Editor’s Note: Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Missouri, hadn’t fished West Point Lake on the Alabama/Georgia line since 1986. Brauer knew he wouldn’t remember much about a lake he hadn’t fished in more than 25 years, and even if he did, just about everything about the lake would have changed. Brauer realized he’d have to fish West Point as though it was a new lake for him to fish, and he still pulled-off a top-12 finish in the BASS Elite Series Tournament held there May 5-8. 2011. This week, he’ll tell us how he did it, and what he learned about fishing a new lake.
Part 1: Denny Brauer on Creating a Game Plan to Fish By and Why He Abandoned the Plan
Question: Denny, what did you do to prepare for the BASS Elite Series tournament at West Point Lake?
Brauer: I pulled-up West Point Lake on my Humminbird depth finder with Navionics electronic navigation charts to get an overview of the lake and an underwater view of the bottom. I saw the points, the creek channels, the drop-offs and the ledges. With new technology, we can study a lake much-more effectively than we could when we only had paper lake maps. Not only did I study the overall look of the lake and located the creek channels, the drop-offs and the ledges, but I also was able to mark, with a GPS, the exact locations where I thought bass should be concentrated and the places I wanted to check for bass during practice.
This information gave me a tremendous advantage for finding and catching bass that we never had had previously. By marking the sites I wanted to fish as waypoints on my GPS with Navionics, I knew that when I got on the water, the GPS could take me right to the spots I’d marked on the map. I spent 4 to 5 hours studying that Navionics map like I once studied study paper maps.
I also studied the water levels the lake had produced leading-up to the tournament and examined the weather patterns for the week before the tournament and the expected patterns during the tournament. These factors are critical keys to finding bass on any lake you fish at any time of year, in any area of the country. This regimen is the same one I go through prior to fishing any tournament. This procedure drastically will increase your odds for catching bass on any lake you plan to fish, whether you’re a tournament fisherman or a weekend fisherman.
Most people just show-up at a lake and start fishing without ever getting all the information they can about the lake, such as weather conditions and lake levels, before they go fishing. Tournament fishermen usually outperform weekend bass fishermen, because we do our homework before we try to catch the bass. From our homework, we generally can tell how the bass will be biting and where they’ll be located.
Question: Before you reached West Point Lake, where did you think the bass would be holding, and what did you think you’d have to do to catch them?
Brauer: I thought that the bass would be farther along in their post-spawn pattern, that a number of bass would be out on deep structure and into their summer pattern, that plenty of bass would be caught in 8- to 15-foot-deep water off points, that a number of bass would be caught shallow early in the morning before sunrise, and that I’d get a good bass bite fishing the Strike King Football Jig deep. But when I reached the lake, I learned that everything I thought was wrong. That’s why our sport is called fishing and not catching.
Regardless of how much you know about bass fishing and about the lake where you’ll be fishing, when you reach the lake, you’ve got to fish based on the conditions on that lake at that time. I thought the tournament would be won with deep-water fishing. But the people who performed best in this tournament caught the majority of their bass on jump patterns. They fished shallow water and any type of jump they could find related to the bank. Even though you should go through the procedures of doing your homework to pick spots where you think you can catch bass, marking those locations on your GPS and developing a game plan, don’t be surprised if you get to the lake, and the game plan you’ve planned to fish won’t work. Don’t stay too long trying to make the bass bite on a pattern that’s not appropriate for the conditions on that lake, at that time.
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