I found myself in rare company over the weekend—and received an impromptu clinic in bass fishing—when I emceed a panel of bass pros comprised of three of only five anglers who have won both the Bassmaster Classic and the FLW World Championship. David Fritts, Dion Hibdon, and George Cochran were the guest experts at the “Meet the Pros” sessions presented at the Ford Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show, and the trio didn’t disappoint. The three sat elbow to elbow on a stage in front of the Hawg Trough demonstration tank, taking questions and offering answers to anglers who seemed in awe of the opportunity—at least those bass fishermen in the audience who realized the opportunity being presented.

Nearby exhibit booths manned by student-anglers representing Purdue, Indiana, and Vincennes universities’ bass fishing clubs were all ears as they heard three legendary anglers share secrets for bass angling success.

When one student asked the panel what line of study would help him most as he pursued a career as a professional bass angler, all three agreed that business courses would be a big help.

“It’s not all about the fishing,” offered Fritts. “This is a business and you need to know how to conduct yourself in that manner and understand the business of fishing professionally.”

When I asked the panel of pros to tell the audience what they felt the biggest difference was that separated weekend warriors from elite professional bass anglers, Cochran fielded the question and answered for all three: “Casting skills.”

The veteran of the panel, now retired at age 64, said that “hands down, the most important skill to have as a bass angler is casting accuracy.” Cochran continued: “If you can’t put that lure within six inches of that stump every cast, the next guy along will, and he’ll beat you every time. Casting accuracy and speed win tournaments. If the other guys is putting 10 percent more casts out than you are, odds are he’s gonna catch more fish.”

Fritts provided excellent advice on line types for specific situations, and commented that fluorocarbon was problematic for its propensity to break once it’s been stretched by fighting a fish or pulling on a snag, but admitted that in some clear water situations it’s his “go-to” connection.

When asked about how to catch bigger bass, Hibdon, the junior of the threesome, good-naturedly advised the Yankees in the audience to “invest in a tank of fuel” and drive south to experience better-quality bass fishing that’s offered in the Hoosier State. He followed that with advice on working jigs for suspended fish (keep the line taut on the drop and set the hook at any hesitation).

Cochran brought the house down when asked by a pro-wannabe in the audience how to balance a busy tournament fishing schedule with family time.

“When all I did was fish the tournaments it was hard on the family,” explained the angler, adding that he had five kids.

“Well,” Cochran chimed in: “You weren’t fishing all the time…”

This weekend the “Ask the Pros” series at the Indy sport show continues with a panel of crappie fishing experts, as well as panels on big game and waterfowl hunting at the Indiana Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl Expo, conducted in conjunction with the show. I’ll be moderating all three, and you can bet I’ll have some of my own questions in pocket.

Image courtesy Dan Armitage

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