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Learning the Ropes--The Art of Bass Fishing

For several years now, I have wanted to learn how to use other techniques for bass fishing other than using spinnerbaits and chatterbaits to target them specifically. I have tried wacky rigging with little success, but other techniques, such as Texas rigging, pitching jigs into cover, or when and where to use top water baits, have always been a mystery to me.

Now, there is who knows how many videos out there, but I prefer to learn on the water as I get more out of it rather than watching it on YouTube. And it is taken a couple of years to get our schedules synced up, but I was finally able to get out with a friend of mine who is one of the most experienced bass anglers I know, Mark Zacher. Plus, L had recently purchased a new St. Croix Mojo Bass rod paired with a Piscifun Flame reel that I was eager to break in on its first trip!

First, it was educational just to see and be on his boat, which is set up for bass fishing. His Nitro boat is rigged for it, from the rod storage to deck placements, sonar displays, and completed with two Power Pole shallow water anchors in the back, which I was very interested to see in action as I've never been on a boat that had these type of anchors.

At our first stop on Angostura Reservoir, I learned some proper top water techniques using one of his best poppers. He tried a different top water lure, but neither of us came up successful. Switching to wacky rigs, I learned some more about the technique and what I'd been doing wrong the past couple of years, such as using lighter weedless jigs for them instead of the larger ones that I had used before as well as waiting longer in between twitches and reeling up.

As we moved down the shorelines towards an area known as the flats, he also threw a Texas-rigged swimbait and succeeded in catching the first largemouth of the day. As we were covering water fast, I switched to spinnerbaits to cover water faster. Another lesson learned--when prowling the shores, do not hang out in an area for very long and keep moving. During this part of the morning, I also learned just how much farther a baitcaster reel can cast a lure versus a spinning reel, which I have known about, but hadn't been around anyone who was an expert on them.

I am not very good at casting baitcasters, only using them for trolling purposes. Well, Mark was easily casting 5' to 10' further than I was using a slightly heavier lure than his. It is easy to see it on TV, quite another to see them in person being cast successfully by an expert! And this was especially true at our last spot of the morning, casting shallow running crankbaits.

At the next stop, we trolled slowly through shallow water and high weeds. Here I was successful in catching my first bass on a top water lure! May not have been the biggest, but at least I would not get skunked on the day and the twitching technique did, in fact, work. Here I got to watch Mark place jigs with skirts he hand tied himself and using a plastic crawfish he helped pour with our local plastics maker Anthony Pendergrass of Titan Lures with such precision along downed branches in the water that I could only watch in admiration.

I doubt I could have made such pinpoint pitches using my spinning reels. He got one this way and lost another but watching the pitches and how he jigged or waited to pop the jig was another educational moment for me. It was also in this area where I got to see the Power Poles deployed for the first time. How more boats do not use these after being able to anchor in a spot and then STAY in a spot is beyond me? Even in my pontoon with my 15-pound anchor, I get swung all around if the wind is blowing. Even spot lock features on trolling motors do not keep the boat from swinging around a bit he said. Apparently if I ever get a bigger boat, I might need to invest in some of these anchors for sure.

As the temperature was rising and more and more recreational boats started hitting the water (4th of July weekend after all), we hit one more spot where we would use shallow running cranks. And here, as I said before, I saw just how valuable using a baitcaster was, as Mark was easily throwing 10' or more further than me. We both managed to catch some bass at this spot, but I may need to learn how to use a baitcasting reel properly. At least, I know a guy.........

While we did not catch as many fish as he had hoped and both my fish were on the small side, I was nevertheless grateful to Mark for the lessons I learned on this trip. I will certainly look to go out with him again soon once his tournament weekends have passed. I would not have learned proper techniques or tips on places to look for bass if I had been at home watching TV. These on-the-lake lessons were far more valuable to me as an angler who wanted to learn from an expert. While I enjoy teaching at my seminars or on my group trips, in case, I was the padawan learning from Yoda and I was thrilled to have the opportunity! I only hope that my training will continue again soon!

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