John's Journal...

Denny Brauer – Preparing the Tournament

Before I Get to the Lake

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Missouri, was a chess master, he’d be one of the best in the world. Tournament bass fishing is much like a game of chess in that you have to lay out a battle strategy first with plenty of options, so that you can react and move properly, depending on your opponent’s plan. Over the years, Brauer has proved he knows how to play the game. In mid-July 2006, Denny Brauer passed the $2 million mark in earnings for tournament fishing on the Bassmaster’s tournament circuit. The only other angler to achieve this goal is Kevin VanDam, who’s also a Strike King pro. No one ever can doubt that these two anglers know how to find and catch bass anywhere in the country, under any water and weather conditions and against the toughest competition in the nation. As most athletic coaches know, preparation is the key to winning. This week, we’ll talk with Brauer about how he prepares to fish the Lake Champlain tournament, and what he does to win.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Denny, you’re pre-fishing for which tournament right now?
Brauer: The Lake Champlain New York CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series’ tournament.

Question: Denny, when you pre-fish, what are you trying to do?
Brauer: I want to figure out where the bass are, and what types of patterns will prove best to catch them, once I locate them.

Question: On a lake like Champlain, what lures will you use to find and catch bass?
Brauer: On Lake Champlain, you have one more piece to the puzzle, and that’s to determine what type of bass you’re planning to target. This lake has both smallmouth and largemouth bass. If you decide to fish for smallmouth bass, you have to take a very different set of rods with you than if you’re going to fish for largemouth bass. Even before I get to Click to enlargethe lake, I have to decide what type of bass I’m going to fish for, so I’ll know what type of gear to take with me.

Question: What’s the advantage to fishing for largemouth on a smallmouth lake?
Brauer: The largemouth bass will weigh on average more than smallmouth bass do. Finding a good concentration of largemouth bass will be more difficult than locating a good concentration of smallmouth bass. These lakes up in the North are predominantly smallmouth lakes. If I decide to fish for largemouths, I’m going against the grain. I’ll be fishing for a smaller population of fish, but, if I can find them, I’m hoping for bigger fish in that smaller population. If I can get the largemouth figured out, I may have the possibility of putting a 20-pound, five-fish bag limit together. Catching five smallmouths that weigh 20 pounds will be very difficult. I have to decide, “Do I think I can put a limit of 5-pound largemouth together every day for four days, or, will I be better off fishing for the easier fish, the smallmouth, and hope I can catch big ones? Am I better off to try to put 15 pounds of smallmouth in my bag every day for four days? On the other hand, will I be better off to try to put 20 pounds of largemouth in my bag each day for four days?” There’s plenty of decision-making that happens on a lake like Champlain. A tournament usually boils down to the winner being the one who guessed right.

Question: Denny, how will you make the decision on whether to fish for largemouth or smallmouth?
Brauer: Another factor that goes into the decision-making process is which one of these two species of bass do you feel like you know most about and can catch the most? For me, I know I’m a better largemouth angler than a smallmouth angler. So, I know I need to target those fish. However, I have to be very careful because I really enjoy catching smallmouth. I have to decide whether this tournament is going to be a work trip or a vacation trip. If it is in fact a work trip where I’m trying to earn a living for my family, I know I have to fish for largemouth bass. If I get tired of fishing for largemouth bass and start fishing for smallmouth bass because I know I can catch them and they’re fun to catch, I’ve just turned my work trip into a vacation trip.

Click to enlargeQuestion: So, you have to keep your head in the game and not yield into the temptation of fishing for smallmouth, right?
Brauer: That’s the game plan right now, and I’m going to try to stick to that plan. I’ll locate a couple of small spots just in case I get into trouble. I also have to keep in mind the point situation for Angler-of-the-Year, and I don’t want to gamble on not making the Bassmasters Classic. The other factor I have to consider is the weather. Lake Champlain is a huge lake and can get extremely rough. Some of these largemouth regions are very susceptible to rough weather, which can prohibit me from getting to them. That rough weather also affects these largemouth bass detrimentally. There’s plenty of decision-making that has to take place on a lake like Lake Champlain, even before you get there. Many of these decisions won’t have to be faced if we’re fishing another lake.

As we continue through the week, consider how the mind of a master works, and you’ll see that the art of tournament bass fishing is more mental than physical. Sure, catching bass is important, but planning how, where and when, and being flexible enough to change your game plan based on changing water and weather conditions are all part of the tournament-winning strategy.

Tomorrow: How Will You Find the Big Bass?


Check back each day this week for more about "Denny Brauer – Preparing the Tournament "

Day 1: Before I Get to the Lake
Day 2: How Will You Find the Big Bass?
Day 3: What Type of Lures Are You Going to Use to Catch Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass?
Day 4: Managing Your Bass and Dealing with the Weather
Day 5: Pattern Fishing vs. Small Fishing


Entry 362, Day 1