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Extreme Specialization

By Rob BelloniJune 13, 2005

Typical tournament bass fishing advice says, keep it simple.  Don’t put too many rods on the deck.  If you’re a non-boater, don’t bring too many rods period.  Have a little bit of everything rigged up and ready so that you can cover a lot of situations.  I saw an article in BASS Times just this month about how a well known pro claims that he only brings a small set of lure types to each tournament.  That’s not to say he doesn’t carry hundreds of each type, but the message there to the reader was that you could succeed at the highest levels of tournament fishing using only a few basic categories of lures.  This is all nice, and I’m sure there are many people out there who have experienced great success by keeping it simple; But what about not keeping it simple?  What about matching specific baits, lines, rods and reels to specific situations?  If you have a strong idea about what to expect before hand, what about rigging five very similar rods with five similar lures to cover variations that occur within your pattern from minute to minute and hour to hour during the day?  In other words, what about extreme specialization? 

This thought came to me initially when I was rigging up for a trip this winter.  The bite I was looking for was a swimbait bite.  There was simply nothing else I was interested in using besides swimbaits.  I rigged 6 swimbait rods and brought nothing else.  The swimbaits I rigged were all similar but each had unique features that I wanted to have available to me without having to retie.  The rods I rigged represented an array of actions to match each bait, and the lines I rigged, even though they were all 25lb test setups, some of them used fluorocarbon leaders and others did not – depending on the lure and a number of other factors.  The hooks on the lures were matched to the areas I thought I would be fishing with them; Owner hooks for fishing in areas where my hooks would get dulled easily and Gamakatsu hooks for open water and to get more action out of certain baits.  Every detail in every setup was there for a reason! 

During the course of that trip, I didn’t make a single cast with one or two of the rods.  Other rods I made only a handful of casts with in certain situations, and two rods I used the majority of the time.  Whether I used a specific setup or not was irrelevant, the important thing was that all of the options were available to me at a moments notice so that I could take advantage of specific situations.  A classic example would be something like this…  You are fishing down a bank with a swimbait, and expect that the bass will all be shallow along a weedbed.  Suddenly you come to a dark weed edge that looks very promising.  But you only have two swimbaits rigged up, and they are both shallow running baits.  Since the spot is very small and there are no similar areas nearby, you don’t bother to retie with a sinking lure and instead make a few casts on the surface and move on.  You may have just passed up your best opportunity of the day, but because you didn’t have ‘specialized’ tackle ready, you passed it up and missed the opportunity.  The idea behind extreme specialization is to give you the ability to capitalize on a situation at a moments notice.

To take it a step further, consider not only specialized tackle for specific structure or depth, but also for daily condition changes.  In the morning, you may know ahead of time that the bite is generally aggressive and the fish are swallowing the bait.  So you fish a heavier setup with the anticipation that it’s unlikely the bass will be barely hooked and spit the lure.  When the sun comes out, you may know ahead of time that the bass will be less committed to the bait and more likely to nip it.  Because you know this, you switch to a softer rod, anticipating that the bass will be more likely to be barely hooked and that a stiff rod might tear out the hooks.  The possibilities here are endless, but when you know something ahead of time, why not act on it instead of sweeping it under the rug and ignoring it.  Being honest with yourself about why you have success or failure on the water, is critically important. 

So that is a thought or three when it comes to freshwater bass fishing and we all know the nature of freshwater bass fishing is to bring a lot of rods.  This mentality isn’t so prevalent in other fishing genres, but if you are serious about whatever type of fishing you do, you should consider it.  Saltwater fishermen spend a lot of money on equipment.  Saltwater boats cost tens of thousands of dollars, and when you add in fuel and bait costs, a typical saltwater trip is almost definitely more expensive than a freshwater bass trip.  But many saltwater fishermen use a limited set of tackle and may only rig a few rods for each trip.  Now imagine if you were out saltwater fishing, and the bite was a surface iron bite for large yellowtail, you might have one or two rods rigged up with surface iron.  But what if instead of having just one or two rods, you had six rods, and on four of the rods you had slight variations in surface irons such as different colors or lengths and on two of the rods you had some small heavies ready to go in case you sensed that the fish might be moving deeper.  During the course of the day, the fisherman with only two surface irons rigged up might be casting at a school of breezing fish, when suddenly they dive while heading toward the boat.  The meter lights up in 90 feet but in the time it takes to retie with a heavy jig, the fish are gone.  The fisherman with the six rods ready can grab a new rod with a heavy jig and make the drop right as the fish pass by.  That fisherman might also take advantage of having different color jigs if some fish follow the bait but won’t eat it.  Maybe a quick cast with a different color bait will catch one of the fish as they move off.  Rigging six jig rods to go throw iron for yellowtail may seem like a total waste for 99% of the day, but for 1% of the day, it might make a lot of difference.   

By now you are probably thinking, that’s nice and all Rob, but I don’t have six swimbait rods or six jig sticks.  I hear you on that, but that doesn’t change the fact that extreme specialization can be very advantageous at times.  I’m not writing this article as a beginner guideline or a how to, I’m writing it to make a point that ‘keep it simple stupid’ is not always the best approach.  I know that there are some of you out there that have thought about things like this or already do things like this, and for the people who are sitting there thinking, yeah I hear what you are saying, my advice is to try it out some time and see what happens.  When you’re on fish, when you have a strong indication of what is going on, prepare for all of the situations within the situation that you might encounter.  Try it not just for one day, but for many trips.  It may take quite a few trips before a specialized part of your tackle that you prepared pays off, but at that moment, it will be worth it.

Some people take fishing more seriously than others.  I myself take fishing very seriously, and when I am very serious and experience success, that is one of the best feelings in the world for me.  I don’t rig specialized setups all of the time because not all lakes and conditions warrant it, but the more tackle that I accumulate and the more rod and reel combos I have available to me, the more likely it is that when I know what is going on ahead of time, I’ll be doing extreme specialization.  

Copyright © Robert Belloni 1997-2012. All Rights Reserved.
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