All the right turns

Larry Nixon sits in second place with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 42 pounds, 6 ounces.

(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the 2013 August/September issue of Bass Fishing magazine. To read more compelling articles from Bass Fishing magazine each month, become an FLW subscriber member. If you'd like to sign up for a digital subscription to access articles online, click here). Tournament fishing isn't just about catching fish. It's about making sound decisions based on experience and applying the proper strategies to make good things happen when they count the most. Of course, sometimes it's just about trusting your instincts. To learn more about the craft of tournament decision-making, we recently threw a few questions based on common tournament-fishing scenarios at Walmart FLW Tour pros Larry Nixon, Jim Tutt, Brett Hite and Andy Morgan, a group that has earned a collective $4.6 million and 113 top-10 finishes in FLW competition. They offered some insight on how they would approach those scenarios. Q&A with the pros How long will you spend fishing an "area" without a bit before moving on? Jim Tutt shows off a 16-pound, 6-ounce stringer on day one of Beaver Lake competition. Jim Tutt: "I typically won't stay longer than 30 minutes in practice. In a tournament situation, I might spend a couple of hours trying different baits or working different parts of the water column if I have confidence there are fish there." What are some things you do to search for fish that other anglers might not have found? Andy Morgan: "A lot of it hinges on how well I know the body of water and how well I know the fish population in that body of water. I don't really do anything different than anyone else. I just push hard and cover lots of water. If we are on a super good lake, there is still going to be a decent fish population in areas that are not as popular as others. In that type of situation I might lay it out on the line and run a little farther to get to those areas to try to get away from the crowds. If we are on a lake that doesn't have a great fish population, I might hang around a little closer to takeoff and grind it out in areas that are more well known or those that have a lot of release fish." When will you revisit a spot every day in a four-day event? For winning Angler of the Year, Andy Morgan earned $100,000. Andy Morgan: "It depends a lot on the conditions or the time of year. If the fish are pulled up on the bars (ledges), it's a good idea to be there when the wind or dam system is pushing current. If the prespawn or spawn is rolling into play, you need to hit spawning areas a little more strategically during the afternoon hours, and after the weather warms up." How do you cope with crowds of other anglers? Will you leave to try to find something on your own or stay and grind it out? Larry Nixon: "If I know there are fish in a crowded area and they are the only fish I have found, I'm going to stay with them. I might try different lures or tactics than everyone else. I'll also watch where everyone else is spending their time, and when they leave I'll give those areas a little time to calm down. Then I'll ease in there when nobody is around. If it's a one-fish pattern, I'm going to abandon that ship and go try to locate water that everybody isn't rotating on - something in a creek or away from the main lake. A steady rotation on brush piles is not a good deal unless you've got some current that causes the fish to turn on. If they turn the water loose and I've got some brush piles where I've had bites, I'll definitely go hit them again." What situations make you confident you can catch five in a tournament when you're only getting a few bites in practice? Larry Nixon lands his catch. Larry Nixon: Anytime a tournament sets up for my style of fishing. If the fish are offshore, holding around stuff you can't see, I'm comfortable going out there and fishing all day, even if I only got a few bites in practice." How long will you fish an offshore spot without a bite before leaving? Larry Nixon: "If I'm not getting any bites or seeing any activity on my depth finder for 20 to 30 minutes, I'll usually move on and hit the spot at a later time, with one exception: If everyone else is fishing deep and I know the spot is a good one, I'm going to camp on it and wait them out. If you leave a good spot, chances are you won't get the opportunity to get back on it in a tournament like that." How many fish do you need to catch from an area in practice to rule it in play in a tournament? Brett Hite shows off a nice keeper.Brett Hite: "That depends on the lake and the type of tournament it will be. Will it be a slugfest, or will it be a tough, finesse-style tournament? On a lake like Guntersville, where you need 5-pounders, I am going to catch as many fish from an area as I can until I catch the size of fish I feel like I need in order to do well. On a lake like Beaver, where 2-pounders are good, I will consider a spot worthwhile if I only get a couple of bites."

Tags: magazine-features 

/tips/2014-03-12-2014-buyer-s-guide-soft-plastics

2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures – both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler’s imagination. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-03-11-2-d-sonar-strategies

2-D sonar strategies

There was a time when experience almost always trumped equipment when it came to finding fish. If you wanted to be a better fisherman, you got out there on the water and paid your dues. You learned the spots that produced at certain times of the year, and culled the 90 percent of the water that was almost always void of bass. The last decade or so of fish-finding technology has changed the paradigm, however. Now anglers can buy a Lowrance HDS unit, cruise likely looking spots on any lake and literally see bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-03-10-swim-jigging-winter-grass-lines

Swim-jigging winter grass lines

You can rip rattle baits through winter grass beds like everyone else, or you can offer bass something different: a swim jig. Veteran bass pro Ron Shuffield says a swim jig is one of his preferred cool-weather lures when bass set up camp on grass-line edges. It’s a lure that can be worked quickly, or dragged more slowly when conditions warrant a change-up. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-21-hog-hunters

Hog hunters

A five-fish limit is the first measure of success and job one in a tournament. But it’s how you see that quintet shaping up that sets the tone for your performance. Is it an open audition where anything that measures will do, or do you want five stars that’ll rock any stage? READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-14-never-hardly-ever-lose-a-fish

Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

How many good fish do you lose in a season of fishing, whether it’s in a tournament or just when you’re fishing for the fun of it? If it’s more than you can count on your fingers, perhaps it’s time for some constructive self-criticism. Are the fish at fault, or are you? In case it’s the latter, we offer the following advice, observations and tips from some top pros regarding how to put the odds of landing a fish successfully more in your favor. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-10-x-marks-the-spot

X Marks the spot

Two things stand out about winter bass fishing: The fish get a little bit pickier about where they want to be, and anglers don’t want to spend as much time running a bass boat around a frigid lake trying to find them. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-01-02-q-a-with-andy-morgan

Q&A with Andy Morgan

I wouldn’t say it was a perfect season, but it sure worked out. I mean, it was a good year, but not a great year. I was surprised to even have a shot to win after Beaver Lake (he finished 68th). Honestly, it was never even on my mind until someone mentioned right before Chickamauga that I had a shot at winning it. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-12-23-last-minute-holiday-gift-guide

Last-minute holiday gift guide

Naughty? Nice? Who cares – Christmas isn’t far away, and any bad behavior can be overlooked for a while as we celebrate the season with presents for those nearest and dearest. As is our custom, we’ve appointed ourselves Santa’s helpers and came up with a few gift ideas. We’ve also selected goodies that cover a range of price options. Regardless of their cost, the following gear, gadgets and clothing would make any angler beam with joy. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-12-02-boat-care-101-simple-do-it-yourself-carpet-cleaning

Boat Care 101: Simple do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

If there is one thing I hate worse than seeing a nice bass boat with a filthy finish, it’s seeing one with dirty carpet. I like to keep my stuff clean, but not just because it looks good. A bass boat is a huge investment, and the more you can do to protect that investment the better the returns if you ever decide to sell or trade it. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-11-07-the-chilly-truth

The Chilly Truth

Not surprisingly, bass fishing has its own set of myths: Bass don’t eat topwaters when it’s sunny, big fish only eat big lures and so on. Winter fishing seems to take myths to a whole new level. Maybe the long hours in freezing cold numbs the mind as much as it does the hands, but one could write an article about how many myths there are regarding this chilly time of year – and whether or not they’re true. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-28-ask-the-experts

Ask the Experts

If I use heavy-gauge hooks for flipping grass with braided line, why not use the same gauge hooks for fishing all soft plastics? READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-25-sound-effects

Sound effects

Though some anglers contend that rattling baits don’t necessarily attract strikes, and might even deter them, the preponderance of evidence favors the rattle crowd. Virtually every hard lure made nowadays – crankbaits, jerkbaits, stick baits and so forth – can be had in rattling and silent versions. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-18-guide-to-treble-hooks

Guide to treble hooks

As a general rule, the treble hooks on the lures of most tournament pros aren’t original equipment. Less-expensive stock trebles are usually replaced with ultra-sharp premium hooks of the angler’s choice. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-08-dock-cranking

Dock cranking

Well-honed casting skills are required to send a crankbait deep into the reaches of a dock. It can’t be skipped on the surface easily, but even an average caster can make a crankbait go where dock bass are likely to be if he employs a trick that Walmart FLW Tour pros Bryan Thrift and Wesley Strader call “driving,” or “steering.” READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-26-first-look

First Look

The following products were originally featured in the 2013 August/September issue of Bass Fishing magazine. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-23-drawdown-tactics

Drawdown tactics

As summer winds down, however, things can change quickly on a drawdown lake – a reservoir where lake managers reduce the water level in late summer and early fall. Come practice for the EverStart showdown, Dan Morehead’s fish were nowhere to be found. In fact, despite the amazing pre-practice, Morehead didn’t catch a fish during the first day and a half of practice. The dropping lake and progressing season had caused everything to change. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-05-deep-diving-details

Deep-diving details

Anyone who follows big-league bass fishing knows pro David Fritts is legendary for his ability to sniff out and catch bass on a crankbait. True, Fritts is handy with other styles of lures. But he is the iceman with a crankbait, particularly when the bass relate to cover or structure in deep water. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-08-22-the-right-trailer-for-the-task

The right trailer for the task

A jig trailer seems simple enough: a piece of molded soft plastic that dangles from a jig’s hook to add bulk, enhance action, temper the fall and suggest a crawfish or other food item. Those basic functions, though, are somewhat divergent and sometimes work against each other. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-08-09-lures-for-the-thick-of-it

Lures for the thick of it

While there is more than one way to get to a fat bass that is buried up in the jungle, few methods are more effective than flipping or punching. Both are short-range techniques built around a hard-core fishing system that includes thick line and a stout rod, and any number of lures and rigs designed to slip in and out of thick cover with the skill of a grass snake. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-08-08-advanced-rod-repair-replace-a-broken-guide

Advanced Rod Repair: Replace a broken guide

Eventually, your rod collection will grow to the point where it’s cost-effective for you to acquire the tools and learn the skills to make slightly advanced repairs, such as replacing a broken line guide. The task does require some special equipment, but if it keeps your favorite rod in the game without having to wait a couple of weeks for a local shop to fix it, the cost is worth the investment. And a few tools still cost less than replacing one of today’s specialized high-end rods. You might also consider going together with a fishing buddy to split the cost. READ MORE »