How I Prepare For a Fishing Tournament
When I compete, I do it with everything in me. I hate losing. I don’t even like coming in 2nd! It’s like I was made for competition 🙂
So you can imagine that when I have an upcoming fishing tournament, I do whatever I can to prepare for it, to make sure that when the day of competition comes, I’m as prepared as I possibly can be.
But what does that involve? What steps do I take to prepare myself and my gear, to make sure that I can be focused and do my very best when I hit the water on tournament day?
Well, let’s talk about that.
First, before I ever hit the water for the tourney, or even to practice for it, I try to make sure everything is organized. This applies to my rods, reels, tackle items, and my boat itself.
I keep my boat clean and organized, with no clutter and everything neatly in its place. Yes, I am a neat freak. But that helps me to stay in top of things and know where everything is so I can grab something in a split second when I need it. The last thing I want to be doing is hunting for something in my boat during a tournament, when every second counts. That’s the ultimate in frustration for me.
A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place
All of this starts with keeping my boat clean. Yes, that even means no dirt on the carpet! Dirt on the carpet ends up on my gear and in my reels, and it also wears the carpet out prematurely. So, yes, I even rise the soles of my shoes off before getting into my boat. It helps to keep the boat clean, even when we launch from dirt parking lots.
Next, my rods and reels have to be in order. I want to make sure that I have good line on them, especially for a tournament. And I want to make sure that my reels are well maintained. This means that I take them all in the house during the winter and do annual maintenance on them… all of them.
Gears get grease, bearings get oil and dirt gets removed from the exterior with an old toothbrush, a cotton swab and a soft rag or paper towel. Any reels that aren’t operating 100% up to par get boxed up and shipped back to the manufacturer, for repair or replacement. I don’t consider myself to be a reel technician, so if I run into something I don’t know how to deal with, I let the pros handle it 😉
Now that I know my rods, reels and line are in proper order, I go through my baits. First, I check the soft plastics in my boat, to see what I might be running low on. I know which baits I throw most often, so I know that those are the ones that I am most likely to run out of the quickest.
Well, I fished in my last club tournament of the 2014 season on September 27.
It’s hard to believe the season is over already, but I have to say that this was one of the best tournament seasons I’ve had in a long time, maybe even best ever!
I started the 2014 tournament schedule off by landing in a very disappointing next to last in our season opener. The worst part of that is the fact that the tourney was held on a lake that is one of my favorites and where I typically do very well.
I basically just over-thought things and it showed in my small two-fish creel. By the time I figured out what was going on, there was only about an hour left in that tourney. During that last hour I did manage to catch two fish, including one about 4 lbs. My total weight that day was a dismal 5.87 lbs. The winner of that tourney had over 15 lbs. Ouch!
So after tournament #1 I was sitting in 6th place with a 11 lb. deficit. I had my work cut out for me. But I like a challenge!!
So the race was on. I needed to buckle down and do some serious work if I was going to climb out of this hole and rise to the top. No fooling around 🙂
My ideas didn’t pan out, but I was still able to piece together an on-the-fly game plan that landed me solidly in second place, just slightly behind the winning angler. And this was the beginning of my long climb out of the basement, with my eye on the top spot.
On to tourney #3! This one was held on a lake that I was somewhat familiar with, but hadn’t fished in quite a few years, so I knew I’d need to put in a little time learning it all over again if I was going to hope to finish at the top for the tourney.
On the Sunday before the tournament, my wife and I hooked up the boat and headed to the lake. She had her book to read and I had homework to do.
As a pro guide and tournament angler, I’ve spent some serious money over the years buying many different types and brands of fishing tackle, including soft plastic lures. It’s just part of finding what works best and then getting stocked up on those items.
Fishing tackle can range from small wire snaps to rods, reels and a host of different kinds of lures. Even within the lure category there are dozens of different subcategories of baits to choose from for a varying myriad of conditions!
Today I want to talk about just two of those subcategories; lure parts and soft plastic lures. Between these two subcategories I probably cover at least 50% of my lure needs in a given season. I fish a ton of soft plastics and I make my own spinnerbaits, jigs and buzzbaits.
Let’s talk about soft plastic lures
I fish soft plastic lures from the beginning of the season, in March, all the way to the end, when I put my boat away for the winter, typically in late November or early December. Early in the season I usually start by throwing smaller baits, such as finesse worms or crawdad imitators. Bass normally prefer more compact baits when the water is cold. This isn’t set in stone, but
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2013 was by far my best year yet working as a professional guide! My bookings increased and I got to spend time on the water with some truly enjoyable people.
In addition to meeting new people and making some new friends, I also got to see more clients put big fish in the boat, due in part to my HumminBird fishfinders. We had many, many fish between 4 & 6 lbs. caught this year.
Here are some highlights from some of those trips, in no particular order.
The 2013 tournament season was a very good season for me, ending with claiming the Angler of The Year title for my bass fishing club, SRIBA (www.sriba.com).
The season began on one of my very favorite early-spring lakes, Chapman Pond, with a bag of bass that weighed in at 16.12 lbs!
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t enough to win. In fact, it wasn’t even enough to take 2nd place! When everything was said and done, I landed in third place for the tourney. But I wasn’t complaining because it gave me a very solid start to the season, using that big weight as the launching pad for the rest of my tournament season.