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by Jim Porter

There are two words which separate 'successful' tournament anglers from the 'other' tournament anglers. Those are 'efficient' and 'deliberate'. In order to place this in the proper perspective,we need to define those words in terms of angling success (or the lack thereof).

EFFICIENT. This means, at the bottom line, no wasted actions. It requires that the proper lures be used in the proper manner at the proper location/time, and with the proper presentation equipment. No lure presentations are wasted, while we try to make as many as possible in the allotted time. 'Efficient' is the application of skills.

DELIBERATE. For our purposes, this term implies that EVERYTHING we do during the course of the fishing day has a very specific purpose. From the structure we might choose to fish, to the manner in which we present the lure, each motion is fully understood and is 'deliberate' in nature. 'Deliberate' is the application of knowledge.

Another way to look at the relationships of the above expressions is to consider 'efficient' as 'how' we fish, and 'deliberate' as 'why' we are doing so. I vividly recall my first real introduction to deliberate structure fishing. Quite possibly, you have had the same experience. We were gliding smoothly across the Nutbush Creek area of Buggs Island Lake on the Virginia/North Carolina state line. I had visions of crank plugs in the submerged willow bushes and plastic worms on red clay banks. The depth finder was reading a steady 60 feet when Bobby Brickman, suddenly, dropped off speed and let the big Ranger settle to a slow idle. As he guided the boat in small circles, very attentive to the glowing signal of the flasher unit, I noted we were at least half a mile in any direction from the beloved willows and banks. After tossing a couple of marker buoys over the side, Bobby killed the big engine, dropped the trolling motor down and proclaimed that we were ready to fish. Quite honestly, I was totally lost at that point. Our target was a submerged roadbed, coming off a far bank and connecting with an underwater island. At a depth of 15 feet and surrounded by the deeper waters, these structures were ideal locations for schools of bass. And, during the next hour, my whole concept of bass fishing was completely changed.

Brickman was probably the most deliberate and efficient bass angler I have ever known. I never knew him to run a shoreline looking for single bass or strays, and I cannot recall that he ever made a single haphazard cast. Every location he fished was purposely chosen, either by past experience on it or by fully examining it before ever tossing out a lure. If it was a new, previously unknown structure, he studied his topographical map and the signal from the depth finder very closely. The structure had to be adjacent to deep water, be of a hard composition, and have either brush, stumps or a rough, irregular surface. If current flow came up against it, so much the better. Lures were deliberately chosen, based on depth, speed and size, in that priority. A crank plug had to lightly clip the bottom as it ran along, whether with a fast retrieve in warm weather or a slow one during the colder months. A worm or jig was selected primarily by weight, in that the rate of fall of those type lures was Brickman's 'speed' factor. Most bass hit a worm or jig on the drop, if it is close enough to them. In cold weather, bass are sluggish and a slower lure will take them more readily than a heavy one flashing by. Size was relevant to the colder months, primarily, in that smaller lures are more effective then.

Watching Brickman select a lure, and the accompanying explanations as to why, were both fascinating and quite logical. Lure presentation was also a deliberately thought-out process, resulting in an efficient and rapid coverage of the area. Determination was made as to the most likely place on the structure that the bass would be. Usually that was near the sharpest breakline into deep water. Once the exact presentation target was selected, even more factors were brought into play. The direction of the retrieve was considered and this further led to proper boat positioning. I was told that bass, holding on a breakline, nearly always face in towards the structure, watching for forage. The exception was in an area of current flow, where the fish will be found facing into the flow to hold themselves in place.

From this bit of 'history', certain very important lessons should now be making impressions on the reader's fishing mind. Whether you are a tournament angler or a weekend semi-pro, fishing time is valuable. There simply is not enough of it. Accordingly, we must make the most of what precious little we have. To do that, we must be very deliberate and efficient in our actions. The following are the prime ingredients to do so:
  • Learn how to isolate potentially good structure. Gain the knowledge of what its characteristics must be, how deep water and current flow effect it, and the anticipated effects of weather, season and water conditions. Remember, catching bass is easy; finding them is the hard part.
  • Take the structure study one step further and evaluate 'sub-structure'. That is to say, pay attention to the specific features of the chosen structure. Where are the stumps, brush, rocks, sharpest drops, and deepest adjacent water? That tells us where to start fishing. If we were picking apples, we certainly would go to the limbs, rather than the trunk of the tree.
  • Study the bass's movement patterns in regards to seasonal conditions. Recognize that, in the Summer and Winter, he will be found predominately in schools on structure. And, the majority of the fish will be deeper during the Winter than at any other time of year. Take note that, for Spring spawning, he will move up the channels of feeder tributaries searching for warmer water and shallow nesting areas. In the Fall, he will again use the tributaries (and also the main river channels) for movement to large, shallow cover zones for a pre-Winter feeding spree.
  • Pay strict attention to lure selection. Brand names and colors mean so little that they can be disregarded. Depth is, overwhelmingly, the first consideration. If the lure doesn't get down to the bass, it is worthless. Speed of retrieve and lure size are seasonal aspects and must be considered, but only with depth as the primary ingredient.
  • Discipline yourself towards the goal of never fishing a location that doesn't have utmost potential. Further, never make a cast that isn't deliberately towards a specifically selected target. Random casts catch random bass. Wasted casts are wasted time.
Every cast is a potential trophy bass and the odds of catching her can be greatly swayed in your favor by being very deliberate and very efficient. Strive to make the most of your time on the water and your success rate will improve dramatically.


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