Chris Baumgardner thinks the open-mind approach is the best way to go in competition, especially at a lake he’s been to several times in the past. Take the recent Lake Okeechobee FLW Tour, for example.
In previous years, he’s joined the pack up along the north shore where bites are usually consistent and the chances at a difference-making fish are quite good. This year, he went against the grain and opted to fish down south, away from the crowds and it paid off in the form of an 11th-place finish to open the season. It was his best finish at the Big “O” since he was the runner-up to J.T. Kenney at the B.A.S.S. Southern Open in October 2003.
“I usually fish up north, but I got a couple things working and was fortunate to get a decent bite about every day, which is key down there,” said the Gastonia, N.C., native. “I was happy with 11th. I wasn’t on the fish to win, but I was close to making the Top 10.”
He says there might not be another lake where a big bite or two can make such a difference in the standings. He was the beneficiary of a couple of those last week.
“On the first day, I was just trudging along and probably had about 10 pounds and wasn’t catching the size of fish I’d caught in practice,” he said. “Then I was swimming a jig back to the boat and it just stopped and I caught a 7 1/2-pounder. At that point, 10 pounds was probably going to put me in 100th place and I went to being in the Top 20 because of that one bite. That was at 4 and I was due in at 4:30. You can say that one bite turned my whole tournament around.”
He topped 16 pounds on days 1 and 2, and stuck a 6-pounder off a little patch of Kissimme grass on day 3, but didn’t have much else to go with it as he closed with 12-02, which gave him 44-08 for the week. Another 1 1/2 pounds would’ve clinched a Top-10 finish.
“I caught fish in the rim ditch and caught some on grass flats on a Zoom Magnum Super Fluke and some pitching a craw into mats,” he said. “I caught fish a lot of different ways, but all of my big fish came on a big jig.
“Usually the north shore is pretty consistent and a lot of guys do well up there, but it gets so crowded. I figured I needed to get away from the crowd, but that can sometimes bite you. I just seem to do better when I can find something on my own and I found a little area and had it basically to myself. I had a few options and it seemed to work out.”
The Big Bite Lookback, which focuses on the angler who's first out of the final cut at each tour-level event, is brought to you by the great folks at Big Bite Baits.