Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Texas Classic Bass Club February Tournament

I fished the Texas Classic Bass Club February Tournament over the weekend Saturday on Stillhouse Hollow. There was near perfect fishing weather if it wasn't for the 20+ mph winds blowing down the lake and a cold front blew in the day before dropping the air temp into the 30's over night! Water temps in the lower 50s and water clarity was about 1 foot or less. The lake is at normal pool, but clearly still recovering from last years flooding. I fished with a new guy checking out the club Greg Moon.

The Tournament:

Greg and I met at 6:00 AM at Union Grove park . We launched and we ran out to my first spot on the main lake out by the island. We started fishing on the road leading across the back of the island where I'd caught some bass on Monday that were all over 2 lbs on a white spinnerbait. We fished there for a few hours and had several peck at the spinnerbait, but not grab it. Water temps on Monday were 58 degrees and Saturday they were 56. Those two degrees and the added wind must have turned the fish off the spinnerbait bite. I slowed down throughing a swim bait, but couldn't get any takers. Greg thew a spinnerbait and a rat-l-trap, but no takers. About lunch time I decided that was enough of that and the wind was starting to get stronger, so ran down to the dam and picked up a fish nearly 14 inches long on a drop shot. Then I moved us out to a hump that was exposed to the wind to see if we could get a big post spawn fish, but nobody home or at least they didn't want to bite a spinnerbait or rat-l-trap anyway. I decided at that point it was time to slow down and drag a c-rig on points, first stop and I picked up a 15 inch bass right away on the same drop shot. We let the wind blow us across that point several times over the next hour and not a single bite. Decided to hit another spot and ran up the lake to the Dana Peak area where Greg was able to pick up his first keeper, 15 inches, dead sticking a spinnerbait while picking a back lash. At that point, we'd take luck over skill. :-) We fished the area for a few hours and again, no other takers. We moved up the lake to a few protected pockets to fish and nothing bit there, so with 30 minutes left we ran back down near the ramp and I picked up another 14 inch keeper dead sticking a brush hog the same Greg and caught his, so luck smiled on us twice in one day. Man it was tough fishing for a really nice day except for all that cold wind blowing.

Tournament in Review:

We caught 4 bass over the day. The fish were caught on luck. Greg and I caught our three largest going 4.82 lbs putting us in 6th place. Congrats to Mike Amescua & Don Steussy, who won with 13 lbs and big bass.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fishing Tournaments by Guide and Bass Tournament Angler Clint Bridges

I get asked this question a lot and usually answer it pretty much the same way, but was recently inspired to write up my own article when I read an article on another website on this topic that I didn't agree with entirely. I'm going to take the foundation provided and improve upon it, enjoy.

How do I get started fishing bass tournaments?

If you're reading this article, chances are you're just beginning to fish tournaments, or are curious about fishing tournaments because it looks like a lot of fun on TV. You are probably a bit unsure about what to do, what to bring, what to wear, et cetera. Here's a guide to help you get started, feel confident, and give you the needed confidence needed to get started.

Pick your tournament level: Entry, Moderate, Advanced, HardCore

Finding a tournament appropriate to your interests and experience level. Most of us have already found a few guys we are comfortable fishing with, but for those who have not, here's a quick rundown. This step is far more important than most may think. If your first few tournament experiences are with a group of "hardcore" anglers and you are looking to just learn a bit and get on water once a month, chances are, you'll be turned off before you give tournaments a chance. On the flip side of the coin, there are what I call "entry level" tournaments where it's more about sipping a few coldies and bragging about the fish caught in the tournament, these people are very laid back - for those of us who are more competitive and really want to learn a lot, these anglers do not compose the group you'll want to join long term, but they do offer a great starting point. Case in point - has come together to put on a loosely run, show up an fish or "jackpot" tournament called the HHJ Tournament. The rules are posted on the site, tournament dates and results are posted to the Tournament section of the Forum. Everyone has a great time, well except HHJ, he seems to always get the short end of the fish, err stick. Read the forums and that may make you laugh. :o) Make no mistake about the "Entry level" title, these guys can fish and will gladly take your entry fee to support their fishing! The problem with this tournament style is if you're wanting to get into more competitive fishing, they only fish one or two lakes over and over again.

The best advice I can give you is to email the club presidents or tournament managers and simply ask what their philosophy embodies. A simple Web search will turn up many clubs in your area ranging from local dealership tournaments, to BASS Federation, to American Bass Anglers draw trail, to the Wal-Mart BFL and EverStart Pro-Am events. If you are looking for an occasional tournament and are after more fun than competition, I'd stick with local tournaments run by people in your area like Texas Classic Bass Club, which I'd call a "Moderate level" tournament. TCBC runs on a point system, pays out cash at each event, and recognizes an Angler of the Year and Big Bass of the Year. Top competitors compete in a Classic tournament at the end of the team. Tournaments are very structured, well organized and run by monthly meeting with officers. The club is not affiliated with any major tournament circuit which cuts down on the level of competitiveness within the club and the tournaments are organized to foster sharing fishing knowledge. ( The club fishes most of the lakes in the area that are less than a two hour drive from North Austin, but does travel to lakes outside the area for it's two day touranments.

ATX BassMasters (BASS) and Lone Star Bass Club (FLW) tournaments are more of the Moderate to Advanced level of bass tournament. They're affiliated with major tournament circuits with some or all of the members hoping to work their way through the ranks and win a national title some day. They are at times border line "hardcore" level or very competitive. This is not the place to learn about fishing tournaments. It can be done, but I'm sure you'll learn a few lessons the hard way cutting your teeth here. They are tightly run clubs with local and national memberships and rules to consider. Tournament payouts are generally pooled to fund the top 6 sent to the state level tournaments. They are generally very tight lipped about successful fishing patterns and very serious about fishing all the time.

"Advanced level" would be the Wal-Mart BFL tournaments, which are Pro-Am meaning you will only compete against other "amateurs" (non-boaters). These are great learning events once you are on the boat, but the hustle and bustle of a large tournament can be a turn-off of these events; there will be a large 100+ boat field capping out at 200 boats, meaning a possible 400 total anglers. As a first tournament, it can be a bit overwhelming. Additionally, these events require a lot of travel and advanced planning to be successful (see for locations). Upper levels of the FLW and BASS Federation events have the most variance between moderate and a hardcore composition of anglers - Fishing as an amature with these guy you'll just a likely to draw a real Bass fishing Pro or some knuckle head that lives down the street that happened to have this weekend off. I also recogmend avoiding any events that occur during the spawn as you're twice as likely to be "front ended" in these events. Being "front ended" means the "Pro" is on fish, likely the a single big fish that he'll position the boat so that he has the only good cast or chance at catching it. There is also the problem of the fish being staged on a point pre-spawn and the "Pro" will put the boat in a position making it nearly impossible for the amature to reach the point the fish are located on.

What Fishing Equipment Should I Bring?

The most important advice I can give you regarding equipment, is that you must always remember you are fishing out of another individual's boat. Chances are their boat cost them thousands of dollars and they DO NOT want to see it messy, cluttered, and treated poorly by someone they hardly know and people they know well for that matter. With that in mind, you still have a job to do, namely catch bass. In terms of rods, I'd recommend no more than five. The number of rods is highly conditional: if you use only spinning gear, I'd only bring 3-4 rods. If you prefer to use casting outfits, 5 is plenty. Most boaters will allow you to use the rear pole ties; these ties typically hold about rods with no problem. You do not want to be running across the lake without your rods tied down, or laying loose - you will lose your equipment, damage the boat (hooks wind up in the seats), or worse yet, injure yourself with unsecured equipment. I also once jumped a wake and my non-boater flew up in the air, came down on one of this loose rods and snapped it in half.

In terms of rod types, personally I try to use 4 utility rods and 1 flipping/pitching stick. Keep in mind factors such as high wind, dense cover, water clarity, and methods such as finesse fishing, or frogging. Ultimately these factors will pick your rods for you.

7 ft MH Casting, Fast Tip - 14-20 lbs. mono for casting spinnerbaits, and larger crankbaits.
7 ft MH Casting, Extra Fast Tip 10-15 lbs. floro line for spinnerbaits, crankbaits, general worming/plastics.
7 ft to 7 ft 5 in Medium action, Casting, Extra Fast Tip 17-20 lbs. mono/braid for Top water, casting into pads, mats & weeds, shallow running crankbaits, Carolina Rigs (with 12 lbs. fluorocarbon leader)
7 ft Heavy action Casting, Fast Tip 20-25 lbs. mono or braid Flipping, pitching applications.

I recommend American Rodsmiths rods, such as any of the Ultra H3's, simply because of the engineering, fabrication and performance of such rods is unparalleled. In terms of reels, I prefer Abu Garcia, solid durable reels and overall performance is awesome.

In terms of tackle, again adapt to the type of lake or river you are fishing. Personally, I tend to check Web postings, reports, weather forecasts including wind direction/speed prior to a tournament. If you post a question on a message board regarding what lures to use and explain that you're new to the tournament scene, someone will help you out. A better idea is to call a local bait shop or guide. Do not be the guy to bring 2 gigantic tackle boxes onto a boat and pick and choose all day long, it's unproductive fishing. I highly recommend a simple soft-sided tackle system that can fit 3-4 tackle trays. Make sure one tackle tray can handle several spinnerbait/buzzbaits as these lures often create the most headache in storing. Bring the lures you have the most confidence throwing! Most of the guys on the FLW tours will share lures and sometimes even rods with the non-boaters. Again, research into water clarity and conditions will dictate color schemes and lure selection. Plastics are invaluable and are small enough to fit into the side pockets of soft-sided storage systems - find out what locals recommend and you can never go wrong with watermelon/red! Keep in mind that you are fishing with a partner, and you need to fish something similar in presentation speed, but different than what they choose to throw (unless of course, they are lighting it up). As a side note, a culling system can be a helpful tool, but generally a curse for the first few tournaments you bring it too as you won't need it. I use the simple systems that have the colored floats attached. Also, lure covers will save you worlds of time from having to unhook all your rods after a long run. I personally don't use them. The boater will have a measuring bar, and maybe a culling balance, so there's no need to tote those along.

What Clothing Should I Bring?

You are thinking "why in the world is he writing about this? I'm no idiot!" There is nothing worse than being too cold to tie a lure on! The air temperature at 50 degrees per the weather forecast will feel at least 10 degrees cooler on the water and the if it's colder then subtract 10 and a few more degrees. Once that boat hits the water at 65mph, and the chop is flying and you are getting wet, you'll thank me for this section. At 55 degrees and below, several layers are recommended, particularly if you are going to run a ways. If there's chop, you'll get wet. I always bring water resistant bibs and a windproof/waterproof jacket if the temperature is hovering around the 50s or colder. You'll want the jacket to have a secure hood to keep your head warm. If the water is not choppy, you can leave these items in your truck. Once you begin fishing, you can always shed layers (ask your boater where you can place your bibs and jacket if there's not a passenger side console to place them under). Do NOT sit on them and think they'll stay, first wave you jump they'll fly out and you'll never know until it's tooo late! There is nothing worse than being too cold to tie a lure on! Yes, that's written above, but it needed to be said again. During the warmer months, I prefer to wear pants that have removable bottoms, essentially converting from pants to shorts, GAP/Old Navy make some great cargo pants with big pockets with zip away legs. There are more expensive types made by fishing related companies. These are usually UV proof and dry quickly after a wet run. Go with what fits in the budget. In terms of eye-protection, and fishing vision, definitely bring two pair of polarized sunglasses; keep backup in your tackle bag. One set could blow off or get broken; you'll feel blind at the end of day of fishing without eye protection. Also, I find that a pair of skiing goggles makes a run in high chop or rain much easier on the eyes. Fishheadz are the trendy alternative, but a cheap motorcycle helmet from Wal-Mart for $40 is the best. Water or ice hitting your face at 65mph is not fun. Lastly, always remember to bring your own lifejacket! Do not depend on your partner to provide you with this, especially if you're a big boned feller. You should arrive as a self-sufficient angler minus a boat.

Insider Tips and Etiquette

Remember to offer to help your partner launch and pull the boat in any way you can. They'll understand if you can't back a trailer down a ramp, but offer to hold the boat to the dock while they park the truck. True, they could easily tie it off, but this way you are showing you want to help out. Offer to pull the truck off the ramp once they've loaded the boat. Always offer to help wipe down the boat, and clean out the interior. Remember to offer your partner money for gas and ramp fees. $20 is considered average, but adjust this pending on how much you run, ramp costs, etc. If fishing in a local tournament that is a team event, you should plan to pay half or all of the gas/launch expenses. Never fish in front of your partner unless they give you explicit permission to do so, this is more of an unwritten rule that most follow. There's no quicker way to be in an uncomfortable situation if you throw infront of a "Pro" and stick a fish! Instead, keep a close eye on where your partner has thrown and try to hit different spots. Throw a lure that is presented at a similar speed, or a faster speed than what your partner is throwing. The boat will move according to the type of lure they are fishing. You need to make sure you are not trying to fish a slow worm presentation when your partner is burning crankbaits. You'll want to throw something that acts differently than what your partner has just shown the fish. If he doesn't get the reaction strike off the crankbait you probably won't either, so show the fish chatterbait or a spinnerbait. When all else fails, throw a carolina rig into the deepest water around the boat. Pre-rig anything you can. Don't show up without lures on your rods. If you're not sure what use, go with your 5 favorite lures or avoid this by asking your partner what to use at the pre-tournament meeting. If you forget to ask, at least have something on to get started. Often times, first light is the most productive part of the day. Don't waste this precious time tying on lures. If you need to change lures, try to do so while you are idling between locations and idling is also a good time to devour/chug something to keep your energy up. Know where all your tackle is stored, and even write on the boxes if necessary. Simply stated, be over prepared. Once you've hooked your lure to your pole, wrap the line from your lure to the tip around the pole once or twice - this will help keep your rods from becoming intertwined. Lastly listen for cues from your partner, when he's ready to move you should be ready. If he has to wait for you to buckle your life jacket, any time you move, it's likely you're not to make his Christmas card list.

VERY IMPORTANT - Read the tournament rules closely to the point you've memorized them all.

If you have any questions regarding tournament tactics, or other issues, please email me at or reply to this post in the comments section.

PS: Thanks to for inspiring me write my own modified version on this topic.

PPS: Thanks for the feedback from the ABF crew.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Williamson County Park 2-3-08

Just thought I'd post a little story about a warm Sunday afternoon fishing with the kids. Kelsea, Zachary and I walked down to the park with rods in hand for a few hours of fishing. We arrived to find that we were the only people fishing. I threw a weightless 6 inch worm redbug color. Kelsea threw a 1/8 oz strike king spinner bait and Zachary threw a white 1/8 oz Fox inline spinner. I caught two 10 inch bass on the worm and Zachary managed one 4 inch bass on the spinner between rock throws and stick fights with Kelsea. We had a great time before heading back to the house to watch the Super Bowl. The point of this post was to commerate Zachary's first bass catch that was completely unassisted. Unforatuately I didn't take a camera with us.