GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. Saturday is a day of introspection for half the field of every CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series event.
There are always at least 50 anglers who spent the night thinking about what could have been. Bassmaster.com asked a sample of the anglers who didn't fish on Saturday what they would have done differently if they could start the event all over again.
The following are their responses:
55th place (26-04)
"Hindsight is 20-20. To be honest, my practice wasn't stellar. My initial approach was to go an area where I caught them last time we were here, but the habitat and water levels had changed and the fish weren't there.
"It only took a few hours to figure out I needed a new approach. I decided to look for bedding fish and I found them. As practice progressed, I felt that was the most stable thing I found. The problem was that other anglers were finding them too.
"There are so many good sight fishermen on tour, that I tried very hard to develop an off shore pattern on the ledges and humps adjacent to the main river. I wanted to be able to catch a limit off beds and then go to the main river and cull. I caught 17 pounds off beds on the first day. The second day, I caught two on beds and then decided to gamble and go to the ledges, because all these incredible sight fishermen had already been through these areas.
"If I could do it again I wouldn't go to the main river. It's just not time yet. I caught two four pounders there in practice in one pass down a 100-yard stretch of a two mile spoil bank, which tells me there was a good grade of fish in that area, but they just didn't bite for me on the second day. I would have stayed on the shore especially with the cloud cover. A topwater bait would have been a good back up to the sight fishing."
53rd place (26-06)
"I don't know what I would do different. It was crazy yesterday. My partner caught eight keepers and I only caught four and mine happened to be the four smallest. The wind direction was a challenge. I couldn't position the boat correctly. I didn't miss any fish. I just couldn't get any bites. If I had it to do again, I'd probably do it the same way."
60th place (25-00)
"I made one simple mistake. I started out with the wrong bait the first morning of the tournament. I used a lipless crankbait and the fish weren't biting well enough to stay buttoned up. I lost a six pounder and a four pounder right at the boat. I should have been using soft practice, a Carolina rig or a Texas-rigged worm. They just wouldn't bite those treble hooks good. I guess after the spawn they didn't have the energy."
62nd place (24-06)
"I would spend more time looking for bedding fish. I think there were more fish moving up than I initially thought there were. A lot of guys are still sight fishing and I thought that would be over. Other anglers are fishing out deep and I can do that as well, but sight fishing is my strength and I should have spent more time on the trolling motor looking for beds."
65th place (24-03)
"I was catching my fish spinner-baiting in the morning. I caught 14 pounds early on the first morning of the tournament. My partner had 11 pounds behind me. Any of those fish he caught would have put me way up there in the standings, so I was obviously on some nice fish.
"The next day I did basically the same thing caught a limit real quick that weighed almost 11 pounds. I should have gone sight fishing after I limited. That's my strength. I had not seen a whole lot in practice on beds so I didn't have a lot of confidence in sight fishing on the second day. In retrospect I know I could have caught at least one or two good ones enough to make the cut.
"In any fishing situation, failure makes you learn. Making the top-50 cut is a little piece of success. When you miss it, it really hurts and you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you did wrong. I know I should have gone sight fishing on the second day."
71st place (23-09)
"I really don't know. I would probably throw a top water more, especially early in the morning fishing in main-lake pockets. I caught a few doing this that were quality fish, Everything else were smaller fish I would also probably spend more time in practice finding bedding fish. I caught a lot of little buck bass, but I couldn't catch the big fish by just casting, so I needed to have found more on beds."
80th place (19-13)
"I just didn't make proper adjustments. I thought I was on a pretty good group of fish but I stayed with them too long. I had caught them on a big spinnerbait in practice but the fish changed and I didn't change with the fish. I think this is called my Guntersville disease. I just don't ever catch them the first day at Guntersville. I love the lake, but it can make me cringe.
"I have had really good practices there every time we've been there, but I have never had a good first day. I fished the same pattern both days. I caught four pounds on the first day and 15 on the second day. I didn't catch a fish until 11:00 and had a limit by noon on the second day. I essentially did the same thing I did on the first day. So I'm still scratching my head."
84th place (18-12)
"I don't like to make excuses but I had mechanical problems in practice and was without a boat. I had to practice with other anglers (Mike McClelland and Jeff Reynolds) and I just wasn't prepared. I rushed on the first day. I would have fished in a little bit deeper grass. On the second day, I flipped grass and caught some good keepers. I should have fished slower and moved out deeper. You have to stick with your strengths and I didn't. I should have targeted post spawn fish."
88th place (17-11)
"I was in a good position going into the second day the weights were so tight clear to fifty. On the second day I just didn't fish the conditions. It was a custom made day for a spinnerbait dark skies, cloudy with a little bit of a chop on the water. I was throwing a swim bait. I should have used a spinnerbait right off the top of the day. I tried to stick with my game plan, but sometimes you should see what the day hands you and change your approach to fit the conditions."
100th place (12-03)
"I never got around any quality fish. I didn't have a good game plan for the second day. I would have put together a strategy for day two instead of just trying to go fishing and make something happen. On the first day, I lost a big fish on a spinner bait that I never saw. Then I had a fish break a spinnerbait.
"I convinced myself that they had to be catfish. After talking to another competitor that was fishing that area and caught some big fish, I think they might have been bass. I just made some stupid decisions. I fished an area of the lake that I hadn't fished all week. And I didn't catch anything."