John's Journal...



Versatility, Adaptability and Reading Skills - Keys to Success

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Arkansas, has won three of the five Bassmasters Elite 50 tournaments with the participants chosen from the top Angler-of-The-Year finishers on the Bassmasters circuit for the past three years, along with the top-10 all-time money Bassmasters winners. Bassmasters has designated these 50 anglers as the best bass professional fishermen in the world. The events of this type of tournament include competition among all 50 contestants the first two days. Then the tournament eliminates all but the top 12 fishermen, who have all their fish weights erased to allow all 12 to compete equally. The course, which originally has included almost anywhere on a lake, also changes. Bassmasters declares six areas off-limits, and the fishermen have to fish the final two days in each of these six areas. This Elite 50 competition tests all aspects of bass-fishing skills. For any one angler to win three out of five of these events, he has to know bass inside and out and be doing something different from the other fishermen. This week, I’ll pick Davis's brain to learn how he's beat the best of the best in three out of five competitions and how you can become the best bass fisherman you can.

I'm convinced that my versatility with a wide range of lures, my ability to adapt quickly to changing water and weather conditions and my ability to read the water to determine the changes taking place in and on the water and then adapt to those changing conditions all come together when I'm fishing a tournament to give me an edge. I believe some of this talent is God-given, but a big amount of what I'm doing is based on my fishing more than 100 days a year for bass. I don't think you can learn everything about bass fishing by watching videos, reading books or watching TV. But I am convinced that you have to be out on the water in all types of weather and water conditions and constantly attempt to learn what the bass are doing, and why they're doing it.

Click to enlargeI know people often don't want to hear this, but a part of my success I believe to be a God-given talent. In years past, Ray Scott would say, "When it comes to bass fishing, not all men are created equally. There are some who have a talent for the sport, and that talent is what gives them an edge." In any sport, there are athletes who have a talent for that sport, and there are other athletes who strive to become good in the sport through nothing but hard work. If both athletes spend the same amount of time and practice winning competitions, the athlete with talent usually will win over the athlete with not as much talent. I know other anglers on the professional bass-fishing circuits whom I also believe are very talented. For instance, Kevin VanDam, who came to professional fishing at a very young age, also has been highly successful because of his talent and his hard work. I don't think when you're a younger fisherman that there's any way you can know for certain whether or not you're a talented bass fisherman until you test your skills against other bass fishermen. Competition fishing at some level will help you to see whether or not you're a talented fisherman. Once you feel that you have the talent at bass fishing because you've consistently placed well in tournaments, then to develop that talent, you have to spend hours on the water learning more about how to catch bass. After 19 years, I still consider myself a student of bass fishing.

Only in the last few years have I learned how to win tournaments. Up until the last few years, I think I've still been learning how to compete. There are a lot of secrets that you have to learn to win a bass tournament. But, one of the biggest secrets that will change your fishing is knowing how to capitalize on opportunities. The best example I know of capitalizing on opportunity as a fisherman is the blue heron that stands in ankle-deep water, looking at the water and waiting for fish to come by. When he spots a baitfish swimming by close enough to him so that he can act quickly, catch the baitfish and eat it, he's had to watch patiently for some time and must have the knowledge to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. So the professional bass fisherman learns the skills that give him the edge when he seizes opportunity. He's spent thousands of hours fishing competitively. As a tournament fisherman, you have to stay poised and ready, waiting for and anticipating that one small window of opportunity when you'll have a chance to catch the bass you need to win the tournament. For instance, the tournament I just won at Smith Lake in Alabama is the classic example of waiting for an opportunity and then taking it.

Click to enlargeEarly on the first morning of the tournament I had the opportunity to catch a quick limit of spotted bass. That door of opportunity was only open for about 45 minutes, so I had to do all I could to stay focused and to fish effectively while I had the chance to do well. No one had told me that fish would bite Strike King spinner bait on that day. I just had the hunch that the spinner bait could be effective in producing a good limit of those spotted bass, if I would fish it and stay with it long enough to be successful.

Although the lake was clear and deep and not really the kind of conditions where you would normally fish a spinner bait, I realized that the storm, including hail and heavy winds and rain, that occurred on the lake just before we went out to fish would affect my fishing. I knew that spotted bass really loved to feed after a storm and often fed actively then. Therefore, instead of using a finesse bait, I felt that there was a small window of opportunity after that storm to get those bass to bite a fast-moving spinner bait. And I felt just like that blue heron waiting on the bank for the minnows to come by. I saw that small window of chance where I just might be able to fish a spinner bait and catch a good limit of bass. After that first spotted bass bit, I fished as hard and as well as I could for as long as that little window stayed open, about 45 minutes. I had to fight myself to fish that spinner bait because I knew that this lake under these conditions probably weren't right for a spinner bait, but I had that little hunch or notion if you want to call it that, that the spinner bait, at this time, in this place on this lake could produce the bass I needed to catch. By following that notion and taking advantage of that window of opportunity, I caught the bass I needed to catch to get out in front of the pack and have a chance to win.

Click to enlargeOften a fisherman may talk himself out of the only opportunity he'll ever have to win a tournament because he's thinking that what he's planning doesn't really make sense. And that's where bass-fishing experience pays off. I've learned to follow my hunches, regardless of how goofy they may seem or how impractical they may be. Ever now and then those goofy hunches can, will and do result in tournament wins. Now, that spinner-bait pattern didn't work all day long. It only paid off for me during that short time at the very beginning of the tournament when I followed my notion.

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Check back each day this week for more about MORE ON MARK DAVIS AND HIS $100,000 WEEKEND

Day 1: Versatility, Adaptability and Reading Skills - Keys to Success
Day 2: Patience
Day 3: Know When to Hold 'Em and When to Fold 'Em
Day 4: Stay in Focus
Day 5: The Streak



Entry 301, Day 1