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ESPN2: Electronics and the Bachelor Bassman

8/11/2006

For many years, bass fishing was thought of as a southern, shallow water affair.

Not anymore.

With Western anglers like Aaron Martens, Skeet Reese, Dean Rojas, and 2006 CITGO Bassmasters Classic champ Luke Clausen making their splash in recent years, the BASS circuit has a decidedly more western flavor now than in years gone by.

And more Western influence too since many of these anglers have brought excellent open water, offshore fishing skills to tournaments in the eastern half of the nation.

One of those anglers is "The Bachelor," himself, Byron Velvick, who will instruct anglers this weekend in the fine art of using a bass boat's electronics to find catchable fish.

Velvick's instruction will air this Bass Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 as this weekend's episode of "Bassmaster University" hits the airwaves of the Deuce.

"What I'm going to do basically is show how to utilize the electronics on a boat," said Velvick, a 13-year professional angling veteran who was born in Boulder City, Nev.

"I'm going to talk about how to graph the water, understand deeper water, and be better at open water fishing.

"I'll also show how to line up targets and to understand what the graph is saying to you or how to visualize what is in place under the water."

In other words, Byron is going to instruct anglers this weekend on finding open water sweet spots.

And he is convinced that electronics are perfect for doing that, although many anglers never get to the point where they can use their graphs and sonars to find such spots on a consistent basis.

"A lot of anglers, they turn it on and their friends show them how to work it in a basic way and that's all they ever do," Velvick said.

"Most anglers don't utilize all of the features that electronics have now a days. On most graphs, there is a lot of wasted data, items, and features that aren't utilized."

Such unused features can include things like adjusting a sonar's sensitivity, learning how to zoom in on the bottom for better bottom contour readings, and adjusting their transducers to get a clearer graph picture.

Velvick also says that most anglers fail to use some additional tools properly that can help to maximize a graph's effectiveness.

The first is a good map of the lake actually being fished.

"If you have a good map, it will show you what's underwater so that you know what you're looking at when you come across it," he said.

A second tool is a supply of marker buoys.

"Marker buoys are a huge asset, especially when you are just starting out," Velvick said.

"They can help you mark high spots, which can help you get an idea for which way the underwater structure is running.

"That structure can be running to the bank, away from the bank, or at a 45 angle. It just takes a little bit of trial and error to learn how to do this and practice makes perfect."

Aside from watching his Bassmaster U instruction this weekend, Velvick says that one of the best things that any angler can do in learning how to fish open water is to force themselves away from their shallow water comfort zones.

"I think it's just about time spent out there," Velvick said. "About the best thing a guy can do is to take a week off from fishing the bank and go deep."

"Summer and winter are an especially good time to do so - just get out there and use your graphs exclusively."

If having a good day on the water depends on catching plenty of fish that can be tough thing for an angler to do.

But if learning how to become a better bass angler is the ultimate goal, then it makes the decision of going out into the open water - on purpose - a little easier to stomach.

"Even if you know there is a buzz-bait bite in the back of a cove, don't do that," Velvick said. "Take the boat out into open water and from daylight to dusk, stay out on the deep structure."

Velvick, who grew up fishing the deep, open waters of Colorado River system impoundments like Lake Mead, Lake Mojave, and Lake Havasu - not to mention similar water bodies in southern California - admits that this isn't an easy process for most anglers.

"I'm a western guy, so I grew up fishing structure," Velvick said.

"Rick Clunn said that it is much easier for a deep water fisherman to learn how to fish shallow than it is for a shallow water fisherman to learn how to fish deep.

"But learning about structure fishing can make you a much more efficient fisherman. And when the banks are bare, you can address a large population of fish that are largely overlooked by (your) peers."

And which one of us bass anglers doesn't want to have a leg up on our competition, be it a weekend warrior from next door, a club tournament hot-shot, or an upper echelon angler at the Classic?

Watch "Bassmaster University" this weekend and the guess here is that you'll have just that, a leg up on your competition when it comes to using electronics to find open water structure and the bass that utilize such places.