By Matt Beckler

Fishing competitively centers around having an edge on the competition and most importantly the fish. This article will hopefully enlighten the readers to lean on the latter of the two above and focus the attention on catching fish utilizing knowledge from fishing experience of their own and others.

What is learned knowledge in regards to catching bass? Learned knowledge is what we interpret through trials and tribulations while trying to catch bass. It definitely is not "dock talk" and conversations of that sort. This sort of talk is usually centered around a boat or two after a tournament has been decided or before the tournament. This writer doesn't take too much stock in the "early morning discussions" as they seem to be a curveball that one can't hit over the fence or they are a smoke trail with no fire. If I am on good fish, I sure as heck am not going to tell someone I am competing against how to catch 'em and vice versa. Figuring out how to catch the fish on your own will make you a better fisherman. This author's opinion is that there is not any single one component of bass fishing that will make us good fisherman other than going very often and being observant the whole time. That experience is the greatest learned knowledge and is not easily forgotten. There is another resource at our fingertips that must not be overlooked.

We are in an age of the internet, emails, surfing, and googling. We have the ability to research tournaments on websites from ten years prior on lakes all around the country. This gives us a great opportunity to get a jump start on the fishing before we get to the lake. These results will let us know what the tournament winning lure was and the area of the lake on some cases. However, we can take it to another level and really dissect the information and understand why and how the tournament was won.

I will use Lake of the Ozarks for an example on how to prepare using internet media. I began my research in January for an upcoming Pro-Am tournament at LOZ in March a few years ago. I started with the lake maps and highlight markers and locating a few areas that I thought would be good points. My next move was doing some tournament research on the web. The very first thing that I noticed was the large amount of fish that were caught on stick baits. Equally, the bags were generally over 18 pounds. This information was just not good enough for me and I wanted to know why. The more I researched I found that just as many derbies were being won on crank baits in March. At this point it was a toss up on what to use during my pre-fishing.

It seemed like all of the information was scattered and really leaned towards throwing a crank bait or a stick bait near the dam or in mid lake. That is an area of nearly 40 miles. I was wanting to know how this information could affect my decision making process on the water and where to begin. All the information was there, I just needed a way to break it down and decipher it. I decided to utilize the internet results over several years for tournament wins in March at LOZ and make a graph in hopes that it would be easier to understand. Once I put the information together it was so much easier to understand. Stick baits are at their best when the fish are staged and are in the brush piles. Many of the fishermen at LOZ that do well year in and year out have knowledge of copious amounts of brush piles. My knowledge of submerged Christmas trees was much more limited and was hoping for a crank bait bite.

I learned from this graph below that the winning weights are the highest when the fish are in the brush piles and are easier to find. The stick bait was winning not solely because of super human effort, just that the bass were easier to find. The weights came down as the crank bait bite picked up, this coincided with 47 plus degree water temp. This makes sense because crank baits are at their best when the fish move from the brush piles to the banks and start searching for spawning habitat. Equally, the winning weights decreased as a result of the fish becoming more scattered and not relating to the brush piles as well. The water color coincided with the jerk baits as a result of the fish only being able to see the bait better. The fish swallowed crank baits in clear water as well.

When I arrived at my first spot the water temp was 47.8 degrees. I threw a crawdad imitation crank bait all day on spawning banks and was able to amass a limit that weighed 14.9 lbs. Not a giant limit for LOZ in March but good enough for 3rd place. I was only 1.5 pounds out of the lead. The week before the tournament was won with nearly 22lbs on jerk baits.

In summary, I learned through research on the internet, magazines, and the likes that information is only as good as we interpret it. The information is easily accessible on media outlets. I now use this little graph for every tournament and it has helped me break down the content of the articles. If it was not for this little graph here, I would have thrown a stick bait all day in hopes of catching 22lbs of winning bass. Why, because that is what won it the week before.