Adjusting for really big fish

Bass fishing is about making adjustments to various conditions that confront an angler throughout the day.

Not all adjustments come while in the act of fishing. Sometimes you have to prepare yourself mentally to approach a lake differently.

For example, this week I’m at the Texas Toyota Bass Classic on Lake Fork. My last tournament was on Lake Havasu, Ariz., a much different fishery than we’ll be facing here.

Fishing was pretty good at Havasu and offered a mix of largemouth and smallmouth. But here at Fork, it’s all about BIG largemouth.

And what a fishery it is. Managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) as a trophy fishery, this is no place for light tackle or namby-pamby tactics.

It’s the best lake I ever fished for bass weighing 6 pounds or more. It holds several records for big fish shared with the TPWD Lunker program and a place where you have to target giants if you hope to win.

More importantly, there are no seasonal points gained here. You fish to win. It’s a catch-record-release type of event with judges in each boat who will weigh and record each fish caught. The guy with the five biggest each day wins.

Based on what we’ve seen here the past few years, a 5-pound average won’t get the job done. You’ve got to think big. Really big.

Last year I started throwing big square bill crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits but learned very quickly that the Lake Fork giants want something even bigger than that. As you look up and down the rows of boats prepping for this tournament, you see things like 10-inch swimbaits, big glide baits and double-skirted jigs with full size creature baits as trailers.

The bigger stuff you throw the more likely the bass you need to catch are apt to respond. We’re talking giant jigging spoons, 10XD crankbaits, 12-inch worms, monster jigs and swimbaits the size of tennis shoes.

You also have to rethink where you’re going to fish. It’s tempting to get close to the bank and catch a lot of nice fish, maybe even an occasional giant.

To win here, however, you have to fish areas that have trophy-size potential, and that means offshore structure fishing.

That creates another dilemma. Despite the rain they’ve had here, the water is relatively clear, so line size decisions are critical.

All of my rods are 7-6 to 7-11 and in heavier actions that enable me to battle big fish. Because of the flooded timber hidden beneath the surface, you need heavier line to move those big fish away from the cover – if you can. Small diameter yet super strong braid dominates at Fork. You’re taking chances to use anything smaller than 20-pound fluorocarbon.

I’ve also upsized my hooks to bigger and stronger Mustads to give myself a chance to land the 8- to 10-pound-plus bass.

But to get the deep crankbaits down where the big ‘uns live around that submerged timber, you have to take a chance on a smaller line size and hope you can get the fish out where you have a chance to land them.

Competition begins Saturday and runs through Monday, and it will be a real treat to fish a lake where any cast could produce a state record.

While we’re competing at Lake Fork, most of the country will be enjoying Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. We all need to take time to remember this holiday is in honor of our brave military heroes who made huge sacrifices to protect our freedom.

I can assure you that I will.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!