The Bassmaster Classic is happening this week, and for many anglers it will be the first time they’ve practiced and competed on Grand Lake. For others, this body of water is old hat. Some guys got there by collecting points and doing well on multiple bodies of water. Others got there by winning a single event that earned a spot, regardless of how good or bad they did the rest of the season. So, are the anglers who won just one event to get there at a disadvantage? Maybe so, but it really depends on how well they translate “anticipation” of their home waters to the conditions at the Classic. And yes, you can learn from this for your own fishing.

Have you ever wondered exactly why some guys have one body of water dialed in more than others? Is it because their favorite lures are just right for that one place? Is it just because they know the secret spots? On a more technical note, is it because of their knowledge of things like shallow migrations and deep structure trends? Chances are it’s a combination of all of the above and more. But I would bet the biggest factor for their success is best expressed in their ability to anticipate what’s going to happen before it actually happens. This idea is really the unwritten rule of becoming better at anything, but it’s especially true in bass fishing. It comes naturally at your favorite lake; you’ve been fishing it so long in every season that it takes just a few cues to be pretty spot on in terms of what you think is going to happen. But how do you practice anticipation on unfamiliar lakes, especially under intense pressure? Well, here’s a big tip from someone who’s been there.

It’s very easy to get sidetracked by seconding guessing yourself. This cove looks nice. You could go way back up in a creek. But wait…you should probably try the dam first. Oh, but the wind is calmer over there. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. As you struggle with decisions, precious fishing time ticks away. The trick to overcoming this habit is simplifying and using the same cues that help you anticipate bass location and behavior on your home field when you’re away. As an example, on an unfamiliar lake, it shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to tell if there’s vegetation. Then you ask yourself if the bass should be in that vegetation this time of year. If the answer is yes, here’s what I would do. The first third of the day I’d drive around to find some good-looking grass. The second third I’d try to figure out which grass beds are holding any fish. The final third I’d find the best ways to get the most and/or biggest bass to bite in the best of those grass beds. Whether you’re a pro or a weekend angler looking to maximize a Saturday by exploring a new lake, you make a plan based on what you know from your home water, you break it down, you apply to your current location, and you stick to it.