UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Smith Mountain Lake

Apples and Oranges

Apples and Oranges
Eric Jackson hits the stage.

I’ll get to the chase. Here are my results so far …

69th – Lake Okeechobee

107th – Lake Hartwell

166th – Beaver Lake

145th – Pickwick Lake

?? – Kentucky Lake

?? – Lake Champlain

If you asked me what I thought my results would be before Okeechobee, I would have guessed top 20 two times, top 10 one time and top 100 every time. So, what’s the deal? Am I really that bad? Yes, and no … Is this a sob story? Absolutely not. Did I learn something important? Enough to write it down so I don’t forget it all! Your perspective and what you think about going into a competitive event season will determine much of your outcome.

I am going to change a common saying here:

“What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

 In Tournament fishing, that should be, “What you don’t know, you’ll find out, but only after the tournament is over.”

I fish about 100 days each year out of a kayak. I feel I am really good at it, both at catching big fish and a lot of fish. BUT, I spend a lot of energy finding out-of-the -way, lightly pressured, big-fish areas to fish. My secret to catching big fish out of a kayak, I just realized, is more about going where few can access than outsmarting my fellow fisherman in high-pressure areas. I find big smallmouths below rapids that most can’t run, or don’t have the motivation to portage their boats into. I usually find my big largemouths in medium-sized, off-the-beaten-path lakes that are either private or hard to access.

Tournament fishing requires a different skill set, and I needed several good “beatdowns” to get that through my thick skull. In tournament fishing, you are fishing lakes that see as many as 30+ tournaments per year, plus daily fishing by locals who are really good at knowing where to find both quantity and quality fish. The lakes are also massive, and three days of practice is only enough to get a feel for the lake, but not enough to find the best spots, especially against people who have hundreds of days on the lake.

I feel like at every tournament I am more prepared in many ways, but I also learn where I’m not prepared to win. Here is a list of what I got from Pickwick Lake, after my latest beatdown.

1. The energy and effort I put into finding waters that others can’t or don't fish so I can catch big bass out of my kayak is an asset that I know how to employ from my kayak. I have hardly even thought about it in my tournament fishing as a strategy from my Ranger.

Yes, I am looking for fish, but I don’t have the skill set yet to find them on any lake, at any time of year, with only three days of practice. My Raymarine electronics certainly make me productive when I’m scanning areas, but I still have a lot to learn about finding the right areas to look for fish. Clearly the winners of each tournament are looking for, and finding, waters that are holding catchable big fish that others are not finding or that others aren’t fishing right.

2. Ledge fishing is a specific skill set, and I made a terrible assumption before this event, which was my first time scouting for fish on ledges in my life. My assumption was that the fish were on the down-current side of the points, not the up-current side. In small rivers you find fish hunkered down behind rocks in the river, not on the upstream side of them. I never asked anyone and didn’t bother looking it up because I made the wrong assumption (you know what they say about assuming!). The day after practice was over, Scott Canterbury told me, “No, EJ, the fish are on the points where the current is hitting.” I felt like an idiot wasting precious time looking on the backsides of them. So needless to say, I spent my time fishing shallow and fishing grass on Pickwick. Yes, I caught some good ones in practice and had my “honey hole,” but the fish moved off of it by tournament day. Now, I know what to look for when scouting ledges, including shells, shape of ledges, depth and how to use my electronics/charts to find prospective ledges before I get in my boat.

3. Using the three days before a tournament to find fish isn’t enough. Before the lake is closed for the off-limits period, it’s critical to spend time on it, getting to know it and finding areas that look good for every type of scenario. I know this from my kayaking competitions. I generally knew the section of whitewater we were competing on better than anyone simply by putting in the effort to spend time there before it was competition time. I haven’t done this in tournament fishing yet. Clearly it is critical. It is expensive and not as effective to only use the tournament days and practice days to learn a lake. It will take years of competing on Pickwick to learn it, for example, if I don’t go there and learn it without a tournament when I can really break it down and fish with locals as well.

4. Nothing beats local knowledge for getting pointed in the right direction, and since you can’t talk to locals right before a tournament, it needs to be done when there are no restrictions. At every event so far I have shown up and tried to learn it with no local knowledge at my disposal. For the 2017 season, I will make sure to learn the lakes I think we’ll compete on and get shown around by somebody who calls that lake his home lake.

Apples and oranges.

Tournament fishing and kayak fishing.

The specific strategies and tactics to catch a limit of big bass in a tournament are quite different from catching lots of big bass from my kayak when just going out for a day of fishing. But, kayak fishing has honed my shallow-water skills, fish-landing skills (I haven’t lost a fish since Okeechobee), casting, lure selection, etc. What I really need to apply that I haven’t yet is what I was best at in whitewater kayaking competition that gave me the edge to dominate for decades. Effort.

My dad told me as a kid, “Eric, you can beat 90 percent of everyone just by working harder than they do.” The other 10 percent is creating your own advantages by leveraging what you are really good at and not trying to do what you are not good at doing. Creating your own techniques, strategies and even equipment that enhances your strengths is another one.

I am competing against a field of professionals that have put in their hard work over the years on these specific lakes and in tournament fishing from a bass boat. As a true rookie, with my first bass boat, fishing my first tournaments, I haven’t put in the time and effort to make the right decisions and get the results. With that said, I am closer to great results than ever because I better understand my weaknesses and realize my strengths more clearly. How close?? Time will tell.

The next stop at Kentucky Lake will be a ledge-fishing tournament, something I have no experience with, but I have a few weeks to get some.

See you on the water!

:)

EJ

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Tags: pickwick-lake  eric-jackson  blog 

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