Ever dream of getting your angling hero alone in a boat for 10 hours of fishing? What would you ask? How would you act? At the end of the day would you still hold this person in high esteem?
Every one of us who aspires to fish at the highest levels of our sport probably has an angling hero; someone we emulate who is already fishing at that level. Most often we admire these pros from afar reading about their triumphs and tribulations or watching them play out on televised episodes of our favorite tournament trails. Every now and then if we happen to attend a weigh in, outdoor show, or seminar we may cross paths with one of the icons of professional bass fishing and exchange a handshake, or pleasant greeting. Very rarely do we ever get to spend the amount of time that we would like with these folks. Time alone, in a boat on a familiar body of water where we can witness first hand their decision making process as they dissect the lake. Recently I had that opportunity; ten hours in the Ranger bass boat of the one and only Denny Brauer.
It’s no secret that Denny is my angling hero. It’s not the fact that Denny was the first professional angler to have his picture on the Wheaties Box, the sixteen wins on the B.A.S.S. tournament trail, the Angler of the Year titles in both B.A.S.S. and FLW, or even the 1998 Bassmaster Classic championship title that I admire. It’s the fact that I’d always believed Denny to be one of the “good guys”. A regular guy like most of us that started out with a full time job as a brick mason before making his move to Missouri and then fishing full time for a living. Oh, and the fact that he’s generally considered as the world’s best at pitching and flipping a jig is a big plus too.
On a warm September morning I met up with Denny at the Lake of the Ozarks. We had spoken on the phone a couple of times before my arrival so I sort of knew that we would spend a fair amount of time flipping, pitching, or dragging jigs. I’ve spent some time on Lake of the Ozarks myself and have won three tournaments there so I was eager to see something new.
I quickly learned that there really aren’t a whole lot of “secret spots”. Denny took me to a lot of water that I had seen before, but he helped me to see the big picture, the spot on the spot so to speak and the top three things that I learned are:
1. Accuracy counts. I think I knew this, but I saw it reinforced. There's a sweet spot and a lot of times the fish (especially if they're lethargic) won't come out and get the bait. You can miss a vertical support or ladder by 6 inches and not get bit, but the same bait falling vertically right beside the object will get the reaction bite. I saw this occur more than once during the day and it could have been the multiple cast theory, but I think the accuracy point was the key. Personally I believe that I may get lazy after three or four days of fishing and fish out a poor cast. After watching Denny in September I rededicated myself and in November pitched docks very accurately at Table Rock with tremendous results.
2. Longer Rods equal accuracy. My G. Loomis GLX 7'5" Flipping Sticks are great and I love them, however when I used Denny's signature American Rodsmiths Wrecking Stick, 7'7" Big Nasty Flipping Stick it was easier to more accurately place my jig where I wanted it to go.
3. The mental aspect. An angler needs to understand what the lure is doing especially with a football jig in 15+ foot of water. All too often I've just dragged a jig crawling it along the bottom and not imparting much action. Denny keeps his jig rod high and imparts more of a hop than
a simple drag. His trailer (Strike King Rage Tail of course) seemed to be constantly moving.
Bonus: When asked about Side Imaging Denny shared that it's a great tool for understanding why fish relate to a specific piece of structure (the spot on a spot). SI has made it easier to see what the sweet spot on a point or ridge looks like. I did notice that he used the split screen option on his HB 997 to follow a contour when working points.
Since our day on the lake I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and break bread with Denny. The ten hours on the front deck of Denny’s Ranger and our subsequent meetings and talks of everything from deer hunting to politics have reinforced what I already knew, that Denny is one of the good guys. A dedicated husband, father and grandfather, he is a humble gentleman that I’m proud to call my friend.