TIDE & MOON
Lucas believes understanding the moon and tidal charts are a key factor in strategy preparation for a tournament on a river system. "Before I ever get to an event on tidal waters, that is the first thing that I am going to look at," said Lucas. "I start by finding out what kind of fluctuations I can expect. Sometimes, there is only 1 ft, other times they can be as much as 4 ft or more."
Reviewing the moon phases is his next course of action. "The more of a full moon there is, the stronger the current is going to be and typically the fishing is going to better during those times," he explained. "There are so many people that don't understand how the tide works, how it flushes in and flushes out. Once you get how it pushes in and pulls back out, you will understand that you are getting bites for a specific reason and use that to find windows of opportunity."
HIGH & LOW
To be prepared for both the high and low tides, Lucas' goal is to have a distinct patterns for each tide. For the high, he looks for some type of cover that the fish can't live in on a low tide, cover they will use as a feeding area during higher water. "Shallow flats with trees or big pieces of wood, shallow, flooded islands or docks are good places," he said. "On low tide, the most important thing is to be on the edge of something. It doesn't matter if it is a weedline, a wood line, or just any break that is out there. All bass are going to relate to an edge of some kind during a low tide." When looking for a sweet spot, his search includes some type of point or difference in a line or grass bed that creates a little current break.
If there is only a minimal amount of rise on the high from the low (for example 1 ft), Lucas will focus on low tide patterns. Conversely, if the tides remain at a higher level throughout the dip of the low, he will focus on high tide patterns. "That is why it is so important to learn how to read the moon and the tide charts, because the moon affects the tide," he explained, "If you have a really bright moon, a really full moon, the week leading up to your tournament, you can have some really high tides going on and you have to be ready for that."
Generally, regardless of location, Lucas has observed that the first two hours and the last two hours of the incoming are the most productive for him. "I seem to do best, when the tide is toward its lower point and there is good current moving," said Lucas. "The fish are going to be grouped in a little section on the low, feeding somewhere. That is going to be the best time and the best opportunity to put together a good bag, fairly quickly. If I don't catch them during that time, I know the rest of the day could be pretty tough."
Although he prefers both the incoming and outgoing on the low, he doesn't plan a strategy that chases the tide. He stated, "Not knowing a lot of the places that we go to and not having a lot of practice time, I try to pick one area to fish regardless of tide." Lucas explained the fish don't all feed the high or on the low tide. To maximize his fishing time, he searches for a low tide bite and a high tide bite in close proximity to each other. "With different fish feeding during the high tide and other ones feeding on the low, I am not trying to catch the same fish for both tides," he said. "I'm getting on fresh fish throughout the day." When fishing familiar water in a tournament setting, Lucas still opts out of chasing the tide and suggests settling down, to focus on a few specific areas. "In these big, multi-day tournaments, you don't want to make a mistake and if you're trying to chase the tides, you could get off time and really have a bad day," he said. "I would rather know that I'm going to get a solid six to seven hours of fishing, by bouncing back and forth between a couple of different things in an area as the tide changes than using up time running all over."
ENTICE A BITE
Flippin' and pitchin' a soft plastic bait is his preferred technique for tidal water fishing. He stated, "I'm pretty much going to have a green pumpkin Berkley Havoc Pit Boss tied on wherever I go in shallow tidal water." He also likes a Lucky Craft BDS 3 in Spring Craw or Sexy Chartreuse Shad and a vibrating jig in green pumpkin or black and blue. He commented, "With these three baits and the knowledge of the low tide window, I would have a lot of confidence on any tidal water fishery." As a general rule, he presents his lures with the current rather than against it, for a more natural appearance.
Heavy gear is a must-have for Lucas on tidal water. "The fish are pretty strong because they live their whole life in the current," described Lucas. "You're always fishing around heavy cover, so heavy gear and heavier line is necessary." If he had to choose one rod and reel for a basic utility rod on tidal water, Lucas would go with a 7'6" medium-heavy or heavy Abu Garcia Veracity rod with a 7.1:1 Abu Garcia Revo SX casting reel."On tidal water, most of the battles are up close, within 10 yards of the boat and you need a lot of power to control the fish," said Lucas. "That is the rod and reel that will get the job done and for a standard I would use heavy 100% Trilene Fluorocarbon and 65 lb Trilene Professional Grade braided line."
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER A tidal water fishery on the touring schedule gives Lucas confidence. "I think it can be an uncomfortable thing for fishermen that don't understand the tides," he said. "The same way the Great Lakes were to me, when I started fishing 'em. When I see a there is an event that will be affected by the tides, it feels like I have an advantage and I'm sure there are a handful of guys that grew up fishing tidal water that feel the same way." He recalled an event on the Potomac River. "I was in 90th place on the first day," he said. "By 10 a.m. on day two, I had no bite. But then, I got a keeper about a half hour later. In a short period, I put 19 lbs in the boat and moved up 70 spots. The same thing happened the next day. I moved up to 5th and eventually to 2nd. Understanding the tide gives me confidence to keep plugging away, because I know it can change at anytime."
In his rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Justin Lucas has two events under his belt with an equal number of top-10 finishes. He currently sits atop the Elite rookie leaderboard. Through 2013, Lucas amassed over a half million in FLW event earnings.
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