DAN ALDERMAN, Adventure guy, Austin, Texas
Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” – Steven Wright
There is a good chance if you have ever held a fishing pole, the first fish you “targeted” was the largemouth bass. Zebco 202, red and white bobber and coffee can full of earthworms transformed ever kid into Kevin VanDam on the quest for the Bassmaster Classic. My journey started the same way and quickly turned into an obsession. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars spent on boats, tackle and clothes (yes, the fish know if you don’t look the part) all in the name of outsmarting a fish. But there’s one thing you can’t buy which is truly the key to being a successful angler and that’s experience.
Lake Travis bass fishing is a puzzle that can take years to figure out. The 65-mile long reservoir is the biggest of the Highland Lakes and fishes differently than any other lake I’ve seen. First, it’s extremely deep and surrounded by tall cliffs. “Fishing shallow” is typically done in 10’ of water and most fish are caught in 20’. Secondly, it can fluctuate upwards of 30’ depending on the time of year. Since it’s dammed off to keep Austin from flooding, I’ve seen it change from dangerously low during droughts to flooding in a week of heavy rains. And finally, it is full of aggressive smaller fish. This means getting a bait down to the bigger keepers typically requires deep jigging and finesse fishing. Needless to say, in order to be successful, Lake Travis bass fishing requires you to spend a lot of time on the lake that most of us don’t have.
Hire A Guide
Over the years I’ve come to realize that I simply don’t have the time to solve nature’s puzzles. And spending 200 days on the water in order to catch a few bass isn’t an option. However, I figured I could cut that learning curve down significantly and hire a good guide who actually bass fishes to pay their bills. Consider it a seven hour seminar on the water. And if you go at from that perspective, that day with a guide could be much more valuable than a hot new reel and must-have lure.
I’ve been fishing Lake Travis for about 5 years and have been pretty successful but limit myself to a few spots. But after seeing how the world’s best of the Bassmasters Elite Series fished Lake Travis last May, I knew a guide would open me up to new areas and techniques.
Putting the Puzzle Together
After an email and phone call exchange I booked Tyler Torwick http://www.torwicksguidingservice.com for a full day Lake Travis bass fishing and on-the-water boot camp. We meet at Mansfield Dam and got in his tournament rigged Skeeter, that had more electronics than my house, and flew up Sandy Creek at about 60 mph. This time of year is transitional as the bass are starting to stage up and getting ready to bed in the shallows for the yearly spawn. However, since we’ve had an unusually cold March, the fish were still spread out on various rock and brush piles off the main points.
There’s a reason why Tyler’s boat has multiple sonar screens and it’s not necessarily to find fish. Utilizing a Navionics map of the lake, a bottom sonar, side scan and bottom scan, we were able to pinpoint bottom contour. This allowed us to position the boat near various underwater ledges where pre-spawn fish should be staging. With each spot we went to, Tyler would patiently show me how to read to the electronics and how that translated in a certain area we were fishing. Something that could take years, if ever, to figure out on a lake this big.
Learning new techniques was another goal of the day and specifically how to fish slower and deeper. Since the water temps were colder than usual and the fish were still deep, this was a great day to target bass a little farther offshore using dropshots and jigs. I’m an impatient fisherman and would prefer to beat the shore with crankbaits all day so this would force me to slow down and feel the bite. Another reason to hire a guide would be the 20+ top of the line reels that were rigged and ready. It was like demo day and I spent the day throwing $250 Shimano digital reels and perfectly matched rods. Tyler worked his ass off to put me on fish and we scratched away at a handful of typical Lake Travis bass on a dozen of different spots. But I think I’ve gotten to a point in my life where just going fishing and learning new stuff is as fulfilling as catching a bunch of fish.
While I’ve fished in my own boat and caught a decent amount, hiring a guide taught me more in one day than I’ve figured out in five years. Do yourself a favor and invest in your fishing future by hiring a guide and I guarantee you’ll walk away a more intelligent angler.