If you target bass on popular waters, chances are you are going to encounter other anglers in the same areas you are fishing. If you are in a tournament with multiple boats, those numbers will only increase and the fishing pressure and crowding become unavoidable. Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk competes on the Bassmaster Elite Series and PAA Series, where some of the world’s best anglers are all given the same amount of time to practice for an event and usually the productive areas are found by more than just one pro. To deal with crowded spots and fishing pressure, he takes an approach that includes a keen awareness of others, mental focus and the willingness to try something different.
If Palaniuk is fishing offshore structure around other boats he will pay close attention to what the other boats are doing, how they are positioning their boats and what they are using. “Boat position and the angles you are fishing are really important when you are fishing offshore. Instead of doing the exact same thing, I will come at it from a different angle and present my bait a little differently,” shares Palaniuk.
He will also take a close look at how the other anglers are retrieving their lures as well as what they are using. With that in mind, he will do something different. “I will present my bait differently, but also do something opposite of what they are doing. I’ll either use something bigger or something more finesse related, I have seen it both ways where one thing will trigger them better,” adds the pro. Two of his favorite baits in this situation are on complete ends of the spectrum in terms of size and action. “If I want something a little bigger I’ll throw a Berkley Hollow Belly on a 1/2oz jighead, or if I need to finesse them, I’ll use a 3” Berkley Twitchtail Minnow on a drop shot,” shares Palaniuk. With these two baits, he is able to cover his bases.
Fishing “Used” Water
You have most likely encountered a situation where you are fishing down a stretch of bank, only to come into contact with another boat fishing the opposite direction toward you. As your boats meet, do you leave or continue fishing down the bank? Brandon Palaniuk has a unique perspective on this situation. “I believe that two anglers will fish the same cover completely differently, one guy might pitch to the end of the laydown while the other is only trying to get all the way to the bank. If I am fishing behind someone or where they just fished, I try to slow down and get to places that other guys might have missed, or further back into the cover,” shares Palaniuk. The key according to Palaniuk is to take your time, make better casts and not be afraid to get into places other anglers are afraid to throw their baits.
By the time the third or fourth day of a major event rolls around, the aggressive fish have most likely been caught and those that are left are either non-aggressive or highly aware of the extra fishing pressure. “The fish really get beat up between practice and the first few days of tournament fishing. You have to try something new because the fishing usually gets tougher. If the fish are replenishing on a spot it’s not as bad, but if not (replenishing), you have to change your approach because each day you are fishing for less and less fish,” adds Palaniuk.
To do this, Palaniuk will go on the opposite ends of the spectrum once more. “I will either slow way down or start fishing much faster. If the bass have seen a lot of baits or aren’t very aggressive, you have to do what you can to get a reaction out of them,” believes the young pro.
Timing and Pre-Fish
Like humans, bass often have times when they are ready to feed. Brandon Palaniuk takes this into account when he is pre-fishing and when fishing crowded areas. “If I find a good area, I will try to pre-fish it at different times of the day to see if there is a certain time where they are more active. This really helps with your timing because you can plan your day better, and you know what time you should be there,” shares Palaniuk. This time management helps him select the best times to target an area, and if it is crowded, he will be able to be there at the most opportune times, not wasting valuable fishing time.
While the average bass angler will never have 30 to 40 spectator boats following them everywhere they go on the water, the lessons learned from the pros will apply to anyone who fishes on a busy weekend. “I have seen it where all of the spectator boat traffic actually helps the fishing. If it’s a deep, clear lake the boat wakes act almost like a windy day and really help to break up the clarity of the water. In those clear lakes, when the bass can’t see as well they will bite better,” adds Palaniuk.
On the other hand, boat traffic can surely hurt the fishing in an area. “If it is really shallow and muddy, all of those boat wakes will muddy the water even more and it’s not as good for fishing,” mentions Palaniuk. Another downside of multiple boats in an area is the large amount of marine electronics running. “With all of those units going, the constant ‘pinging’ sound going up and down really hurts the fishing. The fish are used to their environment and they will sometimes shut down if there is too much sonar activity, the bigger fish especially,” says the Idaho pro. In these situations, there is not much an angler can do but it helps to be aware of things affecting the fishing.
Fishing in a crowd and targeting pressured bass requires a different approach and sometimes a little more work. For the angler who pays close attention, the bass can still be caught by those willing to brave the crowds.