Mike Ellenstein of Newburgh, Ind. recently wrote: "Just when I thought I was beginning to understand the Big Bass Zone concept, Bill throws me a loop. When he said it's obvious that Amistad was a jig lake because of all the structure, it totally confused me. What are points, humps, flats, creeks and ridges if not structure? If he would have said "cover," I think I could have absorbed it. But not structure. Can you elaborate?
"In his book, he specifically addresses pre-spawn and suggests looking for the big fish with swimbaits on the creek channels, deeper edges of the flats and points closer to deeper water. So what gives?"
What gives is that much of the bass-fishing world – and that includes the professional world in a big way – hasn't even tried to get past BBZ 101. Mike Ellenstein's confusion, we assume, comes from the basic assumption that if Amistad offers so much in terms of structure – i.e. points, ridges, creek channels, flats, and humps – why isn't it a lead-pipe big-bait lake?
It is! That's the point Mike, and we apologize for the confusion. You've taken that huge step forward in bringing big baits and the BBZ philosophy into your daily fishing strategy. The pros have not.
With the good fortune to have spent some time on Amistad, we quickly saw how effective jigs could be in this structure-laden impoundment. For any angler who needs a baseline to start, the jig is a powerful – and dependable – weapon there.
Since only a very select few pros have any real understanding of swimbait tactics (most still cling only to the cast and slow-roll approach), Amistad's a jig lake. Unless the fish are holding in that upper portion of the water column, the professional's grasp of the top-middle-bottom approach seems to only apply to other baits. To us, if that's how you're going to fish Amistad, then you better have a skill-set that includes jigs.
What Mike is discovering – along with a host of BBZ faithful - is this simple fact: Most professional anglers don't get it.
For BBZers like Mike Ellenstein, it doesn't make sense not to be incorporating swimbaits in a comprehensive structure attack. If you can pluck jig-fish off areas that quite literally shout "big bass!" then why not be working the entire water column with swimbaits?
We couldn't agree more.
What Mike is discovering – along with a host of BBZ faithful - is this simple fact: Most professional anglers don't get it. Put it this way: If the pros are socking the occasional big limit on swimbaits by using a very narrow and pedestrian presentation, someone like Ellenstein (who's already stepped over that informational and emotional chasm that the BBZ describes) is saying to himself, "If they could do that good without any real understanding of the technique, I'd be hammering them."
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when professional tournament anglers led the charge when it came to nurturing and developing new methods. Not anymore. When it comes to swimbaits and big-bass methodology, they're woefully ignorant.
From the very start, the BBZ philosophy has not been one of exclusion. Like any tool, big baits need to be applied at the proper time and in the proper place. If you find a piece of structure at Amistad or Clear Lake or anywhere else for that matter, you've found a potential BBZ spot-on-spot big-bass zone.
Yes, jigs may be the more dependable tool some of the time. But sooner than later, there'll be an opportunity for epic results with big baits. The problem is this: By their very design, jigs are primarily target-oriented lures. As a result, fishermen often focus on specific depths and tend to ignore the rest of the water column.
When the top-middle-bottom concept goes away, any angler becomes one-dimensional. This is especially true when it comes to big baits. Your approach suffers if for no other reason than when fish move, they often move fast. If you're slow in your response, you may miss the best action of the day. Moreover, you may miss an exceptional big-bait bite that was there all the time.
The point of all this is simple: Every lake offers certain strengths to a fisherman. In this case, Amistad affords opportunities to any angler proficient in jig fishing. It also provides a huge upside in terms of big baits.
Those who only understand jigs will suffer, as will those who rely solely on the merits of swimbaits.
Recognizing these strengths and targeting these strengths is the ultimate goal of anyone seeking admittance into the BBZ. Those who only understand jigs will suffer, as will those who rely solely on the merits of swimbaits. Finding this balance has always been the key in successful bass fishing.
What we're seeing now is an unwillingness of the professional angler to embrace BBZ concepts. Judging from the tournament results, most are looking for an easy route to success. As Mike Ellenstein or any other BBZ follower knows, it takes commitment. It takes understanding. And, it takes placing the ego on hold.
For instance, when the flippin' technique first burst on the tournament scene, it required not only a commitment to the technique, but a commitment as well to the philosophy behind the technique.
At first, only a handful of anglers excelled because they were the ones willing to take a giant step forward – mentally - in learning the intricacies of something that, on the surface, appeared rather basic.
These pioneers recognized there was more to flippin' than merely short line and shallow water. It wasn't long before the results spoke for themselves.
While times have changed, the learning curve still remains. You can't cut corners. Any fisherman - pro, amateur, expert, or novice – must move through a necessary progression. When it comes to the BBZ, guys like Mike Ellenstein are making that commitment. The pros, however, are not.
So, when you hear a top-line professional expounding on swimbaits, beware. You're better off listening to a buddy like Mike Ellenstein who knows what he's talking about.