As I continued to fill the spread sheet, I paused to reflect what I was reading. Sometimes numbers are just numbers, regardless of what they represent, so I needed a minute for things to compute.
The logbook in front of me was self-explanatory. There, over the course of three days, were 60 recorded catches of bass, 21 of which surpassed 8 pounds apiece. Ten of those were over 10.
Three days, two guys, ten 10-pounders.
I had been granted access to some very sacred texts. Through my work as a freelance columnist for FLW’s Bass Fishing Magazine, I was on assignment to uncover the secrets of America’s greatest trophy bass anglers. My search had taken me through the history of Florida and California, into Tennessee to understand Chickamauga’s new contributions, and across remote lakes flying under the radar.
But here was the greatest collection of big-bass data I could ever hope to uncover. It was literally a pot of gold.
My subject, whom you’re sure to be introduced to down the road, turned out to be a friend and fishing partner who shares my obsession for Florida-strain giants. Through his lifetime, he’s traveled all across North America and into Cuba in pursuit of the world’s biggest bass. His tallies may be the most significant in the history of the sport, with over 600 double-digit monsters crossing his gunnels, topped by a world-class fish approaching 19 pounds.
His log books record the date and any significant attribute of all of those catches. Jumping at the chance to record history, I borrowed the logs in order to file them permanently on a hard drive. As we speak, I continue to do so; entering a man’s entire life history of fishing can be a bit tedious.
Through the process, I’ve stopped to reflect on data entered, as well as search for any predictability or pattern to the results. At times, it seems so obvious, other times, the most random, obscure scenarios seem to pay the biggest dividends.
I’m not the first big-bass bookworm. For decades, anglers interested in learning more have kept records – often times extremely detailed – to not only record their accomplishments, but attempt to predict heightened activity periods in the future and make this whole thing seem more orderly.
The problem is, while nature is entirely organized, oftentimes the parameters are too simple for us to detect.
For instance, let’s first consider moon phase. For decades, we’ve been taught that nature relies on a lunar clock, or one governed by the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth, to dictate activity periods. Keen observers of nature see this in everyday life. Insects hatch around moon phases, and tides are increased in saltwater environments, often turning sluggish fish into biters. It’s thought that bass often spawn in accordance with the moon and it seems rutting bucks get wily on moonlit nights.
My guru’s logbooks confirm incredible catches on days revolving around the full-moon period in both spring and summer, sometimes. My own personal logs reflect a strong bite occurring within a few days of the full moon, or often directly on the days of the first and third quarter (half moon). But, again, sometimes.
Other times, it seems everything lines up with empty results. A full moon and spring warming trend are met by pre-frontal conditions and an uncrowded lake, yet the day remains unproductive, resulting in only a few small bass. But why?
Well, sometimes it’s just not that easy, nor should it be. If predicting productive fishing periods was a cut-and-dry affair, everybody would bombard the lake on the best days, obviously.
So all we can do is our best to gather as much data as possible, process it, and learn from the results. Sometimes the conclusion seems too simple, other times the test might be skewed.
For example, I can boldly claim that swimbaits catch more giant largemouth than any other lure, based on my overall results. But I know a few good worm fishermen who may argue.
Sure, each region of the big-bass belt has its list of producers, due to a lure’s ability to match predominant fishing conditions. Some places it's punch baits, others it’s magnum cranks and flutter spoons on structure. But there must be some common characteristics …
As I continue to work on my new assignment, I find myself searching for the answer more so than ever. There must be a secret, be it daily conditions or water depth. Perhaps it’s line size, or color, or fall rate of a lure. Maybe it’s sound, or the lack thereof.
In any case, I’ll keep recording the data, and interviewing the players who seem to make it all look easy, time and time again. Maybe, after enough of it, a true pattern will emerge. So far, I’ve found a couple of interesting directions, which I’m anxious to confirm. Most key on slowing down with magnum baits, and putting in ridiculous amounts of time in hopes of receiving a handful of bites. Think you have what it takes to take your big-bass fishing to the next level? Stay tuned and I’ll report back with my findings.
Once I finish these spreadsheets.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)