As we all know, bass fishing isn’t just sitting on a dock with your feet in the water casting out a bobber and a live minnow.  While most people who don’t fish think that’s all it is, we as bass fishermen know that there is much more to it than meets the eye. With new lures and techniques evolving almost daily, it is paramount that tournament fishermen keep up to date on these new baits and techniques in order to remain competitive.   In any sport, a competitor must be willing to learn from a loss. In tournament fishing, losses come more often than wins do; therefore, there are more opportunities for the angler to learn about what he or she could’ve done better. This can be done by doing research on what the winning pattern was in particular events and learning lessons from what the winning angler did in preparing for the tournament.

Equipment Upgrades

One of the biggest new products used in fishing tournaments within the last year or two has been forward-facing sonar such as the Garmin Panoptix LiveScope, Lowrance Active Target, and Humminbird MEGA Live Imaging. In the past, you would be hard pressed to find a major tournament where the new technology hasn’t played at least some role in the win, or at least the top 10 finishers’ performance.  When a major tournament is won using a certain lure, technique, or piece of equipment, sales of that particular item product go through the roof.  This is because anglers want to better themselves, and it starts by doing what the pros do when they win. However, anglers upgrading their equipment to the exact standard of what the pros use does not automatically cause the angler to catch more fish. There should always be a reason why you are  upgrading a piece of equipment, and an angler should be dedicated on putting the time in that is necessary to be able to effectively use the equipment in order to see the potential results of the upgrade.

Electronics Study

Studying and learning how to use electronics properly is extremely crucial for today’s tournament angler.  Perhaps you are an angler who is reading this, but you can’t afford the electronics that the pros use. Bigger isn’t always better, and by putting in the time with the electronics you do have you can make great strides forward.   Learn with the electronics that you have on your boat, and study how to use electronics such as the forward-facing sonar in the meantime before making that purchase one day.   Whether you are an angler who currently has the biggest and best electronics on your boat, or you have one graph with a 5-inch screen, learn as much as you can by spending time out on the water while looking at your graphs. There is no such thing as a wasted day of fishing. Something can always be learned from time spent on the water, even if the fish are not biting.

Improve Casting

As anglers we can always improve on our mechanics.  Maybe you are good at long-distance casting, but you want to learn how to skip a jig under a dock, quietly flip a big weight into a grass mat, or make short accurate casts without throwing your bait into a tree. These techniques take practice, and the right rod is extremely important for certain techniques. Every angler has different preferences on what specifications he or she wants in a rod for different techniques, but it helps to listen to those anglers’ opinions and learn something from it. During the offseason, an angler can practice his or her casting in the backyard or a nearby pond. Learning how to adjust baitcasting reels is extremely important because it can make a huge difference in casting accuracy and distance. For pitching and flipping, an angler can practice in his or her driveway or basement by pitching/flipping into cups.  Putting in the work on practicing casting accuracy and techniques doesn’t cost anything but the time you are willing to put into it to improve.

Learning In-Person from Anglers

Growing the sport of bass fishing is extremely important because the anglers are who keep this sport alive. No matter who you are, there is always someone who is better than you at a particular sport/activity, and there is always someone who is worse than you at a particular sport/activity. Anglers should always be willing to teach another angler by taking him or her fishing. Who knows, you might know more about fishing than another angler and still learn something from them. Applying what you know on the water is a great way to learn, but you can learn even more when you are fishing with someone else. If you really want to learn from someone about a specific body of water, take a guide trip. Guide trips can be expensive, but if you pick the right guide who will do all he or she can to teach you in the amount of time given, it can be well worth it. Some guides offer trips for learning how to use electronics, and specific techniques.  These can be extremely beneficial for anglers who have the biggest and best electronics but don’t know how to use them to their best potential, and also may give you some insight on how to become better at a certain technique as well.

Google Earth/Mapping

            How do professional anglers prepare to fish a lake they have never been to before? They typically do some scouting online for fishing reports, past tournaments, and looking at maps. Google Earth and Navionics are two sources that many anglers use on their computers. With Google Earth, an angler can adjust the date to when the lake level was lower than normal. The benefit of this feature is to look for underwater structure that might’ve been out of the water when the lake was drawn down. This also helps in finding distinct underwater drains, points, or other contour changes. To explore all the features Google Earth has to offer, the Google Earth Pro app is free on PC download. The Navionics app allows you to see depth contours of the whole lake. It is a great tool to use when you are not anywhere near your boat to look at the map card in your unit. The Navionics phone app is $14.99, but the web app with less capabilities is free. The phone app includes water level offset, depth shading, waypoint marking, and more!

Hotel Reservations

In the offseason, it would also be smart to make hotel reservations as soon as the tournament schedules are announced. For big tournaments, the best hotels book up quick. It is also important to know which hotels have outlet plugs to charge the boat batteries, the easiest parking for boats, and the best security cameras in case of thieves. Something else to consider would be whether or not they serve breakfast, and how early they would be willing to cook the food.

Efficient Tackle Organization

            Tackle organization is one of the biggest keys in tournament fishing because it makes it quick and easy for the angler to grab what he or she needs in the middle of a tournament. The worst scenario in a tournament is when the fish are biting a certain lure, but that lure is mixed in with a bunch of junk in the bottom of the boat. Many anglers have giant bait piles in the floor of their boat that they haven’t cleaned up in weeks, or even months. Not only can this be hard for finding a specific lure, but it can also be bad when it rains and causes the hooks to rust. A giant bait pile with rusty hooks is a nightmare for any angler, so organizing the lures into specific boxes (waterproof ones are best) is key. During the offseason, it would be a good idea to look at your tournament schedule, evaluate each tournament while researching about what lures are typically best on that lake during that time of year, and then purchase the products that you think you will need for those tournaments. Not only does this include hard baits and soft plastics, but it also includes line, hooks, rods, and reels. Preparation is key in any competitive sport.

Time Management

Time management is one of the most important things to do in bass fishing because time can easily slip away when you’re out on the water. Every minute counts in bass fishing, and the angler who keeps his or her lure in the water the longest is often the one who wins. Managing your time out on the water is crucial, but it is also important to manage your time in preparing for the tournament. As mentioned earlier, tackle organization is important in managing your time on the water. Mental preparation is also key in getting ready for a tournament. This also includes getting enough sleep the night before the tournament, eating plenty of food, and drinking enough water. Most professional anglers will tell you that the mental aspect is one of the major portions of what can turn a good day of fishing into a bad day of fishing. Sleep, food, and water are 3 things that influence the mind by causing it to focus more or focus less. Lack of one of these things can also cause an angler to have a bad attitude out on the water, and how he or she performs will reflect that.

Improving Fishing Fitness

You may have read the header above and thought to yourself, “How does fitness have anything to do with fishing?” Fitness is great for the mind, body, and spirit. This means that being physically fit will cause you to have a good attitude, and the way you perform in a tournament will reflect on that. As mentioned earlier, plenty of sleep, food, and water while fishing is extremely important. Especially on hot days, drinking plenty of water is more important than making a bunch of casts. Health and skin care is important out on the water, especially on sunny days. Sunscreen, sun masks, sun gloves, and hooded sun shirts definitely serves their purpose on certain days. Cold days are even colder out on the water, so wearing plenty of clothing is important. To learn more about the proper way to layer up in cold weather, check out this blog here. Preparing yourself mentally and physically for these types of situations will pay off in tournament situations.