The home lake advantage

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column called “The home lake curse.” In it, I tried to explain the reasons why local anglers often struggle in big tournaments on their home waters.

As I mentioned right up front in that one, though, being on your home lake can be a double-edged sword. I want to talk a little about that today because I'm fishing All-Star Week on Muskegon Lake, not very far from my home in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Maybe I should start by saying that Muskegon Lake really isn't my home lake. Because of my travel and tournament schedule, I don't fish here very often, and I haven't fished a tournament here — of any kind — in more than 20 years. I might have a navigational edge on some of the other guys here, but a lot has changed on the lake since I last fished it.

There are five species of vegetation on the lake that weren't here the last time I fished it. The water clarity has changed a lot. There are now zebra mussels and gobies and lots of new forage types on the lake that are all new to my experiences here. In all, it's a very different place.

But don't take that as an excuse. It's not. For all the changes that have occurred on Muskegon Lake in the last two decades, some things are the same, and it's those things that I hope to use to my advantage Friday and Saturday.

To that end, rocks are rock, wood cover is wood cover, and I still remember where they are out here. If I can get on a pattern involving a pretty specific type of cover or structure, I should be able to expand upon it very quickly — maybe more quickly than the other guys — and that can be critical.

If the fishing is tough, the angler who knows the water best is definitely at an advantage. He should be able to adapt more quickly, to find water that's in the wind or out of it, to find clearer water or dirtier water and to repeat whatever is working for him.

I'm not sure how the fishing is going to play out for the first two days on Muskegon Lake, but I think catches that average 13 pounds a day or so should be enough to make the top four and advance to the finals.

Because the top four move on and weights are zeroed after two days, fourth place is as good as first on Muskegon. That definitely impacts the way I'll approach this tournament.

I'll probably be a little more conservative on Day 1 than I would be at a regular Elite event. If I have a spot where I think I can catch a big fish (we could see a five pounder or two out here, and I have seen some sevens) and another spot where I can catch a respectable limit, I'll go to the limit area first on Day 1 rather than gamble on a bigger bag.

Muskegon is just full of two and three pound bass. This should be a good one.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!