July 30, 2021
Some pros call it the “panic box,” their go-to techniques and lures for when the clock is ticking, and time is running out. For Clark Reehm, who splits much of his time between the LSU-mad state of Louisiana and the Friday Night Lights of Texas, it comes down to a football analogy.
“In every single tournament, or even on guide trips, there will be a two-minute drill,” the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit competitor stated. “When there’s not much time left, all of us have a set of plays we pull out to try and score.” The goal may be to try to catch a kicker or fill out a limit, but it usually requires a winnowing of his tools and a refinement of his strategies. Reehm thinks he’s benefitted from fishing numerous 3-hour evening tournaments over the years, so even when time is dwindling, he knows that there’s always a chance to improve things–if you act judiciously.
Of course the specific lures you pull out when time is limited are situation, varying with your goals, the species you’re chasing, the applicable cover and water clarity, among other factors, but he believes that the focus on baits can be overblown or misplaced.
“There are no magic baits,” he explained. “It still comes down to percentages, and it just about always has more to do with where you’re putting the bait than the actual bait.” Nevertheless, he does have favorite confidence tools. The first is a 1.5-size squarebill crankbait, which allows him to cover water quickly and efficiently. If the fishery is particularly tough, or he just needs a single bare keeper, he might even drop down to a 0.5 model. That’s what he likes around rock and wood, but in grass he’s more likely to employ a single hook lure. In shallow vegetation that’s thick he’ll rely on a swim jig, while in sparser grass a vibrating jig gets the call. What do all three of these lures have in common? They all leave open the possibility to scratch out a keeper while maintaining the chance of catching the bass of a lifetime.
Reehm rejects the notion that a 2-minute drill demands small lures like Beetle Spins and inline spinners.
“With those small baits you can’t power fish and cover enough water,” he said. “You can’t burn a Beetle Spin and get bites.”
There are of course some options that get the call when in specific regions or situations. In Florida, he’s likely to cover water by swimming a Speed Worm. On a tidal river, one go-to is a diminutive quarter-ounce Humdinger spinnerbait.
While covering water and gaining field position is often his late-hour drill, Reehm stressed that efficiency is the key. That’s why he often focuses on specific pieces of cover rather than areas, whenever possible, because the target is narrow. When he’s looking at discrete pieces of high percentage cover, he’ll mix in presentations that are typically thought of as slower. One is a wacky rigged Senko, which he skips under prime docks. “If they’re there, they bite it,” he said. In recent years, a Ned Rig has entered the mix, too. “For some guys, it’s a drop shot in those same high percentage areas.” So other than docks, what are some of those pieces of cover. Reehm said he’ll never pass up a duck blind, especially if it’s in 2 to 4 feet of water, and culverts with water running through them are another similarly narrow and high-producing target. Water discharges, bridge points, isolated rocks and isolated laydowns also fit the bill. On all of those, “every cast is in the strike zone and any fish that’s there is there to feed.” He’s not necessarily concerned about making a lot of casts, but rather a lot of high percentage casts.
When the clock is ticking down quickly, it’s easy to cut corners. Reehm said paraphrased basketball coach John Wooden’s famous maxim of “Be quick but don’t hurry,” when he advised checking your connections before making the money cast.
“People get in a rush and they get lax,” he said. “If I’m headed to a key dock, one where I expect to get bit, even if there’s only 3 to 5 minutes left I’m going to retie. Check your line, see if it has a nick in it. I’m not going to retie my FG knot, but in reality it only takes about 15 seconds to clip your line and retie a Palomar.”
One other piece of advice: Make casts where you can get the fish out. “A lot of guys say they’ll worry about it when they get the bite, but if you can’t quickly land that fish it’s not a quality cast. If it takes 10 minutes to get it untangled, that defeats the whole purpose of the 2-minute drill.”
The goal is not to leave any time on the clock, but also to avoid leaving any points on the table.