There aren’t many times that Major League Fishing pro Todd Faircloth is stumped on a body of water.
After all, the Jasper, Texas resident is one of the best in the angling game in recent years, a winner of five Bassmaster Elite Series events since 2006.
Add in his MLF experiences – a couple of victories in Select competition, appearances in the 2015 Challenge Cup and the 2016 Summit Cup, and a Championship Round runner-up finish in the latter event – and it’s little wonder that Faircloth is regarded as one of the sport’s top pros.
But turned loose today on Alabama’s Lake Eufaula, a 45,181-acre reservoir as full of bass fishing history as it is grass, timber, rocks, and ledges, and even Faircloth was a little unsure of where to start as he peered at the screen showing him the lake map prior to the morning launch.
A quick study session was quickly underway as the East Texas pro, who has won more than $2.1 million dollars in his career, searched the zone for the initial piece to the day’s MLF fishing puzzle.
“That’s the whole deal here,” said Faircloth, a 15 time qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic. “You kind of have to get a bite to start to solve that puzzle. You can go on basics, past experiences, the time of year we’re in, stuff like that.
“But overall, the time of year that we’re in right now, it’s just kind of a tough time of year to be fishing. We’re here in late summer and very early fall, so it’s a transition period and fish are doing two or three different things right now.”
That being said, it didn’t take long for the Strike King pro to reach into the proverbial puzzle box and pull out his first piece, anchoring the beginnings of a game plan that he would start the day out with.
A game plan that is similar to what has given the Texas pro some MLF success in the past.
“Generally speaking, when you don’t have much time to figure it out, fish what you can see and that’s what I’m going to do today,” said Faircloth. “That’s my approach, to try and stay in high percentage areas.”
After that, the MLF pro said it will come down to properly deciphering what the day’s first couple of bites attempt to tell him.
“When you get a bite, you ask yourself a few questions,” said Faircloth. “How was he positioned? Was he in the shade? What type of cover was he next to? How deep was he? Was he up high in the water column? Was he on the bottom?”
After pondering the answer to those questions, Faircloth said it’s then about trying to find similar water, duplicating how the first bite came about.
“Generally, that first bite, especially if it’s a quality fish, it will answer a lot of your questions,” he said. “Sometimes, you’ll get a bite and it can lead you astray, you’ll see that happen. But generally speaking, that (first) fish is there for a reason.”
Once Faircloth has caught two or three fish in the same area on the same bite pattern, then the light bulb turns on and he has his first “Ah ha!” moment of the day.
Meaning that he has often found a pattern that he can duplicate and run on similar stretches of water.
“When that happens, you kind of know that you’ve got something going,” said Faircloth.
That being said, an angler has also got to pay attention to the subtle clues that can tell him that a certain pattern is going away.
Or maybe not.
“That’s the deal in these MLF events, you’re practicing as you’re fishing the tournament,” said Faircloth. “It’s one of the most challenging aspects of what we do here. Did your pattern go away or are you just in an area that doesn’t have many fish in it?”
Again, it’s about identifying each clue to the puzzle as the day unfolds, then making the proper mental decisions and strategic adjustments to put those pieces into the right place.
With the SCORETRACKER LIVE! leaderboard confirming that the puzzle is coming together or not.
“You have to analyze all of that pretty quick and just go with your gut,” said Faircloth.
When it all works properly, a MLF pro can get in the zone, ride a wave of leaderboard momentum and almost call his shot in front of the on looking Outdoor Channel cameras.
“I’ve had it happen (like that) a couple of times,” grinned Faircloth. “Last year at Lacrosse on the final day, I could pretty much call my shot there. That’s not something that happens very often, but the fish were set up in similar places and were current oriented and they actually became pretty predictable.”
What about today here at Eufaula – does Faircloth see a chance to lock in and get into the zone again?
With the tough early fall conditions this week, he shook his head and said probably not.
“I don’t really see that (happening) here today,” he laughed.
With that in mind, a potential tough bite could be a blessing in disguise for the field.
Meaning that no one may figure something out early on and run away with the SCORETRACKER LIVE! lead.
“I’ve learned in these deals that it’s not over until the final bell rings,” smiled Faircloth.
While he wouldn’t mind getting off to a quick start this morning, Faircloth is just as concerned about gaining and building momentum through the day.
In other words, he’d rather start slow and finish strong versus beginning quickly and fading as the day goes along.
“Not only is it important to sometimes catch a few quick, but (I’ve also learned that) it’s also very, very important to (be able) to keep that momentum (building) throughout the day,” said Faircloth.
Because for the MLF angling pro that can do that, the question of where to place the last few pieces of the puzzle can suddenly appear as obvious.
Revealing a photo of a hard earned Challenge Cup trophy as the last piece to a championship puzzle gets put into place and the picture becomes clear.