First tournament in 4 years

April 24, 2010 Santa Margarita Lake

My first tournament since 2006 was going to take place at Santa Margarita Lake and I was excited! I took my good friend Tyler out to do a little pre-fishing to see if I could develop a pattern before the big day. We got a little action on spinnerbaits during our outing but no keepers (keeper bass = 13").

A little side note about pre-fishing. It helps you eliminate unproductive water and zero in on the most productive areas. It also helps you determine which techniques are most likely to work in each situation, and builds up your confidence so you won't panic and prematurely start switching patterns after the tournament starts.

I like to start pre-fishing at home looking at aerials of a map as well as a topographic map. I start with what time of year it is as a starting point and look for areas on the map that make sense. There is a big mental side of fishing that I plan on learning more and more about. Visualizing your day being a success thinking there is a fish near by on every cast, these things help your mental game. Then I can go out and work an area with the baits I want and if it works I can look for similar areas on a map with out having to fish them.

Topo map of Santa Margarita 
You never want to "burn" the fish you want to catch during the tournament. You want to get bites so you know where the fish are, and you may want to land a fish or two in each spot to see how big they are, but you don't want to catch so many fish that you "educate" them. You can ensure this by bending your hooks closed or cutting them off and, instead of setting the hook when you get a strike just try to shake the bait (but never shake babies) a little so the fish will drop it.

During the tournament the spinnerbait bite fell off. We were not catching any keepers! Not sure if I was in the wrong areas or if conditions changed on me but I adapted and fished a smaller more subtle bait slowly. Which for me is a drop shot. I fished the drop shot near a tree leading back to a spawning cove by the marina. I caught three keepers off that tree through out the day. The worm I was using was a 4" cut tail yamamoto worm.

The funny thing about that worm was it was on old one I had lying in my box for years. The color was faded and I only had three of them. The fish must have been feeding on something that looked just like that because as soon I lost my last worm in that color, so sorry no mire bites. It was a tough day because out of 30 anglers I ended up in 6th place with just three fish. I forget what my total weight was.

The angler who won used spinnerbaits and senkos on a striper flat in the area of the lake near the dam. Blades were a god idea I just never found the right water.

I was inspired to buy a rig just for drop shoting so I can detect the soft bites and really let the set up reach its full potential. A drop shot for me is best on about 6-8 pound Trilene flurocarbon line professional grade, a light weight spinning reel with a smooth drag, and the rod for me should be relatively long 6'9"-7' (I feel it gives me more casting distance and more leverage for hook sets, well more like pulls with the bites on a drop shot, if you set the hook to hard it will rip out).

The rig I ended up buying was a Pflueger President spinning reel combined with a Okuma Reflexions 6'9" ML spinning rod.