For most bass fishermen, consistency is the fly in the ointment. If only this one hurdle could be overcome, life would be beautiful and probably pretty boring. After all, isn't that the real challenge?
And to cranking this up a notch, finding consistency with bigger bass seems almost laughable. If most people can't do it with 3-pounders, what are the prospects for nailing giants on a regular or even semi-regular basis?
Quite good, actually. Unfortunately, the same skill-set lacking in non-BBZ fishing is exactly the one required with the heavyweights. In other words, the problem is not so much in knowing what to throw as it is with knowing when not to throw it. Perhaps the most crucial decision during each fishing day is deciding when it's not happening.
Whether it's big baits or standard fare, this decision is critical. The faster you can identify that a particular lure or lure-type isn't the answer, the better your chances. The key to making a quick evaluation involves equal parts experience and confidence.
For those new to big baits, it may seem like a very unique situation. It isn't. The very same diagnosis you make with spinnerbaits or plastics or hardbaits is identical to the one demanded of swimbaits or big tubes. You just don't have as much experience with them. The upside to this dilemma is that big baits may be the easiest decision of all – if you observe the basics of the BBZ, that is.
First, it's all about location. You can't make a decision about a lure's effectiveness if you're not making a good, spot-on-spot presentation. Second, you can never ignore top-middle-bottom. If you haven't correctly assessed the depth component, you're history.
Fortunately, big baits tell you more much faster about the willingness – or lack of it – of bass to respond. This is where clear water helps. If you aren't getting any follows, it's a strong indication that something isn't right. If you're covering good water and not pulling fish to the bait, it's an obvious red flag.
The speed at which you heed these warnings is directly linked to your confidence in big baits. An experienced big-bait fisherman is aware of their power to move fish to the lure and if it's not happening, pounding the water is not the answer. Moreover, the water coverage offered by big baits can reduce the decision-making process down to a handful of casts.
If you've set up carefully on some key areas, made good casts and feel satisfied that the top-middle-bottom question has been addressed, move on to Plan B.
However, this is precisely where most big-bait anglers screw up. Instead of moving to Plan B, they simply move. Rather than stay with their key, spot-on-spot big bait and big bass water, they shift to other areas that accommodate their next lure choice. Huh?
If your original spot has big-bass potential, why move? This violates the prime directive of all fishing endeavors, which is: "Never run away from your fish."
This doesn't mean "camp out" either. It means explore the potential of the area you've already found. Use other baits, probe the water column and experiment with different angles. Then – and only then – move on to your next spot-on-spot zone to repeat the process.
Want a specific about finding consistency? This is it. Those who are consistent – particularly in the big-bass arena – fish the very best water most of the time. They've done their due diligence in finding it, so why not take advantage of that effort? After all, there are no signs on the water that say "Swimbaits Only."
The process does demand some talent from an angler – the ability to quickly move from one discipline to the next. If you find it difficult to shift from an 8-foot big-bait stick with 25-pound test to a 9-foot float 'n fly rig spooled with 6-pound string, you'll have problems being consistent.
If you see fish positioned on deeper structure, you have to try the jig. If bass are busting the surface (even smaller fish), you owe it to yourself to explore the possibilities. This no-stone-unturned method is how you get consistent with bigger bass. The water remains the same, but you change.
One last item concerning this issue: Don't put your big-bait rods away after deciding that it's not working. It's not working only for that moment in time. Changes in wind, bait activity or whatever can generate plus-factors at other times and in other areas. These are your big guns – never forget you've got them.