There’s three things you can count on this time of year: the spawn’s over, the fish have moved offshore, and Mark Rose is going to catch them.
It seems each time the FLW Tour makes a stop at a structure-fishing venue or brings decent dollars to the same locales through the Costa Series, Rose already has his bank deposit-slip made out. Other deep-water gurus get their share, too, but Rose is a special case. If he doesn’t win, you can bet he’ll threaten.
What, exactly, is going on here? How can Mark Rose be a such a lock this time of year?
I called Rose this week to get the inside angle on his prowess. As I knew from previous interviews, Rose is certainly not the type of person to credit superior skill as a reason for his success. And while he normally tries to chalk up high finishes to blessings and luck, inside his words, I found a few angles we all can learn from.
Rose was brought up as a self-proclaimed river rat. The muddy Mississippi was his stomping ground, and he attacked its myriad of backwaters with spinnerbait and jig in hand. For a number of years, Rose cashed a bunch of checks and made a decent living. But something was missing; he wasn’t winning.
“I evaluated my career and I recognized that I needed to make a change,” Rose said. “I saw David Fritts catch five fish in five casts, and it was taking me all day to catch five.”
BassFans may recall it was at this time that Fritts, along with a handful of structure-fishing experts from the Carolina region, was making big bucks reeling crankbaits, and that Fritts took center stage with break-through wins on the FLW Tour while most of his competitors were still glued to the shoreline.
In order to break through, Rose knew he would need to master the newly advanced game of electronics. With side-looking units installed, he got obsessed with depth-finder mastery. Rose also befriended several competitors who shared a similar passion for learning the offshore bite. And while other competitors were also gaining ground through technology, Rose advanced beyond their scope through relentless practice.
Rose mentioned how he would travel to Pickwick, Kentucky Lake and Ouachita and spend hundreds of hours idling; intricately learning the lake bottom and it’s inhabitants.
“I started to learn to read the fish. I was trying to figure out which baits would trigger them. I also learned that there’s big fish in every school; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to trigger those larger fish.”
Stop the presses. Surely, this was Rose’s secret, right off the bat in my interview. Nearly all advanced bass fishermen can easily locate schools of bass, and even catch a few. But Rose seems to nearly always catch larger fish than everyone else. I quizzed him further.
“That’s not something I really want to elaborate on” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked really hard at, and there’s no definite cure-all for catching big fish. Mainly, it’s changing things up and playing with them (the bass).”
But it’s these intangible things – things that the average bass competitor never notices or simply discounts as luck – that really make a difference in the check line. At most structure-fishing derbies, the top weights are quite close and just one or two kickers completely change a competitor’s week.
We can often view the tangible differences in other forms of fishing; for instance, I know Tommy Biffle can really flip, because I can watch him do it. But what is Mark Rose doing?
Not long ago, the difference would likely be explained through time on the water and accumulating hundreds of offshore hotspots. However, we hear lately of tournament competitors fighting their way through local crowds that are also equipped with the best sonar available, and not governed by blast-off times or 8-hour days.
Surely, most of the best areas on each body of water have been discovered and re-discovered. So what’s the secret?
“You always have to have something in your hip pocket,” Rose explained. “Something to push you over the hump (when struggling) or to get a kicker. I always try to find those, but I don’t always do it.”
I questioned Rose with a real-world scenario and got the answer I was looking for: “When I go to Kentucky (Lake), I don’t put any waypoints in until after the second day (of practice). I try to force myself to run all new water those first 2 days.”
As avid fishermen and tournament competitors, think about that for a minute. Here’s a guy, fishing for a hundred-grand, who's spent thousands of hours on Kentucky Lake and has thousands of waypoints to match, and he doesn’t even use them unless he absolutely needs to.
But why? Maybe the answer lies in the ever-evolving bass.
“The fish get in these mega-schools, as we call them now. And they see pressure all the time. The locals sit out there from daylight ’til dark on them” Rose explained.
“We’re pushing them. Depthfinder frequencies, raining Alabama Rigs and 6XD crankbaits on them; we’re pushing (the bass) around.
“You need to do something different to catch these fish. You need to first find out where they hide.”
It appears Rose has figured out where big bass hide. To learn more about where that is, and how he catches them, be sure to stop back here next week.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)