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 

/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 »

/tips/2015-02-27-toho-bound

Toho Bound

You have to understand that having home field advantage in fishing is the absolute worst. There are so many demons; you have too much information, you start fishing the lake’s history – it goes on and on and it’s very hard for a professional angler to mentally break that barrier. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-25-osinski-s-texas-rigged-swimbait

Osinski’s Texas-Rigged Swimbait

Lake Okeechobee Rayovac FLW Series champion Val Osinski relied on a unique Texas-rigged swimbait paired with a Gambler KO Punch Skirt on the final day of his tournament win. It’s an option that Tour pros might find handy next week when they take to the waters of Lake Toho. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-25-3-thoughts-on-toho

3 Thoughts on Toho

I was without power for three days after the first storm, but it snowed again this weekend and there is supposed to be more weather on the way. Suffice to say, I can’t get to Florida and Lake Toho fast enough. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-23-toho-s-place-in-tour-history

Toho’s Place In Tour History

The start of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Toho is less than two weeks away. Official practice starts in just six days (kind of makes you wish you lived in Florida, huh?). READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-20-east-to-west

East to West

As a tournament angler, I realize that a primary aspect of my job is to be able to catch fish anywhere, in all types of fisheries, under a variety of conditions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-14-hometown-hanselman

Hometown Hanselman

He told the weigh-in crowd that he was tired of being a bridesmaid. He’d had enough of finishing runner-up. He was ready for his time in the limelight and wanted it to happen on this stage, in Del Rio, Texas, in front of family and friends in the town where he grew up. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-13-hanselmania

Hanselmania

Watch out, fishing fans. There’s a Texas shootout brewing on Lake Amistad. Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Texas, weighed what was at the time the heaviest limit of the tournament, a 19-pound, 6-ounce stringer, to take the lead in the first 15 minutes of weigh-in. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-12-from-swamp-pro-to-bass-pro

From Swamp Pro to Bass Pro

When most people hear the name “T-Roy Broussard,” they think of me as the Texan in the big green airboat on the reality television show Swamp People. Three years ago I was introduced to households across the world as a burly alligator hunter that made a living off of the land. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-11-mighty-amistad-issues-a-challenge

Mighty Amistad Issues a Challenge

Legendary south Texas reservoir Lake Amistad has hosted some of FLW’s most infamous smash-fests – the kind of tournaments where anglers weren’t challenged to catch fish, but were pushed to keep up with the competition when 20- and even 30-pound stringers were being hauled across the stage. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-01-29-here-we-go

Here We Go

The 2015 bass tournament season is officially underway and I am super-excited about the changing dynamics. There is no doubt that the economy is improving and the 250-boat field that fished the first Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Okeechobee is testament to that. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-01-13-are-you-taking-care-of-business-

Are You Taking Care of Business?

My dad started taking me fishing when I was two. My very first job was at Hi’s Tackle Box and after that I spent a few years working for Fisherman’s Choice. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to spend my life doing what I love and enjoy doing. READ MORE »