Paying Attention

An Inexpensive and Very Sound Investment

Like most people, I always enjoy reading or hearing about success stories of tournament anglers who were able to pick up on subtle clues given to them by Mother Nature. Clues which led to them to winning or finishing well in a tournament simply because they were paying attention to what was going on around them. One such story involves FLW Tour pro Art Berry of Hemet, California. Art was fishing an FLW Tour event recently and happened to notice a cow standing on the bank at the water’s edge. Now this alone is certainly no big deal and we have all seen this before. But what Art noticed was that the bank that this cow was standing was almost entirely made up of thick, dark mud. I say almost entirely because the exact spot where this cow was standing appeared to be made up of a much harder material, as the cow’s hoofs were not buried in the mud. Art correctly assumed that this harder material continued out into the water and he promptly caught a great limit of bass from it. Art finished second in the tournament and collected a healthy paycheck for paying attention to Mother Nature. Sure, there are some who may say that this is nothing but a bunch of B.S. (pun intended), but I, for one, say that Art was able to pick up on something that most others flat out missed.

Most of us have our own success stories about paying attention to what’s going on around us. Many such stories include locating birds that are working bait fish or fishing below swallow nests on bridges or docks. But something recently happened to me during a BASS Federation tournament that, yet again, reminded me of just how important it is to pay attention to Mother Nature.

I was fishing at Lake Casitas, a very popular trophy bass lake in Southern California. Like most, I found the fishing very tough and had zero fish in the livewell at 9:30 a.m. My partner and I were fishing a rock pile where we had both had success in years past. The rock pile had a lot of baitfish (threadfin shad) around it. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some movement on the water and when I looked over, I saw a trout literally trying to fly. It was very obvious to me what was causing this, and I quickly fired my Huddleston Deluxe swimbait out, trying to “lead” the trout. As my lure was inches from the water, the flying trout had suddenly vanished and my lure landed ineffectively on the surface. The flying trout had become lunch for the unseen big bass that had been chasing it. Rats, I said to my self. If only I had cast a fraction of a second sooner, I might have caught that bass.

I went back to fishing the rock pile and within minutes I got a bite on my dropshot rig, but it was one of those pecking type bites and I missed the fish. A few seconds later the fish bit again and I put a hook into it. I could tell that it wasn’t a very big fish, and when it neared the surface, I could see why it felt this way; it was a 12 inch trout. I quickly released the trout and had just finished putting a new worm on my hook when Mother Nature tossed another huge clue at me. Once again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw another one of those flying trout and a huge dark shadow behind it. This time the flying trout was well out of casting range, even for a Huddleston. However, Mother Nature threw a wrench in the cog this time. Out of a clump of tules flew a huge Blue Heron that swooped down and snatched the trout out of the water and flew off with it clutched in its talons. This meant two very important things had just happened. First, there was one very unhappy big bass hanging off of a point with a deep drop off, and second, this big bass was still hungry and REALLY wanted to eat a trout.

As fast as my Minn Kota trolling motor would take me there (about 30 seconds), I approached the point from the shallow side. I fired off a cast with my ROF-12 Huddleston and it landed right where the Blue Heron had picked up the trout. The depth right there was about 35 to 40 feet, but the ledge of the point drop off was in about 13 feet of water. Just as my Huddleston got to the ledge, BAM! I got nailed, but the fish did not eat the bait. Ok, I thought to myself. She is still there and she still wants a trout. I’ll make another cast to the exact spot and work the bait a little faster, as if it were being chased. I fired off an identical cast and this time when the lure reached the ledge, I sped up my retrieve a bit. Bam! Yank! Yank! “I’m on!” I yelled to my partner and in a short fifteen seconds and a couple of head wallows, the 9 pound 5 ounce bass was in the net. By the way, I never fight swimbait fish. I grind them in as quickly as I can with my drag locked down. If you try to fight these fish or allow them to take drag, you will significantly increase your odds of having them throw your bait. Keep in mind that we use heavy tackle and heavy line that was designed for fish much heavier and stronger than largemouth bass. To date (knock on wood), I have yet to break off a swimbait fish.

Although I did not win the tournament, I did finish in second place and earned Big Fish honors. As I look back on it all now (and without trying to sound egotistical), I absolutely knew that I was going to catch that fish. I picked up these clues that Mother Nature had shared with me: 1) There was a lot of baitfish in the area,
2) There were trout in the area (because of the baitfish),
3) There were birds in the area (because of the baitfish and the trout),
4) There were big bass in the area aggressively chasing trout.
The Blue Heron was an absolute gift and was my saving grace. Had it not stolen the trout from the pursuing bass, the bass most likely would have eaten it and would not have been interested in my swimbait. When you put it all together, the only REAL looser was the trout that had been caught and eaten by the Blue Heron. (The big bass was released in great condition after being weighed in).

I always enjoy my time on the water and I always enjoy catching fish. But even when the fishing is slow, I also always enjoy watching Mother Nature in action and try to pay very close attention to the clues that she occasionally throws my way. Paying attention is something that we should all try to do whenever we are on the water. After all, paying attention costs absolutely nothing.

Thanks for your time and always remember: “The shortest distance between two points is a reef!”