New year, new opportunities ahead for competitive bass anglers. Photo by Garrick Dixon

The calendar has been flipped to 2020 and the reset button has been pushed. SCORETRACKER® units have been reset to zero. Points races in tours, circuits, leagues and tournament series across the country now share a clean slate.

New boats have been rigged and the smell of fresh fiberglass hangs in the air. Shiny stainless steel props have not a scratch on them. Sponsor wraps are taught and seamless. Big screen electronics are still spot free. Mint-condition lures are perfectly positioned in pristine boxes. The coiled memory of old fishing line has been erased and replaced.

Fresh hooks, fresh tungsten and best of all, fresh plastics – the sweet, salty smell of fresh soft plastics – are waiting for the call to action. Then there are those new additions to the tackle arsenal – maybe a different size, perhaps a different color, could be a different vibration – something the competition is not aware of just yet. To strike early in the new season with a small deviation from the normal offerings is the stuff tournament anglers dream of.

Lake maps, Google Earth and past tournament results are being studied nightly like law books before the bar exam. To find one or two obscure features: an overlooked depression, a super subtle point, a hard spot in the midst of a soft mudflat – these are the nuances that can make an ordinary season an extraordinary season.

Out on the water, southern reservoirs are at winter drawdown levels. Shallow, emergent vegetation is parched and crispy. Buck bushes and shallow willows are dormant. Bare flats lay dry, creating a clean canvas of potential spawning grounds when the water returns. Lakes well north of the Mason-Dixon are frozen over. Only anglers with drills can access the wet water.

Across the country, the frigid months of December and January seem to be mind erasers to bass. Hunting, holidays, family and football have shielded the targets, at least temporarily, from being teased by lures relentlessly. With that, bass’ brains get reset, too. They sulk off into a sort of winter hibernation and forget a lot of what they have learned about pinging water columns, 21-foot shadows and artificial vibrations.

When they snap out of their winter’s respite with waxing daylight hours in the coming weeks, bass, especially the biggest ones, will be as vulnerable as they are going to be all year. The first lure in their space will likely have the best chance of being clobbered with conviction.

The start of every bass tournament comes with a certain degree of suspense. But the start of a new tournament season only happens once a year.

The reset button has been pushed. There are blank slates on both sides of the water’s surface. It’s the calm before the bass wars begin on lakes all over the country. No matter which level of competition you fish, take a few minutes to soak in the anticipation of the new season before “lines in.”