Is home ground advantage, really an advantage?
A common trend in the bass fishing world is seeing locals or regulars do very well in tournaments on their home lake. Dams or lakes near to one’s home is usually referred to as the home ground. In most cases the home ground advantage allows an angler to have a ‘Leg Up’ on the competition. In some cases, though, this can actually be a hindrance, as dams can change due to weather patterns, high pressure, boat traffic or dropping water levels. Let’s dissect this topic.
What’s the advantage?
The advantage is obviously having easy access to the lake to regularly fish. Spending time on the waterway is valuable to learning the habits of the bait within the dam and the feeding locations and habits of their predators, namely ‘Australian Bass’. Over time an angler who regularly visits a location gains an understanding of what the fish do at certain times of the year, the locations to fish and what baits to throw and when to throw them. An intimate knowledge can see an angler know what to do at certain times of the day, know where to target and when, from low light, full sunlight, overcast conditions and wind direction. The interesting thing about fishing impoundments is that no two dams are the same and it can be quite difficult to understand each and every one entirely.
What affects a fishery?
There are a number of elements that can affect the feeding habits of Bass. Weather is obviously a major influence on how fish react. In Boondooma, for example, the fish feed well when the weather is consistent, string a few days of sunny warm days together and you’re in for some good fishing. There are some instances when I have noticed major shut downs. Boat traffic from high powered motors or just high boat traffic in general can send the fish into quiet mode. Although this doesn’t usually stop them from biting for long. Cool weather events or steep sudden weather changes can really make the fishing quite difficult and cause the fish to shut down, add some rain and it becomes very difficult to put together a consistent pattern. Wind direction has also been a major player in destroying a good days fishing, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out and noticed a wind change and not get a bite for the rest of the day. This can also work in reverse if your mindful of the conditions.
With all these elements that can affect the way our target species feed, through trial and error the locals or regulars usually know what to do when these situations arise, where most may fail. This all come down to time on the water and experience.
Is it really an advantage?
In most cases locals are usually the ones to be at the top end of the tournament field. This doesn’t always mean that you’re going to win. The quality of talented anglers that fish for bass nowadays means that we have to work a lot harder for the advantage. It’s also very common for locals to get caught up in a pattern that’s working or been working to catch fish, but there’s no guarantees that this is going to be the winning formula. On many occasions I’ve seen anglers from NSW and VIC come to our dams and fish baits and locations not normally visited by locals and do very well. That happens particularly when we see one of the major events that change the regular fish feeding habits as mentioned above.
It’s usually the locals that are the ones that are more consistent due to the time spent pre-fishing and learning the dam’s habits.
In summary, most would agree that having a dam nearby gives you an advantage if you fish it an study it regularly. In fishing, there’s no guarantees, but having in intimate knowledge of a dam and having that home ground advantage will certainly put you in a good position to finish higher in the field than most.