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US Open Reflections and Preparation
Posted by mmagnone, 9/24/2017 11:52:32 AM


"Go New, Stay Focused and Fish Confident From the Backseat!" 

 Self critiquing is a way I’ve always prepared myself in trying to break down my weaknesses and how I can better myself on the water.  In the 2016 WON Bass US Open, I felt I was confident enough to compete, but  realized that there were a few aspects in my approach that I wasn’t on top of. I needed the eye opening, humbling experience in order to grow as an angler. 
Spending years Bass Fishing in the  traditional sense, I hit a moment as Bill Siemantel calls Going Psycho, where all I wanted were fish over the 10 pound mark and all on the swim bait. I dove head over heels into that mindset and pushed aside my past and started attacking the lakes differently. While the baits had changed,  the techniques had still remained the same. It got to the point I avoided lures or rigs in my arsenal when in hindsight those were the most valuable in my boat at that given time. Needless to say I abandoned my roots which culminated my style as an angler thus far. Fast forward to the 2016 WON Bass US Open. 
I had been hard charged on attacking the lake with speed. When I look back, that was probably the dumbest thing I could have prepared for. I had it in my head, as a Lake Mead newbie, that all my Pro’s were going to jam down the bank, force feeding fish reaction baits as I was told Mead is like fishing on the moon going so far in between bites. From the knowledge been given from  many US Open veterans, this is a viable option, but what I had ignored was the ability to be versatile and slow down. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been in control of the trolling motor so coming into a situation where I wasn’t the one making on the fly decisions I had to sit through another anglers mental game and found myself having to slow down and fish at a speed I wasn’t prepared for. Make no mistake, I don’t want anyone to assume I was unhappy with my draws as my 3 Pro’s absolutely busted their butts and were EXTREMELY hospitable, but it was me who was a  little rusty in adaptation. 
The US Open is a 3 day shared weight format where a AAA has the ability to ride with 3 different Pro’s on 3 separate days. One day an angler might be up in Gregg Basin while the other days he may be down in Vegas Wash or the Overton Arm. It’s IMPERATIVE that a AAA angler can feel the water and adjust as the day presents itself. As a “boater” practicing for this event, I fell into being too conditioned into what practice had proved.
In official practice, I narrowed my bait selection down to a Jig on Main and Secondary Points, Topwater in cuts and Cranks on 45 degree banks. This pattern showed me quality, quantity and isolated bigger fish from limit fish. I had found specific sections of the lake which showed promise as to locations I would have thought others were clued in on. While this was all cool and dandy, driving away from areas of the lake in which I assumed others had isolated had me a little head tripped. 
Lesson #1
“Go New” Treat every day like it’s your first day-
Having never been to the lake before, I had not the clue as to what each end of the lake offered. I primarily stayed down in the Lower Basin and the Narrows without the chance to explore the Overton or Temple. Needless to say I was a little un-prepared when we shot straight to Echo. Here lies the lesson in this instance. Last year I learned on Lake Mead, although you may have a plan, color, spot or technique, It’s imperative that you must always “Go New”. I’m not saying abandon what pre fish had shown you, but be able to adapt easily to changing conditions and give yourself the mental focus to realize when to pick up a bite or drop one. Simple, and how I base every fishing trip, but the glam behind this tournament had me thinking sideways although I kept a cool head. As a AAA, all I had to go off of was what the fish “told” me  in Pre Fish. I attacked key zones but realized that my speed was off from my Pro. I was fishing at a speed in which I knew the fish wanted, but he was fishing at his own pace in which he knew the fish wanted. Reflecting on this, knowing the fish wanted the top water in the morning in the cuts, while my pro worked his jig at a slower speed, I could have thrown a one two punch at the Bass from my end. Walk the surface with my topwater and  then follow up with a slowed down approach of a hair jig, soft plastic jerk bait or even a darter head. I found myself burning water and made the mistake of trying to force feed fish in a zone that didn’t want to eat. Looking back, I should have read the conditions and individual spot and adapted better to suit the situation. They were there in confidence, I just had to “Go New”

Lesson #2
Stay Focused-
With Lake Mead having a good population of Bass, although spread out, I learned that it’s crucial to keep a bait in the water at all times and fish cast to cast. Although I felt, I did well in this aspect, I feel that talking with other anglers preparing for the backseat, most tell me all their grand ideas as to how they’re going to be throwing Alabama Rigs, Jigs, Swim baits, Spy Baits, Cranks etc. etc. That’s all cool, but I feel as a back seater, it’s in your best interest to focus and fish methodically. Treat every cast like it’s your last and imagine every cast being the one you’ll get bit on. It’s extremely easy to get complacent and then caught with your pants down. Being ready to wind tight to a bass at a moments notice is really important. With the Bass either being so spread out or vise versa in a giant wolf pack, being on top of your day can be the difference between putting 1-5 in the boat or missing your opportunities. Narrow your bait selection down and spend more time fishing, than re-tying or re-rigging. While I’m new to this fishery, I understand that a lot can happen in a moments notice. Staying focused and in-tune will only help you. 
Lesson #3
Fish your confidence-
In preparing for the 2016 US Open having never settled eyes on Lake Mead, I was a sponge to past knowledge. Being trained to filter information and not listen too much to dock talk, I was given a lot of clues as to how to prepare for this event. 3 baits that stood out from the pack were the Jig, Drop Shot and Topwater. 
In actuality, what else do you really need? 
Top, Middle and Bottom right?
Well here’s where fishing from the front for so many years brought a whirlwind through my head. The type of angler I am, I over analyze EVERYTHING when it comes to fishing. In my head, there’s always a reason for a situation or a method to the madness. I always envision what the fish are doing and how they set up to feed or stage. When I settled into my 3 styles of baits, I started broadening my scope for the “What ifs“. 
In terms of the Jig, I started thinking about size, head shape, color. Trailers, which soon led to, Shakey Heads, Texas Rigs, Hula Grubs etc etc etc. When it came time to think about the Dropshot, I started thinking about line size and line type 
“If they’re eating baits up off the bottom, what about? Darter Heads, Underspins and Small Swimbaits?”
This is where fishing your confidence comes into play. You simply don’t have the ability to run though everything you “think” will work. Spending quality time with baits and techniques that are high percentage is critical to success. I’m not going to say abandon your gut feelings, as they are the most powerful sometimes, but having a high percentage bait in the water, at all times, is the more viable option. When in doubt, pull out your “Ol Faithful” Sometimes the best bait you should be throwing is the bait that you have the best confidence in.
Throughout the tournament I had my Ups and I had my Downs. There were times, in reflection, where I question what the hell I was thinking and how I could have done a lot better; Simple as that. 
Fishing the US Open, allowed from Last Chance Bait and Tackle and Last Chance Performance Marine, was nothing short of a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to compete in a Pro Am event, but money has always stopped me. This past year I was blessed with a staff position and the privilege to run a 2016 and 2017 Skeeter FX20LE. Literally a dream come true! This year with the hopes of a little luck and determination, I hope to be able to fish this one from the pointy end. 
In reflection, of all the lessons learned from the 2016  Won Bass US Open, the most important were to “Go New”, “Stay Focused” and “Fish Your Confidence“.
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