Pitching Makes Perfect
By Alex Garoutte
The sound of 10,000 screaming basketball fans begins to get louder as I proceed out of the tunnel to the half court line of JQH arena at Bass Pro’s Tournament of Champions. Located in Springfield, Mo,, this is the largest high school showcase tournament in the nation. Having Bass Pro Shops as the primary sponsor, it would be only natural to have a pitching contest between local high school anglers and a Bassmaster pro as a major promotion for this advancing high school sport.
For the past two years I have had the honor to represent my school and compete with not only other high school anglers, but also two Bassmaster pros: Brian Snowden and Bass Fishing Hall of Famer Stacey King. Last year I took second place losing to a buzzer beater, but I returned this year after more practice and ended up with my face on the Jumbotron as the champion.
Pitching is a technique that every angler should know how to do. Whether trying to get to hard to reach spots in a dock, pinpointing an ambush hole in a bush, or placing your bait in the middle of a bass bed, pitching is the technique to use. There are all sorts of factors that are involved in making the perfect pitch. The rod type, how you fine tune your reel, the line you use, what bait you use, and most importantly the practice you put in are all involved to perfect this technique.
The rod that you choose to pitch with can greatly impact your pitching success. I am most comfortable using one that either has a medium-heavy or heavy action. I prefer that specific action because with a stiffer rod it’s easier to propel my bait further and more accurately towards the target. Having a heavier action will also help you when driving your hook into the bass’ jaw. The length that you choose is also another aspect to consider. Rods measuring 6 feet, 10 inches to 7 feet are the lengths I like to use. The reason for using a longer rod is it helps to pitch the bait further in order to keep enough distance between the boat and the target area without spooking the fish.
When looking for the perfect reel to use it is very important to look at the gear ratio. When fishing with soft plastics or jigs you generally want a faster gear ratio, like 7:1:1, in order to keep up with the bait while you are working it. Once you find the gear ratio you are most comfortable with it is time to fine tune the reel specifically for pitching. It is important that when you pitch your spool is not so tight that your bait does not freely glide once you release it. The way you loosen your spool is by adjusting your cast control knob. Another way to help provide a smoother release is to lessen your magnetic brakes by adjusting the dial.
The line and bait you use are an added plus when wanting to become successful at pitching. When it comes to choosing what line you use it will depend on the type of cover that you will be fishing. For bed and dock fishing, most anglers will choose to use a heavier fluorocarbon. The reasoning behind this is because fluorocarbon will sink better and the use of heavier line will help ensure it won’t break when setting the hook. If you are fishing thick, heavier cover it would be wise to go with braided line because it is less likely to get nicked and snap. The bait that you decide to use will be determined by the time of year you are fishing. Spoons and heavy jigs are great for pitching under docks during the heat of summer. You can also pitch shaky head worms, other soft plastics, and lighter jigs on beds in the spring and up and around bushes in the shade when the sun is out.
The most important part of getting better at pitching is to practice. The old saying “practice makes perfect” is true for this technique. The first time I had heard about pitching was a couple of months before the Tournament of Champions two years ago when I was asked to compete in the pitching contest. The way I went about practicing for this event was by setting up a bucket in my backyard and pitching at it over and over again. Once it became easier I would exchange the bucket for something smaller and then even smaller to gain more accuracy. Muscle memory and repetition was what gave me the opportunity and confidence to stand out on the court of that arena and win and gain a new skill.