UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

From Local Pro to Touring Pro

From Local Pro to Touring Pro
Jason Lambert

One of the many characters we encounter in tournament fishing is the “local pro.” He’s the guy who dominates all the Tuesday night wildcatters on his home lake and all the club derbies on the third Saturday of every month.

“He wins everything on this lake,” his family and friends proudly say. “If the big boys ever come here for a tournament, he’ll be taking their money, too.”

When “the big boys” do come to town, the scenario that usually plays out is that the local pro ponies up his money for an entry, makes a showing the first day but then gets buried in the standings on the second day. Somehow the one guy who knows “every stick-up and stump out there” goes home clinging to a nominal check while the touring pros, who hardly ever fish “his” lake, leave town with the big money.

 

How does this happen?

After years of watching this dynamic unfold during bass tournaments, the best explanation I have is that the “big boys” fish multiple-day tournaments on a regular basis in the big leagues, and multiple-day events are a much different animal than the one-day, go-for-broke contests that are most common at the local level.

Many of the best sticks in the business agree that the hardest hump they had to get over when making the transition from fishing local events to touring as a pro was learning how to find fish for several days in a row, in varying conditions and with a considerable amount of fishing pressure being applied to the fishery. There are many strategies that touring pros employ to help them catch fish consistently for three or four days, but the best pros understand three keys to multiple-day tournament success.

 

1. Managing Fish

One-day-wonder catches usually come from a single spot. Likewise, locals are good at “camping” on one spot and cleaning it out for a big catch. When they return to the same gig the next day, the well is often dry. This is where many local sticks get tripped up.

Managing fish over multiple days is a critical component of what the touring pros do so well. They try to avoid going all in on one spot all day. Occasionally they might intentionally clean out a spot if they know a significant negative condition change such as bad weather or high, muddy water is coming, or if it’s a community hole that’s going to get thrashed anyway. However, they would much rather take only a few fish from a productive spot each day in an effort to make the spot hold up for several days instead of one. They often “leave fish biting” so as not to risk draining the well.

FLW Tour pro Jason Lambert provided a great example of this kind of management in the Norris Lake Invitational last fall. Lambert found a small, red-hot cranking spot in practice and could have camped on it the first day, perhaps sacked 15 or 16 pounds, and taken the early lead. Instead, he fished the hot spot for just a few minutes on each of the first two days. He boxed the first four or five bass that bit and then immediately vacated the productive area. From there he ran other patterns to cull up while saving the bulk of what was on his hot spot for the final day. The strategy earned him a runner-up finish, leaving him just 3 ounces shy of a win. 

 

2. Assessing Fishing Pressure

Touring pros acutely understand the impact of fishing pressure on the lakes they fish. They analyze the effects of that pressure, and then adjust their tactics to a fishery’s size, the time of year, the fish population, angler field size, and length of practice and the tournament.

Likewise, top pros often talk about “timing and rotation,” which is pro-speak for knowing – sometimes down to the minute – how long a spot needs to rest before it will “replenish” or a school will re-form.

Bryan Thrift is a master at assessing fishing pressure. His run-and-gun approach looks haphazard, but as Thrift is ripping up and down a lake and hitting dozens of spots per hour, he is also paying keen attention to fishing pressure being applied to certain areas at certain times. He is remarkable at working his way around that pressure.

When a tournament starts, Thrift can be seen plucking the “low-hanging fruit,” or catching the easily catchable fish in common spots alongside his competitors. As the tournament progresses, however, he moves to more obscure stuff that does not get as much heat.

 

3. Playing the Conditions

In one-day tournaments, anglers mostly deal with a single weather scenario. Touring pros can encounter torrential downpours on a hard south wind one day and high bright blue skies with a stiff north wind the next. Playing these conditions to maximize opportunities is something the best pros do very well.

The FLW Tour’s annual trip to Arkansas’ Beaver Lake provides a remarkable opportunity to watch Thrift, Andy Morgan, Matt Arey and David Dudley – some of the Tour’s best “condition runners” – really shine. They often mix and mingle areas and patterns based on the weather they are dealt each day. They might sight-fish down at the dam one day, throw crankbaits on wind-blown points in the mid-lake area the next day and then flip shallow cover up in the river the following day.

Weather-wise, Beaver in the spring is such a variable lake that no two days are the same, and the pros who succeed there have learned not to get hung up on repeating “what worked yesterday.” They always play the weather windows to their advantage.

 

Putting it All Together

In the end, top touring pros know how to blend these three strategies together to extend their success in multiple-day events. By carefully taking just what they need from a really good spot, constantly assessing fishing pressure and playing the conditions, they are able to bolster their daily catches each day to climb the leaderboard.


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