Matt Lee explains why "Home Lake Advantage" isn't always right. Photo by Garrick Dixon

This time of uncertainty is certainly something like we’ve never experienced before. With the cancellation of Stage Four in Raleigh, I have found myself with more time than I know what to do with during a season for the first time in a long time.

Usually this time of the year, I am on the road and traveling from tournament to tournament. Whether it’s the Bass Pro Tour or some local tournament here in Alabama, it seems like I’m always on the go. I never really get the chance to fish my home lake, Smith Lake, unless it’s during the offseason.

People always think there’s sort of a “home-lake advantage” when you fish on bodies of water you’re familiar with. I don’t think that’s always the case. Look at how it went during Stage Three. A lot of those guys who know Lake Fork well and make their homes down there didn’t do so hot.

I heard Takahiro Omori say to Aly Akers-Atkins in an interview the other day that while he lives on Lake Fork, he hasn’t fished four straight days there in about 12 to 15 years. That’s the way I feel with Smith Lake. That’s why it’s nice getting to be down here for a few days practicing and gearing up for a weekend tournament.

While I grew up around Smith Lake and have fished it a lot over the years, it’s always changing and stuff that worked in the past may not work now. I have people send me messages all the time saying stuff like, “I’m going to Kentucky Lake next week, what should I be throwing?” That’s always so tough because as professional anglers, we show up to a body of water that could be completely different since the last time we fished it.

It’s all about adjusting to the variables thrown out and taking whatever you think you know about a certain place and throwing it out the window. If you find yourself stuck in a rut and unable to get a bite, do what I do. Pick up your trolling motor, run your motor until you get tired of running, put the trolling motor back down and start over. It seems crazy, but I promise you it works.

You can do all the homework in the world, but if you aren’t able to make adjustments when you’re out there on the water, you’ll have a tough day. Of course everyone goes to a lake that they’ve fished before with preconceived notions, but it’s all about taking what you’ve learned and applying it to what you know now. Adjusting, even on a body of water you’re familiar with, is such a big part of improving as an angler.

We are still able to have some tournaments down here in Alabama while safely practicing social distancing. I love fishing Bass Pro Tour events, but to me, a tournament is a tournament. A male ego is a male ego no matter who you talk to, and whether the tournament is large or small, you want to win. I have a small local tournament on Smith Lake this weekend that I’m hoping to go out and do well in. At least, that’s the goal. I’ve been practicing on Smith for the last few days so I hope I can take what I’m learning to put together a new game plan.

I’m just extremely thankful I don’t live in some place like New York City where it’s crowded, you can’t go anywhere and people are getting stir crazy. I can be down here in Alabama, follow all the CDC guidelines they’ve laid out and still be able to go fishing. I’m really fortunate to live where I do and continue to get to do what I love.