The big-fish pattern

Pro Bruce Samson shows off his first-place trophy after winning the 2002 RCL Championship.

I spent most of this summer and fall working on a walleye fishing book called Walleye Trolling that I co-authored and published with Lake Erie guide Capt. Ross Robertson. In the book, I wrote a short summary of professional walleye angler Bruce Samson's tournament strategies for targeting big fish. By "big fish," I mean the biggest fish in the lake hosting the tournament - the type of fish that will win tournaments when you catch them, but that often cause you to strike out in competition. What I love about Bruce's strategies is that he's got no problem with bombing at a tournament every now and then, so long as he knows he gave himself the chance to win it by targeting big fish. Winning one tournament a season, to him, is more important than finishing in the money at every tournament (it often pays just as well too). Probably the most interesting lesson he shares about chasing big fish, and it applies to bass, crappies, muskies and other species too, is in how he puts together the pieces of the puzzle during practice. Bruce doesn't just show up and fish awhile, hoping to stumble onto a big fish. He starts right away targeting big walleyes, usually in the types of areas others aren't fishing. When everyone's catching keepers in deep water, he's fishing the bank for a kicker. Or when everyone is targeting rock structure, he's over in the weeds. From there, it's a matter of finding and analyzing clues, and they don't have to be big ones. Samson says catching one big fish is a pattern. It's not a good pattern, but it reveals something to him. Catching two big fish is reassuring. Catching four or five is a great pattern. That's right, catching only four or five big fish in an entire practice can lead to a great tournament pattern, even in multiple-day events when anglers can bring in 15 fish in three days. Expecting to turn four or five fish in a week of practice into 15 fish in just three days, with pressure on the line, is pretty scary for many anglers. But not Samson. He knows that those practice fish are his clues to the winning fish, not the top-20 fish or the top-10 fish. And when he can turn those clues into a big stringer, his odds of hitting the podium go way up. His odds of bombing big time are high too. That's the cost of fishing with a zero-or-hero mentality.

Tags: blog  curtis-niedermier 

/tips/2015-05-28-running-a-college-club

Running a College Club

The sport of college bass fishing is growing at an incredible pace. During my freshman year (2011-2012), tournament fields were limited to 50 anglers, and boats were supplied by Rayovac FLW Series volunteer competitors. During the end of my senior year this season, field sizes grew larger at every tournament, and we saw more colleges providing boats for student anglers – signs of growth for sure. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-28-blog-i-m-hooked-

Blog: I’m Hooked

When I was 10 years old I could only dream about being a professional fisherman. I would spend all my time outdoors playing sports, hunting and fishing. Then, in high school, I competed in my first bass tournament and I was hooked. From that moment, my goal was to become a professional angler some day. Now, almost three decades later, after much hard work and dedication I’m competing in the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour. And I’m more excited than ever. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-26-blog-the-first-time

Blog: The First Time

This begins a series of blogs by Walmart FLW Tour co-angler Jaime Luengo of Mexico City. He joined the circuit in 2005 and has three top-10 finishes to his credit. Luengo is the author of La Magia de la Lobina Tecnicas Avanzadas, a book on bass fishing techniques, and is host and producer of Nuestra Pesca, a television series available on all cable stations in Mexico. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-23-the-next-big-ledge-bait

The Next Big Ledge Bait

If you’re a ledge fisherman, go buy another Plano tackle tray, because the list of baits that you need to have in your arsenal has grown once again. Ledge maestro Ben Parker, who developed the Nichols Lures Magnum Spoon and unveiled it to the fishing world at the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour finale on Kentucky Lake, has drummed up another big hit for offshore anglers – “big” being the key word. The new Nichols MBP Swimbait (MBP stands for Magnum Ben Parker) is a jumbo swimbait that already helped FLW pros cash checks on the Tennessee River ledges at this month’s Rayovac FLW Series tournament on Kentucky Lake. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-19-blog-what-might-have-been-at-eufaula

Blog: What Might Have Been at Eufaula

Lake Eufaula is in the books, but ever since the tournament I haven’t slept very well. If you know me, you know I just “love” losing fish, but I think this latest event was the worst of my career. I finished 12th, which isn’t so bad, but the “what could have beens” got me again. On the last day of practice, I caught nearly 30 pounds, including one around 10 pounds and a 7 1/2-pounder, making it a day I’ll never forget. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-lake-eufaula-aoy-update

Lake Eufaula AOY Update

Following his win at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula, Shelby, N.C., pro Bryan Thrift moved to second place in the 2015 Angler of the Year standings with 753 points. The 2010 AOY trails Wesley Strader, who finished fourth at Eufaula, by 18 points. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-sweet-as-honeycutt

Sweet as Honeycutt

Keith Honeycutt knows how to fish his way to the tournament podium. The veteran Texas co-angler has won multiple FLW tournaments, including the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour event at Grand Lake. Still, when Honeycutt hoisted the FLW Tour co-angler champion’s trophy over his head on stage this afternoon at Lake Eufaula, he celebrated with great joy because he knows how difficult it is to attain that level of success against the best amateur anglers in the world. “It doesn’t come around very often,” says Honeycutt, who edged out Japan’s Hiroyuki Watanabe by just 2 ounces with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 12 ounces. “It’s hard to get two pro partners who fish a way that you can catch them too.” READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-12-blog-frogging-of-a-different-kind

Blog: Frogging of a Different Kind

As a bass fisherman, I have a special feeling for that time of year when I can start fishing a frog again. I’m not sure if the rush of adrenaline I feel is from that first explosion when a bass crashes the frog, or the anticipation of it. Whatever it is, I love it! READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-11-top-10-patterns-from-the-california-delta

Top 10 Patterns from the California Delta

A run-and-gun pattern with just a couple of go-to baits was what lifted Wade Curtiss to the title – all the way from 10th place after two days – at the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event presented by Ranger Boats at the California Delta. The rest of the pros in the top 10 were primarily combining two to three patterns based on the tides or camping out in areas that they knew held quality keeper bass. Here’s how the rest of the top 10 got it done on the Delta. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-09-curtiss-climbs-from-10th-to-1st-at-delta

Curtiss Climbs from 10th to 1st at Delta

All week long, the extreme variety of conditions, patterns and baits at the California Delta has challenged Rayovac FLW Series Western Division pros who were battling it out at the second divisional stop of the season, which was presented by Ranger Boats. In the end, it was the pro who ran the seemingly simplest of patterns who was most consistent, and his consistency was just what was needed to overcome a slow Delta bite. Wade Curtiss of Meadow Vista, Calif., weighed in daily limits of 20-05, 19-01 and 22-07, respectively, for a three-day total of 61-13. He climbed from 10th place to first – albeit from only 1 pound, 6 ounces back – for the come-from-behind victory. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-09-farage-dominates-delta-co-anglers

Farage Dominates Delta Co-anglers

Adapt or die. That pretty well sums up co-angler Jack Farage’s runaway win at the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event presented by Ranger Boats on the California Delta this week. Obviously, the Discovery Bay, Calif., co-angler adapted – he changed baits every day – and made all the right moves. Farage opened the tournament with a massive 26-pound limit, followed with 11-11 yesterday and then blew the competition away with 16-14 today. His three-day total of 54-09 is 15-07 better than second-place co-angler Todd Kline’s. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-08-uribe-leads-packed-delta-top-10

Uribe Leads Packed Delta Top 10

Joe Uribe Jr. has been here before – and not too long ago. The Surprise, Ariz., pro, who fishes for the Bridgford pro-team, won the 2015Rayovac FLW Series Western Division opener on Lake Havasu back in early February. In that event, Uribe carried a lead of more than 5 pounds into the final day of competition, which is where the difference lies today. He once again has the two-day lead in a Western Division event, this one presented by Ranger Boats on the California Delta, but it’s by only a slim 1-ounce margin over David Valdivia, who weighed in a 10-pound bass today en route to putting together a 26-03 limit that jumped him up the leaderboard from 48th to second. The entire top 10 is sandwiched together with just 1 pound, 10 ounces separating first from 10th. Uribe also made a big move today. He weighed in 16-15 on day one, which put him in 30th place. Today, he weighed 24-01 for a two-day total of 41 pounds even. The difference was all about timing and capitalizing on perfect conditions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-08-top-5-patterns-from-the-delta-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from the Delta Day 2

Joe Uribe Jr. is out in front on the California Delta with a chance to be the second pro of 2015 to win back-to-back Rayovac FLW Series events. Ray Hanselman was the first en route to sweeping the Texas Division. Uribe won the Western Division opener on Lake Havasu in February by almost 15 pounds, but to follow it up this week, he’ll need a big bag on Saturday. Uribe leads second-place pro David Valdivia by just 1 ounce, and he has a lead of only 1-6 over 10th-place pro Wade Curtiss. Overall, the standings shook up today after an extreme weather change, from windy and cold to sunny, warm and slick. The conditions helped the morning topwater bite and the flipping bite, which showed in an increase in the number of 6-pound-plus bass brought to weigh-in today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-07-shura-in-front-on-the-cal-delta

Shura in Front on the Cal Delta

Day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event presented by Ranger Boats at the California Delta didn’t exactly turn out as most pros expected. There were no 28- to 30-pound limits, like were predicted. And even a couple in the current top five were surprised that their mid-20-pound weights held up like they did. Current second-place pro Ken Mah summed up the opinion shared by most pros this week when he said that the Cal Delta is just “a little funky” right now. The one pro who figured it out best today is Matt Shura, who weighed in 26 pounds, 6 ounces. Thirteen pros weighed in at least 20 pounds. Shura, of Gilbert, Ariz., leads a top 12 (three of those pros are tied in 10th place) that includes nine Californians. The locals definitely seem to have an advantage right now, as groups of big spawning bass are moving into small areas to spawn, and not everyone knows where those spots are located. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-07-top-5-patterns-from-the-cal-delta-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from the Cal Delta Day 1

Arizona pro Matt Shura took the early lead on the California Delta with a mix of slow-moving and reaction baits. Others in the top five had similar success with a mixed bag of baits. Here’s how they got it done on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-07-anything-goes-at-the-cal-delta

Anything Goes at the Cal Delta

There are 127 pros entered in the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division tournament presented by Ranger at the California Delta this week. If you asked them all what their baits or tactics are for the first day of competition today, you might get 127 different answers. At some fisheries that FLW’s tournament circuits visit, such varied and often vague responses from pros when they’re prompted for fishing info are the result of them attempting to stealthily hide their fishing patterns. That’s not exactly the case at this tournament. The fact is, the California Delta is one of the most vast and varied fisheries that hosts FLW events. It’s a collection of unique mini-fisheries all rolled into one, with dirty water, clean water, tons of vegetation and other factors tossed into the mix. It’s a tidal fishery, so the water levels and currents fluctuate throughout each day. And, of course, it’s spring in California, and because of the vastness of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and the delta system they feed, with its 1,000 miles of waterways, there are populations of bass in all stages of the spawn in their own little geographic areas. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-06-big-weights-likely-at-the-cal-delta

Big Weights Likely at the Cal Delta

This week’s California Delta stop of the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division is setting up to be a typical Cal Delta derby – that’s a very good thing. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-06-blog-make-a-plan-and-work-the-plan-

Blog: Make a Plan and Work the Plan

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I’m bombarded with an array of emotions and a new to-do list every day. I’m not good enough. I don’t have the money. Make a Facebook post. Call mom. I don’t have enough time. I’m too tired. I’ll be treated poorly. Rig rods. Do sponsor work. People won’t like me. My son will miss me. I’ll miss my family. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-29-aoy-showdown-looming-in-texas

AOY Showdown Looming in Texas

Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border will play host to a Strike King Angler of the Year showdown in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division this week, and there are plenty of storylines worth discussing before this one gets underway. Several pros are in contention for the AOY title, and many others are vying for a trip to the Rayovac FLW Series Championship, which requires finishing in the top 40 in AOY points. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-29-20-questions-with-ray-hanselman

20 Questions with Ray Hanselman

Ray Hanselman is on fire. The Del Rio, Texas, pro won back-to-back Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournaments to start the 2015 season. His first win was in February on Lake Amistad, which is Hanselman’s home lake and where he runs a guide service. His second win came last week on Sam Rayburn. READ MORE »