Not too long ago a reader asked, “How does bass fishing in a confined region prepare an angler for fishing more diverse bodies of water outside of the region?” Great question. The way I look at it, it’s the same idea as taking classes in school. Even though you may not see a direct correlation to the future while you’re sitting at that desk, all of those classes are aimed at somehow preparing you for the “real world.” Many regions across the country have numerous types of waterways within a reasonable driving distance. Your job is to take advantage of every “class” your region offers. That means fishing all throughout the year to learn the seasonal complexity of every pond, lake, or river that’s close to home. Too often an angler will get stuck in a rut fishing similar lures on one body of water around the same seasonal stage. That’s like taking the same class in school over and over.
Keeping with the school theme, try to master the core curriculum, then move on to the graduate courses. First ask yourself: are there more rivers, manmade reservoirs, natural lakes, ponds, or swamps in my area? Whatever the answer is, focus on that water type before the others. Next, break those bodies of water into smaller sections. Treat the small sections like classes within the whole regional curriculum of bass fishing. For example, let’s say you’re limited to one section of the Mississippi River. Well, chances are your region’s section of the river has all kinds of main river structure to fish in both heavy and light current. You’re also likely to have various sizes of oxbows offering different water clarities, depths, bottom content and even aquatic vegetation types. Depending on the season, the bass will relate to all these choices differently. One region’s primary school then becomes twenty smaller classes to study. Pass the tests in all of those, and you’re on your way to a bachelor’s degree in bass fishing.
Your master’s training comes when you’re capable of applying this experience and skill set to entirely new places. I often hear comments from anglers that are trying new waters like, “I have no experience in tidal waters,” or “I’m just a deep-water ledge fisherman.” Most of the time the keys to success are right in front of them, but they don’t make the connection. To use the same example, the Mississippi River guy should ask himself if he’s ever caught a good stringer of bass when his local oxbow lake was experiencing drought conditions. If so, then he has a good idea of how to handle low tide. The same goes for the self proclaimed ledge fisherman. If he’s ever made the correct adjustment to move shallow when he’s seen his favorite ledge not produce after heavy rains, then he’s also passed the course on shallow bass migration during high tide. If you understand the big picture, the little things will fall into place when wandering outside of your region’s classrooms.