Preparation And Positive Attitude Key In Card’s Top 20 Chesapeake Bay Finish

By on August 21, 2015
Brandon Card reels in a keeper at the Chesapeake Bay Bassmaster Elite Series event, Aug. 13 to 16, 2015. (Credit: Bassmaster Marshal Chris Stevenson)

You hear it all the time about how tournament bass fishing is all about mental toughness and making the right decisions. This past Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the Chesapeake Bay was a prime example of this. I was able to grind out a Top 20 finish after having my worst practice ever. I feel I have come a long way in my decision-making process. The lessons I have learned by making the most of what you find and staying positive should help anyone be a better angler.

Pre-Practice

Last year after an Elite Series event on the Delaware River, I decided to head to the Chesapeake Bay to check it out. Knowing that we were going to have an event there, I spent most of my time driving around and getting to know the place because of how big it is. I fished some and found a creek close to the launch ramp where I caught three nice fish. I thought to myself that it would be a good area, but also knew it would receive an immense amount of fishing pressure because of its proximity to a major launch ramp. I kept it in my mind as a place to check out when we came back this year.

Official Practice

The conditions during practice were not good for trying to find and catch fish. We had a floodtide for the first two days of practice and for the most part, the three-day practice session was a waste. The final day of practice, the tide was back to normal, but I still had a tough time. Over the three days of practice, I spent 34 hours on the water and had a grand total of three bites from bass. I had covered so much water running all over the place trying to find an out-of-the-way place that I could win the tournament from. I was pretty discouraged but I still had a glimmer of hope for the place close to the ramp where I had caught a few fish the year before.

Day 1 and Day 2

Since I had no secret spots to go to, I decided to stay close and fish by the ramp. With the tough conditions that I was faced with, I decided to go with finesse and light line. I started with a shaky head and 8lb line. Even though the water was muddy, I still wanted to finesse as much as possible since the fish were heavily pressured in this area. I literally started right past the off-limits sign and just put my head down and fished. It was a grind, but I caught three fish for 9lbs 8oz which put me in 41st place.

I did the same thing the next day and caught four for 7lbs 9oz and even though my weight went down, I was still in 41st place. After the second day I was happy with the fact that I would be getting a check from this stingy place.

Day 3

Brandon Card holds up bass at a weigh-in. (Credit: James Overstreet)

Brandon Card holds up bass at a weigh-in. (Credit: James Overstreet)


Filled with a little more confidence in my area and secure in the fact that I got a little payday, I decided to try some different baits and expand my area a little. It was another tough day and I struggled from the start. Around 10:00, I went to a big boat dock, grabbed my flippin’ stick rigged with a creature bait, and slowly started to pick apart every inch of this dock. After close to an hour, I caught one that was 3.5 lbs and lost one that was 4 lbs on back-to-back flips. Knowing that there was quality fish there, it was enough for me to decide to stay there the rest of the day. I caught another decent one, and then another competitor came in and fished the other side of the dock. I watched him quickly catch two big bass. It was frustrating to see this happen, but it gave me even more confidence that I was doing the right thing in the right place. I stuck with it, in hopes that my time was coming. After another hour or so, I finally caught another nice bass right at 4 lbs. I fished for a couple more hours and at 2:00, I was still one bass short of my five fish limit. I picked up my spinning rod with 8lb line in hopes of finessing one more lunker bass from the dock. I pitched my shaky head worm by a piling, and one bit! After an epic battle on the light line, I boated my biggest bass of the week (4lb 10oz). I finished the day with 15lbs 15oz and I jumped all of the way to 18th place. In doing this, I gained some valuable points in the Angler of the Year standings.

Reflections and Lessons Learned

After the practice I had, I would have laughed at you if you told me I was going to finish 18th. This event was a mental grind. I had a glimmer of hope based on something I found one year ago, and it helped me keep a positive outlook even after a brutal practice.

The other key for me at this event was paying close attention to the tides. The bass on the Chesapeake Bay, like other tidal waters, are heavily influenced by the tide shifts, so I paid close attention to when I caught each fish. Every time I caught one, I would look at the tide chart and put together a plan for the next time when the tide would be at that position. This allowed me to be on my best spots at the optimal tides.

When I first started fishing the Elite Series and had a bad practice, I would run off and try something totally different during the competition just trying to make it work. It rarely did and if I would have tried it here, I probably wouldn’t have done very well. Keeping a level head and not doing something off the wall really helped in this event.

Mental attitude is something else that I relied on and it is something I feel I have been getting better at in the last few years. At the pre-tournament meeting, some of the guys were complaining about the fishing and saying how much they hated this place. Many of these guys finished at the bottom of the standings in this event. A bad attitude never helps any situation (on or off the water).

Top image: Brandon Card reels in a keeper at the Chesapeake Bay Bassmaster Elite Series event, Aug. 13 to 16, 2015. (Credit: Bassmaster Marshal Chris Stevenson)

About Brandon Card

Brandon Card is a Bassmaster Elite Series Angler, fishing guide and adventure sports enthusiast. He won the 2012 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, qualified for the 2016 and 2013 Bassmaster Classic, and has six top 10s in Elite Series competition.

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