UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2021 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

You’re Not Great at Everything

You’re Not Great at Everything
James Niggemeyer

When I started fishing at the tour level, I thought I was really good at everything. I thought I could win with any, or every, technique.

I’m older and smarter now, and I understand the reality of tournament bass fishing. I know there are very few guys that are good enough to pull off a top 10 or win doing something that’s outside their wheelhouse.

For me, it’s become more and more clear every season. I’m more comfortable with some things, and I don’t throw certain others.

I’m not the only pro who thinks this way. Bryan Thrift is probably one of the best ever, but I’ve heard him say, “I hate flipping.” How could that be? He’s caught them flipping before, so that’s not the issue. Rather, Thrift has a wheelhouse in which he absolutely excels, and he knows that he performs better when he doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and do things that aren’t in his wheelhouse – like flipping.

My wheelhouse is shallow power fishing, mainly with single hook-type baits such as spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, bladed jigs, jigs, soft plastics, and flipping and pitching baits. But I also really like topwater and shallow cranking, plus sight-fishing. That’s where I feel like I really excel.

Funny thing is, I grew up in southern California, fishing light-line finesse techniques, so I feel somewhat comfortable with that kind of stuff, but I’ve only had maybe one top 10 doing it in all my years of fishing. My record tells me the truth about what I’m good at, and light-line tactics don’t make the cut. Nor does Tennessee River ledge fishing.

I also know that, no matter how much time I’ve spent trying to get more comfortable with light-line tactics (and I’ve worked hard at it), I’ve always gravitated toward power-fishing tactics. Maybe it’s the way God wired me, but I could flip and pitch and throw topwater all day long and have a minimal amount of bites and still stay confident. I feel like I can go and make things happen. When I’m dragging around with light line, it’s like I’m waiting for something to happen.

This goes back to the mental side of fishing. If you believe what you’re doing is going to finally pay off at some point, it probably will. If you’re just hoping good things might happen, that’s not a good deal.

That’s why, when I’m preparing for a tournament, I look for opportunities to fish within my wheelhouse. At the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita this year, I devoted most of my practice to the shallow bite. The tournament was won by Clent Davis fishing deep brush, but I don’t think I could’ve won that way. Instead, I stayed shallow, made the top 10 and put myself in position to have a chance to win. I finished second.

Even on Kentucky Lake in the heart of ledge season, I don’t dedicate the entire tournament to dragging around out deep. I’ll go hunting for a small school on a shallow bar or transition area and look for something I’m more comfortable doing. Then I might split my time 50/50 out deep. Maybe I’m not going to win, but I’m more confident I’ll make a check, and that’s important too.

About the only time I can’t fight it is when we go smallmouth fishing or visit a deep, clear lake like Smith Lake. In that case I’m going to try to find something I’m comfortable with, that’s in my wheelhouse, but I’m going to give the finesse stuff a really hard look because historically those are the types of things that catch fish.

I want to stick with what I’m good at, but not to the point that I’m so hardheaded that I don’t take the easy fish. For instance, on the Great Lakes, I know I can catch quality bass with a jerkbait, but if I don’t take advantage of opportunities with a drop-shot, I’d be asking for the beat down of all time. It’s a balancing act, really.

For my particular wheelhouse, shallow power-fishing, a lot of what determines how far I can take it is seasonality and conditions. The Tour could go to a clear-water reservoir, and if the water is high like when we were at Smith Lake last spring, I know I can catch them power fishing. But in more typical conditions, I’d probably have to bend a little more.

I’m pretty stubborn about giving up my preferred tactics, too. I mean, if my practice has been dismal – the worst ever – and I have nothing to go to, then it’s a survival tournament and I might as well do as the Romans do and start finesse fishing or ledge fishing or doing whatever it is that’s “supposed” to be working at that fishery. To me, that takes a lot of guts, because it’s usually a recipe for a beat down.

However, if I’ve had a few bites on a square-bill or throwing a buzzbait or something that’s in my wheelhouse, I genuinely feel like there’s enough there to piece together the puzzle for two days.

I think it’s fair to point out that pretty much everyone at the FLW Tour level can do it all. It’s just a question of whether they can do it well enough to win. I know my limitations. I also believe that the quicker you can recognize what’s in your wheelhouse and what’s not, the sooner you can improve your performance overall.

After all, we all want to go into every tournament thinking we’re going to win, but the reality is wins just don’t happen very frequently. Sometimes you have to salvage a tournament and get a check. Other times, by following your gut and staying true to yourself, you can uncover great opportunities to go for it. In the long run, I think that’s the best recipe for success.

Follow James Niggemeyer’s career at JamesNiggemeyer.com.

 

Tags: james-niggemeyer  blog 

Fall Means Topwater Time

Fall Means Topwater Time

The one thing I look forward to the most in the fall isn’t the beautiful views, eating turkey or watching football, instead I’m a fan of watching fish crush topwater baits. READ MORE »

Buck’s Tent Camping Tips

Buck’s Tent Camping Tips

When not on the road for tournaments, my wife and I love to travel, fish and camp together. Our favorite destinations are Oneida Lake and the 1000 Islands in New York, in search of giant smallmouth, as well as National Parks around the country. READ MORE »

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

Coming into the final Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament event on Lake Erie there were so many things riding on it. Obviously, it was a chance to make a paycheck, but more importantly it was the last chance to earn enough points to qualify for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota. READ MORE »

Encouraging Youth Fishing

Encouraging Youth Fishing

Not long ago, with support from many sponsors, I had a blast hosting a very successful first-annual Youth Fishing Derby at Green Lane Park in Pennsylvania. READ MORE »

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My plan going into the Mississippi River event is pretty simple. I’m going to have four rods on the deck of my boat: Two flipping sticks and two frog rods. In my experience in western Wisconsin, that’s what will work the best for me to get big bites. READ MORE »

Guiding and Mentoring

Guiding and Mentoring

Now that we are back on track with fishing, and hopefully developing some normalcy to our lives again, I am excited to keep going with what I started talking about at the beginning of the year – mentorship of young anglers. READ MORE »

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

There’s a big change coming to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. READ MORE »

Fishing with Confidence

Fishing with Confidence

This year, I’ve chosen to home in on trusting my gut, even with tough practices. I’m happy to share that I rarely have a practice that’s worth writing home about. It’s just the way it goes, and I’ve learned to not let the discouragement affect the tournament. READ MORE »

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Like everyone else, I had concerns about when we would be able to resume our 2020 season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. Probably a bigger concern was what the rest of the season would look like. READ MORE »

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. For the first time in my pro career, I’ve been home for much of the spring, and while it was great to fish local waters and get some projects done around the house, I’m ready to get back to fishing tournaments. READ MORE »

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Recently announced changes to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit have me extremely excited to get the season back under way. Specifically, a good number of the Major League Fishing anglers will be fishing the remaining three Pro Circuit Super Tournament events with increased payouts. This makes these truly the most lucrative five-fish-limit events in the country, with potentially half of the tournament field being paid $10,000 or more. READ MORE »

My Line-Thru Addiction

My Line-Thru Addiction

Pollen is in the air, on the water and covers my boat on a daily basis. When this happens, it means one thing to me – the bass are on the bed. Now, most people are all giddy about sight-fishing, but that’s not my deal. I can count on two hands how many fish I’ve caught truly sight-fishing. What comes to my mind during this time is swimbait fishing, but more specifically, one kind of swimbait in particular – a line-thru swimbait. READ MORE »

Making the Most of Quarantine

Making the Most of Quarantine

At the beginning of this year I was excited about the opportunity to fish the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and the Bassmaster Elite Series. I was most excited about fishing the spawn in March and April on some of my favorite lakes. When the schedules for both circuits were first released I was feeling very confident about doing some sight-fishing on Santee Cooper, Eufaula and Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »

The Real Reason I love Spring

The Real Reason I love Spring

Fishing for a living is awesome, but when spring comes it can be tough. April is always a busy month for tournaments – and the fishing is usually fantastic – but I really love to turkey hunt and tournaments can put a damper on that. READ MORE »

A Silver Lining

A Silver Lining

From spending some quality time with my wife, Katie, and my dog, Doppler, to organizing my life and fun fishing, there are numerous ways that I have been able to take advantage of our current social responsibility to participate in “social distancing.” READ MORE »

Encouraging the Next Generation

Encouraging the Next Generation

Growing up in the city of Chicago, I didn’t have the outlet to the outdoors that a lot of our youth enjoy while growing up. It often takes hours to travel out of the city due to traffic, and there were no lakes within walking distance from my house. So it’s not like I could swing by the pond after school. READ MORE »

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

When selecting a new rod, I consider several elements: action, power, length and components.  Different rods will fit the role, depending on the type of lure, cover and fish species you are targeting. READ MORE »

Always Go Down Swinging

Always Go Down Swinging

Greg Bohannan's late father, Kenny, taught his sons to never take a third strike looking. "If you take the pitch and don't swing, you never give yourself a chance," he'd say. With that lesson in mind, Greg took his cuts at Lake Martin and gave himself a shot to win. Even though it didn't work out, he knows that at least he went down swinging. READ MORE »

How to Catch Your New PB

How to Catch Your New PB

Out of the five biggest fish I have caught in my life, four have come on a ChatterBait, including my personal best – a 9-pounder I caught this year on Sam Rayburn during the first Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event. READ MORE »

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Without a doubt, during a tournament day I always get a question from my Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Marshal about why I have both left- and right-handed Abu Garcia baitcast reels. I get comments about the same thing from multiple social media followers if I post a picture that shows my reels. The remarks originally surprised me, but not any longer because of how frequently I see them. READ MORE »