to salvage the day. By making mental pictures of where you’ve been, you’ll know where to go when the pattern unfolds.
The final lesson learned relates to my equipment. At this level you can’t fish with inferior gear. The two biggest changes I made this year for the Elites were building a complete set of matching MHX Rods from Mud Hole Custom Tackle and running a reliable Phoenix 920 Pro XP and a Mercury 250 Pro XS. Using a set of rods that all matched and were custom built to my own specs was a huge confidence builder. They really helped me catch more fish. In the past I had rods from ten different rod companies and each was completely different. Now all my rods have the same basic look and feel and allow me to switch between them without missing a beat.
I hope these lessons help you catch more fish. If you ever have any questions please feel free to contact me through social media at www.Facebook.com/ProAnglerBrandonLester.