mind. You better have a backup plan.” During the days leading up to an event, Siemantel searches for unexploited areas in case his primary targets are swarming with competing boats. “I try to find secondary spots. They may not have lots of fish, but they have the right size of fish.” How can anglers best prepare themselves to take advantage of that crucial first hour? Gutierrez remarks that his approach has changed through the years. “I used to be very scripted and would always start out with a spinnerbait.” With hundreds of tournaments under his belt, his approach has evolved. “When I’m practicing, I’ll narrow it down to six to eight baits the fish are eating. I now trust my instincts when they tell me to change instead of being locked- in. I try to look at what the water is doing. “I’ll go with what I feel,” the Cal Fire Battalion Chief continues, “and when I’m really on my game, I don’t second-guess myself. I may have a game plan, lay my rods out, and then notice the wind has changed.” That doesn’t mean Gutierrez won’t pay a visit to what was to have been his initial spot. Rather, he may begin where his instincts lead him and swing by his pre-planned starting point later in the day. All that being said – what do you do if your top spot is a dud? “I blow it off,” Gutierrez comments. He notes that, rather than sinking into discouragement, he goes on with his business while analyzing the situation. “I talk to myself a lot on the water. I’ll say things like, ‘Why did that not work?’ and try to figure out why I didn’t get bit.” He also finds a psychological edge in this approach. “I like to fish
against guys who get bummed out during the first hour. I usually take precautions for failure in a pattern. For example, if the fish aren’t biting a jig, I’ll plan on working a darthead. Fish change moods, and I try to back myself up.” Siemantel, too, notes that a bad start can sink the day for many of his competitors. “Some guys take themselves out of the tour- nament within the first few casts.” One thing he’s learned not to do is to spend the days before a tournament visualizing a wildly successful but highly improbable beginning. “I’ve caught myself in the past painting a picture in my mind that’s not going to hap- pen. You start to progress in this sport when you realize you’re not in control of the weather or your boat number. You begin making decisions based on conditions. You pull in information – where the other boats are headed, for instance. And, you start listening to the fish and keying on the top, middle or bottom of the water column.”
We all dream of being the angler who sticks the winning fish seconds before the run back to weigh-in. Unfortunately, last-sec- ond heroics are rarities for almost everyone in this sport. The big- ger question is: how do you keep your cool during the last hour of a tournament when the pressure is mounting to make something happen? “I’ve always been a points fisherman,” confesses Greg Gutier- rez. “When you’re fishing to make the Classic, 60th place is way better than 80th. That championship is always there. You may not be stroking the fish but that two-pounder is everything. “I try to stay focused,” the 2-time Classic qualifier adds, “and catch myself if I start get- ting rushed. Every fish is money, and keeping my head in the game is important.” Siemantel uses the anxiety of his competi- tors to his advantage. He bides his time and waits for them to get antsy and move off prime real estate so he can move in. “The big thing is confidence. As I see the clock ticking down, I get more excited because I’ve pulled feathers in the past. Other guys get discouraged and give up. I know it can happen at the last mo- ment.
E XPLOSIVE STRIKES
Bobby’s Perfect Frog is now available in the new tour- nament winning Fred’s Frog color. This new addition to our lineup comes painted in an unrivaled “BLUEGILL” color and still gives you that bass-catch- ing action that you’ve come to love. Each frog is out- fitted with a Gamkatsu EWG double hook to ensure a premium hook-set. This frog provokes violent strikes and will attract that “kicker” fish needed for success!