Sunday, April 14, 2024

Practice? Why are we talking about practice? by Jason Houchins


Practice? Why are we talking about practice?


bass fishing 1-credit Nate Luke
It’s the day before a big tournament and my last two trips out have affirmed I’m clueless as to what’s going on. I’m going out to practice and I feel like I have little confidence on what to do, my usual stuff has not panned out. The water is rising and its early in the year, the water also is getting real dirty, almost too dirty. With temps in the water temps in the mid-40s, this is not looking good at all, cold dirty water can be tough. Even once the fish have committed and the calendar says go, this can sure change what they are doing.  Well someone’s going to catch them and if it’s going to be me I have a lot of work to do. We have all been in this situation at Buggs Island Lake more than one time. The lake always seems to throw you a curve when you expected a fast ball down the middle. Hopefully I can give you some basic information to at least put you in the right direction if this happens to you.
First off I have to say I am personally not big on practicing for a single event here. Unless something is going on I’m unfamiliar with, I really limit practice time. This lake really fishes day to day in my experience and that’s how I fish here most of the time. I do have a huge advantage living on the lake and do have the experience, but this place always seems to change and if you get dialed in on yesterday you might be in trouble today. The first tip I have to give is fish for the conditions on the day or days of the event and keep an open mind. You should have a plan in your mind of what you want to do and a backup plan of what you may have to do, but fish the conditions. Without even launching a boat the two major factors that can be monitored are the water level and the weather.
I will pay attention to the water levels on this lake constantly before an event. I want to know how much has been pulled out of the lake and if the overall level has changed that much. This is the most important thing to keep an eye on before an event, this will dictate what’s going on better than any other factor. If you’re not sure how to do this the Kerr Lake Info web page is the best site I have found. Once you are on the Fishing Report page there is a lake level reading that you can click on, that gives you hourly levels, inflow, and power generation. You can also scroll back and look at the past week to see what the generation trend has been and what the recent past levels were. I check lake levels almost obsessively no matter what time of the year it is and it really helps me on this body of water. I can’t stress enough how big of a factor the water level plays on this lake, from early spring throughout the fall.
Weather is the other big factor on any body of water and Buggs Island is no different. Early in the year it is almost as important as water level in determining where to start. We all know and hear about fronts, barometric pressure, moon phases, etc. And yes this all affects fish in a lot of different ways, but I’m not a biologist or scientist so I’m not going to act like I know what a fish does all the time, it’s just not realistic. I will say if the weather is changing the fish are going to change to, so keep an eye on change. Temperature change is big, especially early on so always look at your forecast air temperature for a while leading up to the tournament. Don’t focus too much on the high temperature, look at the night time lows. If the temperature is going to bottom out close to what the actual water temperature is, you know you will not have much cooling. This will keep temperatures fairly stable in the morning and make them easier to rise during the day.

You have a hold on the weather and water levels and now you are ready to practice, right? What does that mean to you, to practice for an event? Everyone is different and I personally use this to look at my confidence level and decide what I want to do next. If I have really struggled recently, I’m going to want to fish a bunch and really attempt to catch fish. I want to build my confidence in what I’m doing and be on a high note when the event starts. I can’t stand being undecided of what I’m going to do as an event starts and confidence really is an important factor. Now if I really start to catch them I will obviously change my tactics and start looking for other areas where what I’m doing will work. Hopefully I have a pattern I can at least start with and try to duplicate it in other areas.
If I’m confident in what I’m going to do in an event, then fishing is not real important to me. I just want to add to what I already think I know. I will try to go somewhere I don’t normally fish and see if I can find new locations, and I will also ride around and look at water clarity and difference in temperatures. Riding around from creek to creek on this lake can be an eye opening experience, the difference between Nutbush Creek and Bluestone Creek is night and day.  I will also take this time to do something totally different from what my plans are just to see what I can learn. This can be real hard to do, but it can help get a much needed fish on tournament day if you turn over the right rock. You can also stumble onto something that can help you throughout a season, so it’s worth the time.
I know fisherman that will practice several days for one event, catch a bunch of fish, and then struggle on tournament day. I also see some guys that never practice and always seem to do well on this ever changing puzzle we call Buggs Island Lake. I’m a big believer in personal preference with most things fishing. I think each individual has to do what he or she think is right to prepare for a tournament. In my personal experience I have won some of my biggest tournaments with no practice at all. I think on this lake more than most, you need to fish “in the now” more than ever before. During practice you can really get locked in on something that is happening at that time, then it will totally change by tournament time. Then you are locked in on yesterday’s pattern and by the time you figure it out, you are behind. I fish on this lake several days a year and I kind of look at every day I fish as a practice day, so in a sense I am always practicing towards something. I always keep an eye on what’s going on around me and look at the situation, knowing at some point I will face this condition in a tournament. Then just maybe when that situation arises in a tournament setting I can be prepared for what Buggs Island Lake throws at me the next time.

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