Anytime I talk about the offseason, I have to qualify that term, at least a little.

Even when tournaments end for a few months, sponsor commitments, preparation for the following season and other aspects of the business of being a professional bass fisherman never end. That said, commitments do slow some and the break in the tournament schedule definitely provides me more available time, which of course means it is time to go fishing!

As I write this I’m less than a week from finishing a Major League Fishing event, so my offseason has really just begun and in the first five days I’ve been fishing three days. Sunday after church, I went crappie fishing and I’ve also spent a day each bass fishing Lake Whitney, which is only about ½ hour from my home, and Fayette County Lake, which is a couple of hours away.

A lot of people might not know that I’m a crappie fisherman. That’s what I do when I want to relax on the water. I can’t relax when I’m bass fishing. I have two speeds for bass: on and off. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m fishing with or what the situation is. If I’m fishing for bass, I am focused on trying to figure out the fish and I’m never quite relaxed.

Both of this week’s bass days were good, but I have to highlight the day on Fayette County Lake. It was just one of those days when everything came together and we absolutely smashed them. The friend I was with kept track and we caught 22 bass over five pounds.  

One of the most valuable aspects of the offseason is that it allows me to expand my box of tools. During a tournament or even a practice usually is not the best time break out a lure you haven’t fished with. It takes time to learn applications and rigging, to see how the bait moves and to gain confidence. During the fall, I get to pull out those new lures and figure out which ones will work best for me. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing this week. I’ve spent two days fishing with a new YUM lure I had not tried before, and I’m absolutely in love with it.

The lure is the YUM Swurm. It’s a soft-plastic jerkbait style of lure with a unique shape. It often will be fished weightless for shallow fish in classic soft jerkbait style, but we were fishing them on jigheads in 18-to-27 feet of water and the action seemingly was ideal. To give you a better idea, my friend didn’t have any Swurms and initially didn’t want one of mine. It wasn’t until I got him down 19-0 that be started begging. Once I gave him a Swurm, he started catching bass well, but it’s hard to come back from 19-0!

I have no doubt that I’ll be spending a lot more time fishing with a Swurm and learning more applications over the next couple of months. Both the profile and the action make it a really effective shad imitation, and it should have multiple applications. It also comes in two good sizes.

Along with learning new lures, I’ll use offseason fishing time to learn about or practice specific techniques. If I can see that a certain technique is likely to be important for an event on the following year’s schedule or possibly if some specific technique has been hot on tour, the offseason is the perfect time to learn the details of that that technique and to build the confidence needed for me to want to use it in a tournament.

It’s also a great time to generally hone my fish-finding and patterning skills. The bass are always moving, so fishing frequently on some of the same bodies of water keeps me in practice at staying with them.

Most of my fall fishing is just with friends. It’s a time when I get to spend days with friends I haven’t been out with in a while and otherwise couldn’t fish with, and a time when my son Little Alton and I always get to spend some days fishing together.

Finally, I can’t talk about the offseason without mentioning a couple of other things I’ve been enjoying this fall: I’ve sure enjoyed watching my Baylor Bears, who are undefeated and sitting at No. 2 in the nation as I write this. I don’t know what will happen, but it’s pretty exciting seeing them in a position where they could contend for a playoff spot.

I’ve also enjoyed watching my youngest daughter play volleyball. She is a senior and the captain of her team, and they’ve gone undefeated and won the district. Five more wins would get them the state championship!