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What Do You Do When You're Having A Bad Day In A Tournament?

provided by John Phillips

Mossy Oak Fishing Pro Brandon Lester, 31 years old from Fayetteville, Tennessee, has fished 87 Bassmaster events and won $603,374. In 2018, he was the points champion and Angler of the Year and has 19 top-10 finishes on Bassmaster. To learn more about Lester, visit

Brandon Lester fishing

What do you do when you're having a bad day in a tournament?

The one I can remember the most is the 2018 Bassmaster Classic that I fished at Fort Loudoun Lake near Knoxville, Tennessee. Although I had a really good practice, at the end of the first day, I’d only weighed in 9 pounds.  The bass I’d identified were also found by a large number of the other competitors, and the bass at each one of my stops had been depleted. 

At the Bassmaster Classic, you really have nothing to lose. Nobody is fishing for points, although everyone is fishing to win. So, after that first day, I had to rethink where I would fish, and how I would fish for bass. Then on the second day of the Classic, I weighed in 13 pounds, which I thought was pretty good for fishing water I never had fished before. And the third day, I caught enough bass to make the top cut. I was in 18th place going in to the final day, and I finished that 2018 Classic in 6th place. I caught almost 19 pounds of bass on the last day of the tournament.  

On that last day, I decided I had so much weight to make up that I would fish a big jig all day long. I knew I wouldn’t get many bites, but I also realized that if I could land bass that took that big jig, I should be able to add more weight to my tournament weight and possibly finish higher up. Even though I only had seven bites all day, all seven bass I caught were big bass. So, what I learned at that tournament was when you're behind on points and having a lousy tournament, then how you fish doesn’t really matter. Maybe fish a really big bait, know you won’t get many bites, and try to put every bass that bites your bait into the boat. 

How do you know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em? If you're sitting on a spot where you're catching a good number of small bass, how do you make the decision to leave those bass that you're catching on almost every cast and go find big bass? 

A lot of what goes into making that decision is how well you know the body of water you're fishing, the kind and the size of bass in that body of water, and what pounds of bass have been caught in tournaments before to win on that lake. Since I live on the Tennessee River, during the pre-spawn, I've learned that bass will tend to school by size. So, if I'm catching a large number of small bass, I realize the chances of catching a big bass in that same school are pretty slim. After I catch 10 to 12 small bass, I’ll leave that school, move to another location on the river and attempt to find a school of bigger bass. Now, if I'm on a river like the Sabine River in Texas, I’ll probably stick around that first spot and see if I can find a few bigger bass. 

Another thing I’ll do before I leave a school of small bass is I’ll change my lure to a bigger bait and cast that bait into the school, hoping any bigger bass in that school will take the bait. If I’m fishing a lure like a shaky-head worm and catching small bass, then I’ll either tie on a big bulky jig or fish a large crankbait through that school. There may be a bigger bass in that school, and that bigger lure should get it to bite. 

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