- James Hall
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Editor's note: April through June 2006, B.A.S.S. Insider presented by CITGO airs each BASS Saturday at 8 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Click here for details.
Although hooking and landing bass can oftentimes test an angler's skills, the act of finding the fish to catch is usually the toughest part of any day on the water.
Casual anglers and weekend warriors who only get a couple of days per month on their favorite bass fishing lake have the odds stacked against them, with the bass being the heavy favorite in a 8-hour fishing match of wits.
However, there is a way to level the playing field. You see, professional anglers have developed a very specific system of locating bass in a very short amount of time.
CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pros have only two days of practice before they start casting for a $100,000 payday.
Luckily for the recreational bass fisherman, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Frank Scalish has agreed to share the secrets of how the best anglers in the world find bass on unfamiliar waters, no matter the time of year or conditions.
Join Scalish for a day on the lake during the cusp of the spawn and learn his four-prong approach to quickly locating bass.
"There's a reason they call it 'bass fishing' and not 'bass catching,'" the old saying goes. And every weekend angler worth his tacklebox has had more than his fair share of "fishing" days, versus those where steady catching was involved.
However, professional bass anglers can't afford to go fishing, at least not for very many tournaments. Their livelihood depends on their ability to find and catch bass in a hurry.
Scalish, a Bassmaster Champion and CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier, has developed a very systematic approach to locating bass in a jiffy.
This Ohio pro believes any angler can find quick success if he:
1.) Understands basic seasonal patterns
2.) Does a little homework before hitting the water
3.) Comprehends the conditions and behavior of bass once on the water
4.) Anticipates what the bass might do next
Scalish is fishing Santee Cooper Reservoir in North Carolina in late March, and faces bass that are on the verge of the spawn.
Identifying this prespawn/spawn transition period is a very important first step, because it lets him know that bass will most likely be in the 8- to 4-foot depth zone, positioning themselves closer to the bank and adjacent to cover or structure.
Once the water warms enough for the incubation of eggs, the bass will move to very shallow water, make nests and spawn in the 1- to 2-foot depth range.
The night before your fishing trip may be the most important step in preparing to locate bass.
First, study recent weather trends. Knowing past temperature fluctuations, sky conditions, rain patterns and a forecast for the week will tell Scalish that Santee Cooper bass should still be in a prespawn pattern because of recent cold temperatures.
Interestingly, the forecast indicates a warming trend that will start the morning of his practice day. This could be the trigger that shoots bass into the shallows to spawn.
Studying a good topographic map of the fishery allows you to pinpoint areas that should hold bass based on the weather conditions and seasonal patterns you are facing.
In Scalish's case, he has located some cypress trees in 4 feet of water adjacent to a spawning flat that should be the perfect staging area for Santee Cooper bass.
The first bass of the day is a Godsend. It means you won't be heading home with a goose egg. You didn't get skunked.
Raise your arms in victory and bask in your accomplishment because you won Round 1 of the morning.
But professional anglers try to set aside their excitement and use that first fish to learn more about the attitude and behavior of the bass they are angling.
Scalish considers the first bass of the day a very important informant, one that can give away armies of fish if he can remember the exact presentation, depth range and position of the bass when it bit.
This fish, along with the rest of the bites he will get throughout the day, are pieces to the fish catching puzzle that will ultimately lead him, and other anglers who use this system, to a successful day on the water.
Water temperature and clarity also should be noted at the time of this first catch, as these conditions should be duplicated along with the presentation and bait type.
Once a viable pattern is established and successfully reproduced, like flipping Texas rigged soft plastics to the bases of Cypress trees, try to narrow the pattern even more, finding little nuances within your tactic that can make each cast more successful.
Scalish found that isolated cypress trees seemed to harbor the biggest bass, versus trees that were clumped together.
Now he can cover a lot of water, looking for this pattern within a pattern, and not only get bites, but bites from the biggest bass in the area.
The last step in Scalish's system is anticipating what bass might do next.
Continue to catch bass with the pattern you have defined, but expect the bass to throw you a change-up at any minute.
The fish may change positions and moods weekly, from one day to the next, or even hourly.
So, be mindful of how and when each bite occurs. If a bass bites on the pause versus when the ait is moving, perhaps you should start slowing down your presentation.
Conversely, if you get a bite on the drop or when you reel in quickly for your next cast, perhaps it's time to speed up the presentation. These hints from the fish will keep you casting in the right direction.
Finding fish fast.