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/2015-07-01-the-no-excuse-guide-

The "No Excuse" Guide

Chatter can be dock talk, personal abusive talk, hater talk, fan talk and everything in between. The list goes on. I truly believe tournament fishing is all a mental game. I feel that the most successful anglers know how to tune it all out and fish in the zone. It is crucial to know how to tune out all the chatter and shut up and fish. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-30-missed-chances-at-the-finale

Missed Chances at the Finale

The final Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac River was a tough event for me. After one of the strongest practices I’ve ever had there, or anywhere, really, I drove home scratching my head. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-30-birge-dominates-roy-race

Birge Dominates ROY Race

Zack Birge isn’t wasting any time filling out his tournament-fishing resume. The Oklahoman won the 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Championship on Wheeler Lake last fall then joined up on the Walmart FLW Tour for 2015 and went on a season-long tear that earned him the Rookie of the Year award. Birge, alongside his wife, Kristina, was presented with his ROY trophy this afternoon on the weigh-in stage at the Potomac River tournament, where he finished in 77th place. He finished 29th overall in the AOY standings to best a group of 18 rookies. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-aoy-shake-up-martin-makes-his-move

AOY Shake-Up: Martin Makes His Move

Scott Martin has been talking about winning the Angler of the Year title since before the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour season started. It’s on his mind and for good reason: Angler of the Year is the only major FLW title he hasn’t won in what Martin has built into one of the most decorated professional fishing careers in FLW Tour history. Today, on the first day of competition at the Tour finale on the Potomac River, Martin has unofficially moved into the lead in the AOY race for the first time all season. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-22-coy-and-roy-on-the-line

COY and ROY on the Line

FLW is hauling a lot of hardware to Maryland this week for the final stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. The world’s largest tournament fishing organization is also going to be writing some fat checks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-17-shallow-patterns-from-chickamauga

Shallow Patterns from Chickamauga

While Michael Wooley was patching together an offshore pattern that ultimately gained him the win, Dudley and Davis climbed into the top 10 by fishing shallow water almost exclusively. Their results are worth a second look. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-16-my-lost-fish-troubles-continue

My Lost-Fish Troubles Continue

Lake Chickamauga is loaded with big bass, and for the first time in three previous visits I felt really good after the practice period was over. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out for me, and I ended the event after day two by missing the top-20 cut by a mere 4 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-14-chickamauga-aoy-update

Chickamauga AOY Update

On the heels of his third consecutive Walmart FLW Tour top-10 finish, Shelby, N.C., pro and 2010 Angler of the Year Bryan Thrift moves into the lead in the 2015 AOY race going into the final event on the Potomac River in LaPlata, Md., June 25-28. Thrift won the Tour’s fourth stop on Lake Eufaula back in May and followed it up with a ninth-place finish this week on Lake Chickamauga. His AOY point total through five of six events is 945. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-12-is-this-the-new-bass-fishing-capital-of-the-south-

Is this the New Bass Fishing Capital of the South?

Dayton, Tenn., is situated on Richland Creek, a tributary that flows into the western side of Lake Chickamauga, one of the hottest bass fisheries in the country. Local officials with a flair for marketing – and good business sense – believe that Chickamauga can be the sellable “brand” that attracts bass fishermen to come and spend their time and their money in Dayton. They believe that old-fashioned Southern hospitality and small-town charm, plus trophy bass, are just the recipe for turning Dayton into “The New Bass Fishing Capital of the South.” READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-04-blaukat-on-climate-change

Blaukat on Climate Change

As many of you know, for years I’ve been an outspoken voice on environmental issues. As a result, I’ve been celebrated by some and ostracized by others. But what some think of me being the messenger is irrelevant. It’s not about the messenger – as much as detractors try to make it out to be – it’s about getting the message out. I want to start by saying that the debate of whether or not climate change is man-made is over. It’s real, and it’s right here in our faces. READ MORE »

/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 »