Declassified: Prefish Strategies – Banks Lake

Spring Transition Time

There is a tremendous amount of change that happens between the end of March and the first part of April.  There are two times every year when bass are dramatically changing locations.  One of those time periods begins after the third week in March.  If I’m prefishing in late March or Early April there is still a lot of transitioning going on.  Most of my bad finishes at Banks in early spring were because I caught some fish in practice, didn’t anticipate where they were going and couldn’t catch them the same in the tournament.

Tournaments are not about who has the best bait or even the best spot, but who wastes the least amount of time fishing the wrong places with the wrong things.

  • Anticipate where they will be and get familiar with all that area has to offer.  Learn all you can about these areas you think they will be moving to.  What forms of cover are there (not what was there last year)? Where is the shallowest spot in the area? Where is the deepest spot in area?  Locate what is out from the shoreline cover you located them in during prefish.  
Although you may catch them close to shore during practice, always be aware what is “out” from the shore. Spend most of prefish breaking down what is nearby so you can adjust if necessary.
  • Think about boat position and angles. Where will you need to set up in different sun angles and with the wind coming from different directions?  Prefish day(s) might have been calm and sunny.  Inevitably, the tournament will offer the opposite scenario.  If you don’t spend some prefish time preparing for that, then you will feel uncomfortable making that adjustment during the tournament.
While you might have caught them from one spot during prefish, anticipating changes in wind for example will make it beneficial to set up alternate boat position “bp” waypoints for that situation.
  • Anticipate what will be popular and don’t waste prefish time covering those areas.  Use your prefish time as if you won’t be able to fish those “community holes”.  You know there are fish there, but so does everyone else.  If you do have a community hole that you need to be at, plan on making that your first stop, and try to get out of it what you can before others show up.  
  • Put yourself on the clock.  Time yourself fishing an area, idling in and out of an area, trolling motor time to get through an area.  How long will it take you to a destination?How about when it’s windy?
  • Come up with explanations for the fish you do catch.  Avoid the temptation to write things off as random just because you can’t repeat it.  Mark where you caught fish during prefish, analyze those locations on GE (Google Earth) and look for the subtle details that help you build a theory on the “whys” of that fish catch.  
  • Take the time during prefish to plan on being the most efficient you can be during the event.  Tournaments are not about who has the best bait or even the best spot, but who wastes the least amount of time fishing the wrong places with the wrong things.  Think about a “milk run” in a way where you don’t run by things to get to others and then have to loop back around.  
  • Make sure you are on your best spot early and again at the 11am -3pm window.  Don’t write something off if you haven’t tried it midday to early afternoon.
  • Pay close attention to lake levels.  Know what it was during your prefish and know what it is/will be during the tournament.  Don’t get surprised by a raise or drop in water level or build a plan based on water level “x” only to show up and find water level “y”.Use your prefish to build some confidence in areas you don’t normally fish or in a way you don’t normally fish them.  During the stress of a tournament day is not the best time to go “exploring”, but you still want to give yourself the option to fish stuff you didn’t catch a thing on during prefish.  Early spring at Banks Lake is not the time to build a tournament plan off of prefish catches.  It will be who does the best job anticipating movements and who is able to be efficient about fishing the places bass are moving to.

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  1. This is where I’m apparently a slow learner. I tend to spend a lot of time where I’ve caught fish before even if they’re not active now. About a dozen years ago I was steelhead fishing with a friend, he cast three times in a hole and moved on. I having caught a fish in that hole the week before had to stay to fish it longer. Not only did I not catch anything but when I started up river to catch up, I fell through the ice and shattered my heel into twenty five pieces and almost drowned. Like I said, slow learner when it comes to check and move on.

    1. Hard to balance what I was talking about with another famous saying, “Never leave fish to find fish”.

    1. My opinion is as soon as you lose confidence or start to question it then move. Come back later if needed. Great days of fishing don’t come trying to force it. It’s not even about whether there are fish present or not, it’s about are they willing to bite your baits.