“Begin with what you feel is right based on your general knowledge of bass when you start the day,” says the Alabama bass pro. “Then, just go through the process of elimination.” If it’s mid-summer, for instance, he may start probing brush in deeper water with a jig. If that doesn’t produce a bite, he might switch to a drop-shot, crankbait or a plastic worm before eliminating brush in that depth.
He will stick with a plan for 30 minutes, but won’t necessarily make a major adjustment if he hasn’t caught any fish. Rather, he might move a bit shallower or to a different type of structure like a channel bend or a ledge. If a number of small adjustments don’t change his results, he will make a drastic change. Once he catches a bass or two, he’ll study the circumstances and look for similar areas and focus his efforts on those. It’s not out of the question to narrow a pattern down to something as specific as flipping a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin Booyah jig to laydowns in the back ends of mid-lake coves.
In some situations, bass may favor a particular kind of grass in a lake that contains a dozen types of aquatic vegetation. Finding the right grass or any other ingredient is nothing more than a process of elimination. It can take time, he notes, so don’t become frustrated if you can’t get something to go right away. Thankfully, lots of patterns can work on a lake on any day, so don’t assume the only way to catch bass is to find a single lure in a single color that must be thrown to a specific type of cover at just one depth.
“When you look at the results of most tournaments, you’ll see that guys were catching fish in a variety of ways,” he adds. Unless something changes, patterns can hold up for several days, even longer. A drastic shift in weather will kill a predictable pattern the fastest, but Horton says rising or falling water, wind or even fishing pressure can bump the fi sh from a routine and shut down a hot bite.
“Bass can move quite a ways if the bait moves,” he adds. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the general pattern has changed, though. It just means you have to find them again.” Even a 12-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier sometimes has trouble establishing a pattern. “Some days it just doesn’t happen,” he says, “but that’s why bass fishing is such a great sport.”