I just returned from a marathon trip across the country to California to fish back-to-back Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments. One was on the California Delta and one on Clear Lake. I finished eighth at the Delta and 85th at Clear Lake - Ouch! I learned a great deal from both events and reaffirmed what I've always known - but sometimes don't do.

I had a 5-day drive out and a 5-day drive home. Needless to say, I had a lot of time to think about what went right and what didn't. The bottom line is, I need to cover water, and lots of it, to consistently do well. Not being confined to a small area or narrow-minded in what I think the fish are doing breeds success. On that 5-day drive back, I thought a lot about how I practiced for each event.

On the Delta, I fished a huge residential area with lots of docks. Each day, I fished the previous day's best water with very little success, but when I expanded to new water, success came. Even in practice, I covered lots of water within one huge area. I knew I could not feasibly fish the whole Delta, so I searched a manageable area of small lakes, backwaters and canals.

At Clear Lake, I fished slow, in two areas, and the day slipped away while my competitors all came in with giant bags. I fished confined areas. I practiced poorly and let too few fish in the wrong areas determine what I did in the tournament. Clear Lake is a natural lake; everything looks the same, and there is very little structure on much of the lake. The shore is lined with reeds and docks. On a lake like that, it is crucial to just put the trolling motor down and go in practice. I usually do, but did not this time. I bounced around all over the lake, did not fish anything I stopped on well, so I did not get a feel for what the fish were doing.

The water temperature was in the low 50s, and it was clear - perfect for fishing fast with jerkbaits, crankbaits and swimbaits. Well, they smashed them on jerkbaits and swimbaits. You just had to find the right stretch.

North Carolina anglers who fish tournaments or are out to have a good time on the weekend need to remember it is important to cover water. Even if you are catching fish, the grass just might be greener on the other side. You'll never find the 5-pounders if you get content catching 2-pounders.

I personally do a very good job of covering water while fun-fishing, but sometimes during practice I get scared that I may miss something by fishing too fast, and I wind up going to slow. I will never find a good place if never get around to fishing it. Many anglers simply fish too slow (myself included) for the purpose of finding fish. Once you find them, by all means slow down, but remember the grass just might be greener somewhere else. Never be satisfied, and make your decisions about what is the best area and baits after you fish everything.