Heading to unfamiliar waters, especially for a tournament, can be intimidating. Often times, anglers fishing a particular body of water for the first time tend to worry about a number of factors, such as matching the right line to the right lure, or using the right color pattern under specific conditions. While line type and color patterns are important things to consider, they don’t have to be what you focus on if you maintain a conscious effort to fish your personal strengths.
The key to fishing your strengths is using baits you’re confident in, at locations that you’re confident in fishing. Confidence can be quickly lost when you’re fishing a new lake, but fishing your strengths—what you’re good at or what you like to do—keeps your confidence high by removing unnecessary stress from your day. For example, throwing baits that you are confident using will help ensure you are fishing them properly. If you have a tendency to drop-shot off the ends of points in deep, clear water, do that instead of seeking out creeks to fish shallow cover.
If you are used to fishing shallow cover, you already have confidence in your line, hooks, knots, rod, and reel for that situation. Therefore, these elements are no longer factors; you don’t have to think about them because you’ve already proven them to work for you. When you try to fish a technique you’re not confident in, these things become factors that create a stressful distraction that will undoubtedly hinder your comfort and confidence. Not being confident in your equipment will hurt your ability to work baits properly.
Any body of water will have a collection of baits and colors that locals swear by. While it may be a good idea to try these baits, especially if it’s something you already have confidence in using, I’d still try to stick to your personally effective baits and match them to the known conditions on the new lake. For instance, when fishing a lake with thread fin shad in it, the same baits that work on your home lakes with the same shad will work in other lakes, so go with jerk baits, crankbaits, topwater baits, and rattle traps that imitate thread fin shad.
Building new strengths is what makes us better anglers throughout our years on the water, but trying to learn something new in a tournament or when you’re racing against the clock, rather than sticking with what works for you, is not a good idea. The best time to learn a new technique is when you have a specific technique in mind, and nothing but time. This allows you to experiment with it and really familiarize yourself with every aspect of the new technique. You also want to make sure you experiment with a new technique during the time of year, or under conditions, when it’s most effective. For example, during the spring when bass are on their beds or in shallow cover is not the time to learn how fish creek channel ledges.
When you’re confident, you’ll find that things tend to go a lot smoother, especially on the water. This doesn’t mean being unrealistic, but removing unnecessary worry by fishing your strengths and sticking with what works best for you will help you focus on more important things on the water and put more fish in the boat.