2007 Grand Final Winner's US experience

Kerry Symes won the 2007 ABT BASS Pro Grand Final at Somerset and discovered how the Skeeter Trip of a Lifetime is really that. Click read more to see his report

Nine days of chasing Large Mouth bass on Clear Lake was always going to be worth looking forward to and after two weeks of solid “touristing” all over California, it was a welcome change form the rigors of travel.

Steve Morgan and Gary Boyd our resident Bass Pro picked me up at Sacramento airport on Wednesday night for the 2.5 hour drive to Clear Lake. I soon found out about one of the worst laws I have ever heard of and that is NO ONE is allowed to consume alcohol when traveling in a vehicle, which ended my idea of a few refreshments on the trip up to the lake.

A truly stupid law I thought but we still had a few on arrival at the lake while planning the days ahead and catching up on all the happenings at the lake.
Over the next two days we pre-fished the lake and Gary passed on some of his immense store of knowledge and expertise in the many variations of large mouth bass fishing. Flipping, dropshotting, pitching, froging, swim baiting, rip baiting and a few others thrown in for good measure were part of my bass schooling.

Largemouth bass are very easy to catch and will eat almost any presentation if you can put it in front of them, they obviously have their preferences on the day in what they eat, color, lure type and method presented, but after the comp when anglers divulged their “secret” method, they caught them using all of the above techniques and using a wide range of lures and colors.

Flipping and dropshoting are Gary’s favorite techniques and it was no surprise that we concentrated on fish that were responsive to these methods. Both methods were very successful and we caught many fish using both.

Dropshotting was the method I used most and to greatest effect. This involves a light weight (1/8 to 1/4 ounce) on the end of the line with a small hook 6 to 10 inches above it and a very supple worm style plastic rigged through the very top of the worm.

You drop the rig in amongst the pockets of “tules” (pronounced ‘toolies’ and no, not deviates chasing schoolies around). Tules are what the Yanks call reeds. Weird, I know but, to people that call sarsaparilla – root beer, damper – biscuits, who drive on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong side of the car, anything is possible!

Or you drop it under the many docks and jetties and gently work the lure without moving the weight and every now and then check for weight on the line. Large mouth bass are EXTREMELY gentle fish and a lot of the time you don’t even know they are on, they simply swim up and eat your lure and sit there or gently swim off.

You do get better at detecting the subtle bites but they are very placid compared to Australian bass and also don’t fight anywhere near as hard (although the bigger fish go alright but pound for pound an Aussie bass would pull them backwards).

Even when swim baiting (casting lures like Squidgy slick rigs) you sometimes struggle to detect a bite and only know they are on when the line starts moving sideways.

Then the fun starts as unlike Aussie bass you have to strike these fish to set the hook and hard. When you first see a Yank strike a bass you ask yourself “what is this guy on”? They actually take a step back and RIP the fishes head off, but you soon learn if you don’t do this the fish will usually come off some time on the way back to the boat, it is probably the hardest thing to get used to fishing for LMB.

Over the next 7 days I fished 2 comps, a WON Bass comp and a FLW comp, the WON Bass being shared weight and the FLW with individual bags, the same as our own bass comps.

I must say I have always been in two minds over shared weight versus individual weights, but after experiencing these first hand there are many positives for shared weight.

As an inexperienced LMB angler the shared weight was fantastic, both anglers I had really encouraged me to catch fish and did every thing possible for us both to participate and get a good bag. We caught heaps of fish but couldn’t find the big ones so didn’t place well. But we did try many techniques as shared weight gives you the opportunity to vary your techniques more. It allows one angler to use the best method on the day while the other one tries for that bigger fish on a different method. I out fished my boaters on both days, weighing 9 of the 10 fish we weighed, but only because they left me to concentrate on getting the bag while they threw giant lures (some over 12 inches long) trying to get that kicker fish.

The growth of our sport is solely dependant on new people being introduced into it all the time, I have to say the shared weight was a truly memorable experience for a novice and I had a fantastic time with both my boaters, it really encourages novices to participate and get into this great sport.

The FLW in contrast was the most difficult fishing I have ever done and for those non boaters/amateurs out there that think they have had a rough day in Australian comps then DON’T go to the US as these guys are the world masters at “sharking” you out of the fish. They will simply NOT let you fish any water that they haven’t cast a lure into, to the extent that if you are fishing a bank they will go right into the bank and cast ahead of the boat giving you no bank except out the back and only the open water to cast at.

Even when they catch a fish they will drive out in the middle so you can’t fish the new water on the bank, just in case there is a big fish there and you catch it before they get a cast.

Even when they have their bag and you have none, nothing changes, they still don’t give you any new water to fish. It is not that they are being purposely nasty, comps in the US are huge with big money up for grabs and in their mindset non-boaters are there only because they can’t fish without them.

It is a very serious competition with 200 rivals in each section. It is possible to fish from the back but really depends on the type of water your boater is fishing, I had one good day, but had to work very hard for my fish. On the other days I found myself several times with a rod in hand and nowhere to cast – and I mean nowhere.

Knowing what I know now if I went back I would only fish the shared weight comps the individual bag comps are very much “in the hands of the gods” stuff and if you get a unlucky draw it is quite possible to catch very little due to a lack of fishable water.

In all the trip was a very memorable experience and a very good learning curve Gary and Steve were fantastic hosts and really put on a good show, I meet some great people and had some really good times that I will cherish for many years to come. I hope that one day I am privileged enough to win again and go back over there. Even if I don’t win a trip, I would be very keen to do it again anyway. – Kerry Symes.