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/2015-04-24-blog-east-vs-west

Blog: East vs. West

I’m not going to say the West is better than the East, or vice-versa. However, I am going to say that where fishing is concerned, there are some distinct differences between the two. The list is long and I’m sure that you can think of many additional differences, but here are a few things I have found that separates the two locales. For the purposes of this blog, let’s make the dividing line the Mississippi River although I think we should include Texas with the East. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-21-blog-the-bucket-list

Blog: The Bucket List

I lived my first 25 years in the Midwest, and I used to get horrible cabin fever this time of year. Sitting in front of a television and watching Jimmy, Hank, Roland and Bill catch monster bass on a spinnerbait on every single cast only made it worse. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-16-20-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 »

/news/2015-04-15-the-spawn-is-on-at-grand-lake

The Spawn is on at Grand Lake

When the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division competitors arrived in Grove, Okla., to start practice for the 2015 opener on Grand Lake this week, they didn’t have to look far to figure out the predominant pattern. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-14-blog-back-in-the-groove

Blog: Back in the Groove

It feels good to be in full swing of the tournament season again. We just finished the second stop of the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake, and it was an excellent event. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-14-5-pivotal-moments-in-my-career

5 Pivotal Moments in my Career

The FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake marked the beginning of my senior campaign. While it was great to get on some open water for the first time in months (though we didn’t finish very well), it also had me looking back at five events that, more than any others, led me to this point. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-14-a-year-of-new-firsts

A Year of New Firsts

There are a lot of firsts in my life now: my first full year on the Walmart FLW Tour, the first time not to fish any full B.A.S.S. circuit in many years, the first time to fish with co-anglers in a long while, the first time to compete at Beaver Lake, and so on. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-10-up-then-down-again

Up, Then Down Again

The highs and lows in this sport are amazing. They are amazing and sometimes hard to deal with. Sometimes you just have to test yourself on how thick your skin really is. For example, consider my highs and lows in the last few months. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-07-sweet-home-alabama

Sweet Home Alabama

Hey everyone, I'm just getting back and caught up from the second stop of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lewis Smith Lake. The lake was fishing like never before, and all the fish have grown up quickly on those blueback herring. Now that I've been back home a week and watched all the videos and read all the articles about the top 10 anglers I can say I have zero regrets! READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-02-when-everything-comes-together

When Everything Comes Together

Dave Lefebre describes what baits and techniques he used to win the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake in this week's blog. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-01-a-look-back-at-the-star-studded-top-20

A Look Back at the Star-Studded Top 20

At Lewis Smith Lake for stop No. 2 of the 2015 Tour, however, the top 20 featured an impressive group of anglers who not only were top performers that particular week, but have been throughout their careers. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-23-last-time-at-lewis-smith

Last Time at Lewis Smith

It’s been two seasons since the Walmart FLW Tour visited Lewis Smith Lake in Jasper, Ala. Now that the Tour has rolled back into town for the start of official practice on “Smith,” as most pros prefer to call this deep, clear reservoir, there’s an important change that could have a real impact on the tournament’s outcome: The umbrella rig is no longer allowed in Tour competition. Last time, a number of top pros relied on the multi-lure rig for the bulk of their catches, and winner Brent Ehrler caught a key kicker with one on the final day. This year’s event will be held a couple of weeks later in the month, which could mean the fish will be a little farther along in their prespawn-to-spawn transition and shallower patterns could be in play (possibly bed-fishing among them; see 2008: Spawners and Spots below). Still, the 2013 event is the best, most current preview of what we can expect to see this week, so we dug a little deeper into the most productive patterns from the last bout on Smith. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-18-expect-change-and-adapt-to-it

Expect Change and Adapt to It

Ish Monroe explains how to adapt to changing conditions and recommends to always fish your strengths in this weeks blog. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-17-so-you-want-to-be-a-co-angler-

So You Want to be a Co-Angler?

First and foremost, I know I’m fishing the tournament as a co-angler and I make sure that I not only stay out of my pro’s way, but I do what I can to assist him throughout the day. This starts at the ramp with assisting him with the launch where possible. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-16-a-30-piece-puzzle-with-four-pieces-missing

A 30-Piece Puzzle with Four Pieces Missing

The whole time I was down in Florida during the FLW Tour opener on Lake Toho I felt like I was trying to put together a 30-piece puzzle with four pieces missing. The weather was right, the water temperature was right, the thousands of acres of vegetation looked right, but one thing was wrong: the fish! READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-12-a-clean-slate

A Clean Slate

The 2015 season opener of the Walmart FLW Tour wasn’t at Okeechobee, as in recent years, but at Lake Toho in central Florida. I was excited about the change, and even more pumped to start a fresh new season after blowing my motor on day one of the first event last year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-08-strader-striding-kenney-gaining-steam

Strader Striding, Kenney Gaining Steam

Wesley, Wesley, Wesley. If anyone is going to catch JT Kenney and overtake his 12-pound, 8-ounce lead, it appears as if Wesley Strader is the man to do it. He lit up the leaderboard and FLW’s On The Water feed yesterday when he caught more than 21 pounds in one short midday flurry. Now he’s doing it again on day four. Strader has a 9-pounder in the boat and a limit estimated at more than 20 pounds. Most of that limit was in the boat by about 9:30, leaving him plenty of time to upgrade. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-giants-are-falling-at-toho

Giants are Falling at Toho

Let’s jump right into the details: Wesley Strader caught a 6-pounder and has a limit approaching 20 pounds. He’s the daily leader so far, but he’s got a ways to go to catch Kenney, who has a 4-pounder in his livewell. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-ramie-s-florida-freak

Ramie's Florida Freak

If you want to catch a double-digit bass, Florida is probably the best state to do it east of California. The Sunshine State churns out some of the biggest bass, on the most consistent basis, of any state in the nation. Heck, its namesake strain of fish is, literally, genetically programed to grow to massive proportions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-toho-midday-report-day-2

Toho Midday Report Day 2

If you’ve been following the FLW On The Water feed, you might have seen a slight uptick in the reports in the last hour or so. A crisp north wind, which was cold enough to force many anglers into their rain gear this morning, seems to have tapered off to a breeze. Down south on Kissimmee the sun is shining. And as the weather has improved, so too has the bite – as evidenced by the sudden surge in fish-catching reports. The increase in action is good news for many anglers who experienced slower fishing this morning than yesterday. Stacey King, who came into today in second place, is among that group. Unfortunately for day-one leader JT Kenney, “slow” for King is still pretty good. He’s got a limit, including a pair of 4-pounders, and has already culled. That makes King our unofficial leader right now. READ MORE »