“I’m a hunter. And good hunters learn the movements of the critter they’re after.”
At this point, I was beginning to see the true Mark Rose. My relentless questioning, coupled with Rose’s welcoming nature, had resulted in an hour-long interview that felt as if I was in the boat with the offshore guru. And now, he was tuning me in.
Rose described how a number of factors, the strongest being educated bass fishing pressure, have begun to move schools of fish off known community holes and onto more subtle features. What’s more, he described his proven method for relocating them: hard work.
“You’ve got to spend time looking. That’s why you get paid,” Rose noted. Typical of his positive outlook, he made a good point: There are worse things to get paid for than scouring ledges all day looking for bass.
Through thousands of hours plying the nation’s best offshore venues, Rose has likely developed a second sense for recognizing productive, but subtle, structure. But his open mind may be his best search tool.
“Sometimes, I get a kick out of myself,” Rose chuckled, referring to his tackle addiction. “In the back of my truck, I’ve got big Plano trunks just full of all of this tricked-out stuff.
“I rig up new stuff; I’ve got things no one else has. And a few things I’ve tricked out have worked; others haven’t.”
I asked Rose to elaborate more on his ever-expanding lure selection. Exactly how far is he going past the tried-and-true ledge formula of crankbait and worm?
“Today, it’s worms of three different lengths, hair jigs of different weights and spoons in three sizes. It’s 6XD, 8XD and 10XD. It’s four different kinds of swimbaits.” Modern off-shore fishing, it seems, is quickly becoming a 12-rod affair.
But why? Does a bass sitting out in the middle of nowhere really care how long your worm is? According to Rose, it does.
“We’ve educated (the bass) so much. Now, everybody is good at fishing offshore.”
It’s true. Rose’s competitors, as well as local anglers fishing community holes every day, are much more efficient anglers than they were when Rose began implementing offshore work as part of his repertoire. How, then, has he stayed so competitive?
I again feel the need to figure out just what makes these guys tick. Like a select few of his cohorts, Rose seems to push his way above the crowd more often than not.
Perhaps his secret is attitude. Every day’s a new day, and Rose accepts the fact that bass move around quite a bit, and nature is ever-changing. Oftentimes, a productive hot spot one day is a barren wasteland the next. But Rose just rolls with the punches.
“Eventually, you’re going to run into them” he stated.
Case in point: at the recent FLW Tour stop on Kentucky Lake, Rose hammered through a big school on the second competition day – catching fish nearly every cast – but couldn’t buy a strike there on the third. While most competitors would have been rattled – Golden Ticket slipping through their hands – Rose just stowed the trolling motor and moved on.
“I didn’t panic. I just told my partner, ‘OK, we’ll catch ‘em at another place.”
And it’s that undying belief in one’s self that I see in nearly all of our sport’s greats. Regardless of their familiarity of the tournament waters or the size of the winner’s purse, the true champions fish on without becoming unglued.
Today, however, Rose is facing even more challenges. Recently we’ve discussed the difficulties tournament anglers are facing with local angler encroachment. While these occurrences are often exaggerated by touring pros who think they’re the only ones with $3,000 depthfinders, at times, the bent-rod pattern really comes into play. Without question, such affects competition.
Again, Rose draws from the recent Kentucky Lake event: “In that tournament, I ran a long way. I was catching fish every cast, and (local) boats that were (passing by), saw me and stopped. I went on to a different (spot) and came back later, and one of those boats that had stopped was sitting on the spot.” Rose’s hopes of popping a kicker fish quickly ended.
“That spot I worked so hard (to find); now he has that in his GPS. And now that spot won’t be as good.”
Rose commented that all competitors face the same problems, and that such is an obstacle that needs to be overcome. “We’re professionals” he stated, and I feel he’s proud to be one.
But even Rose, willing to tackle all the hurdles that come along with the honor of being a professional fisherman, is starting to play the game.
“Some places, I’ve practiced out of my partner’s boat.”
I’m reminded of David Fritts pulling the same stunt prior to a Bassmaster Classic decades ago. While I’m not sure it’s true, I remember a fan claiming Fritts added an oversized, curly wig to aid in the disguise.
Times have changed. Where once guys like Fritts simply fished around clueless floaters, today’s offshore fishing pressure is infinitely more educated and more efficient.
But cream rises to the top, and guys like Rose will always come out ahead. And, while some fans will continue to credit the secret information in Rose’s depthfinder, I found the answers lie within the man himself.
(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.)