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The Game Plan with Denny Brauer for His Lake Champlain Win in Mid-July

The Game Plan for the Tournament and Brauer’s Quest to Fight Back

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Last week, Denny Brauer told us how he planned to fish the 2006 CITGO Bass Elite Series’ tournament on Lake Champlain. We talked with Brauer after the first day of practice, and much like a pool shooter who calls a shot, Brauer accurately predicted how he would fish, where he would find the fish, and how he would catch them to win this $100,000 tournament. Four days after we talked to Brauer, he executed the plan he’d laid out for us. Not only did he win the $100,000 first prize, he also passed the $2 million mark in tournament winnings, which moved him into first place as the No. 1 bass angler to win the most money on the Bassmaster circuit. This week, Brauer will take us day-by-day through the tournament and show us how he executed the plan he’d laid out for the tournament won one of the biggest events of his life. We’ll not only see the strategy of a champion, but we’ll also witness the mindset of a winner.

Question: Denny, where did you find the fish that won this tournament?
Brauer: On the first day of practice, I went about 75 miles from the launch site to Plattsburg in the Ticonderoga area of the lake, a place well-known for big catches of largemouth bass. I’d already made the choice to fish for largemouth instead of smallmouth because I felt that catching largemouth would give me the best opportunity to win. While I was down in that hot Ticonderoga area, I caught a 4- and a 6-pounder. I had a couple of other big bass bite on top-water baits too. I immediately left that region in the southern part of the lake. I could have caught five bass there that weighed a total of 20 pounds easily. I also found two other places holding good-sized bass. However, what scared me about this first area I identified was that southern Lake Champlain was known for high winds and rough water. Click to enlargeAfter having three major back surgeries, I didn’t think I’d be able to make that 75-mile run every day of the tournament without encountering bad weather. Even though I found a spot where I thought I could win the tournament on the southern end of the lake, on the second day of practice, I decided to go to the north end of the lake rather than the south end, where I knew the fish were. I got many bites and jerked on a few of the fish. I could see that they were good quality bass. On the third day, I went back to the northern section of the lake, expanded on the region I’d found and located a few more sites I felt were holding bass. My son, Chad, had found some other regions on the southern part of the lake where I fished the first day. Since he’s a bit younger than I am and doesn’t have any back problems, he decided to concentrate fishing on the southern half of the lake, and I pretty well decided to fish the northern part of the lake. The section I found on the northern part of the lake was only 40 miles from the launch site as opposed to the 75-mile run to the south. Chad did well in the tournament. He finished in 20th place and had a good tournament. Since I stayed in the northern section of the lake, so Chad and I were fishing about 120-miles apart.

Question: Denny, you decided to stay north in your secondary area because the ride wouldn’t punish you as much. But do you think that if your back wasn’t hurt, you could have made that 75-mile run and possibly won the tournament from the south end?
Brauer: My back’s fine. I could have made the run to the south. The question Click to enlargewas, did I want to endure the pain that rough ride would create? When I found the spot I located in the north, I felt my odds of winning were better there than they were in the south. The area in the north wasn’t my secondary choice. It was really my first choice. My game plan was to fish two days of the tournament in the north. If I used up my water, I’d head south for the third day to catch another big bag of fish. However, the more I fished my northern area, the more I learned how many bass that region was actually holding, and the better I learned to catch bass in that location. I decided I could win the tournament in that vicinity. It didn’t make any sense to leave my area in the north on the third day of the tournament.

Question: Denny, one of the critical keys to your decision-making process to win this tournament was your back. When did you hurt it?
Brauer: I injured my back right after the 1999 Bassmaster’s Classic that Davy Hite won. I finished second in that Classic. About two weeks later, we had a tournament on Lake St. Claire, which was the first tournament of that year. That’s where I injured my back.

Question: What happened next, Denny?
Brauer: I fished hurt for a couple of tournaments. Then I had back surgery, and it failed. I ended up having three more surgeries on my back until I finally met with the right doctor and got the problem cured.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Denny, for most competitors, all those back surgeries would have been career-ending events. Why did you decide to come back and finish competing? You’d already made plenty of money, and achieved much, if not more, than any other competitor on the circuit. Why did you decide to not hang it up and quit fishing for bass and doing TV shows?
Brauer: You’re right, it would have been easy to say, “I’ve had a great career as a tournament pro, made a good living for me and my family, and I don’t have to fight anymore.” Financially, quitting would have been an issue. At that point in my career and even today, I’m not out here competing as much for the money as I am because I love the sport. I love the fishing, the competition and the guys I’m competing against. Tournament bass fishing is my world. It’s who I am, not what I do. I also didn’t want to be taken out of the sport by an injury. I looked at my back injury as the greatest challenge I ever faced during my tournament bass-fishing career. The challenge for me was to fight through this injury and get back to my competitive form. Throughout the back surgeries, I looked forward to coming back to the sport of tournament bass fishing and proving I could get back into that competitive form.

Question: Did quitting ever cross your mind?
Brauer: Sure, it did. When things aren’t going right, anyone thinks, “Maybe I should back away.” After the surgeries, if I had a bad tournament, on that long drive home, I often caught myself thinking, “Denny, it’s about time for you to hang it up.” By the time I’d arrive at home, I’d be so mad about this injury trying to force me out of tournament bass fishing that I couldn’t wait until it was time to leave for the next tournament. I wanted the chance to prove that I still could compete, and my back injury wasn’t going to beat me. Then, if I had a good week at a tournament, I’d get myself really pumped-up and decide that I wanted to tournament bass fish for the rest of my life. I’ve learned over the years that emotions lie, and I never want to make decisions based on emotions. I always try to make decisions based on good reasons.

Tomorrow: Honey Hole on the First Day

Check back each day this week for more about "The Game Plan with Denny Brauer for His Lake Champlain Win in Mid-July"

Day 1: The Game Plan for the Tournament and Brauer’s Quest to Fight Back
Day 2: Honey Hole on the First Day
Day 3: How Brauer Fished the Second Day of the Tournament
Day 4: Brauer Reveals a New Tournament-Winning Strategy
Day 5: Going for the Win


Entry 363, Day 1