What do you need to know to be the best co-angler to increase your success in tournaments? Maybe you just started fishing tournaments or have only fished with friends before. You signed up for boater, co-angler tournaments this year and want to know what to expect. This guide gives you all the suggestions to make sure your tournament day goes as well as possible.
These suggestions are important to ensure your day is a success as you are entering someone else’s boat, which can be the same as entering their house in some cases. The boater has spent a lot of money and time to acquire his boat and most certainly has strong feelings about it. Preparing and planning ahead with these tips in mind will make sure it goes well. These recommendations were compiled from hundreds of days on the water fishing with numerous different boaters.
Be on time
- There is nothing more frustrating as a boater than to have to wait on a late co-angler, so please do your best to be on time if not early at the agreed meeting location. Write down the designated meeting time or save it as a note in your phone of when and where.
- Always a good idea to ask the boater if he has any “pet peeves” or boat rules. The simple gesture is a good way to start out the day and makes a good ice breaker. Some boaters will be very specific with how they want things in their boat and others might have very few preferences. Asking first thing in the morning will make it clear for you. The way to find out about “unwritten rules” is to ask right away.
Pay your way
- As you know, a day on the water is not free and a boat doesn’t run on “Thanks”. So, make sure you offer at least $40 toward the day’s expenses and consider more if your boater makes a very long run or incurs higher expenses in making your day successful.
- When parking the boater’s rig please be sure to be extremely careful. Backing and maneuvering a new rig can be a challenge for anyone to get used to a new truck brand and using different mirrors. If you are inexperienced backing, try to get some practice ahead of time in the dark. Backing in the dark with a long line of boats waiting can add a lot of pressure to your first backing experiences. If any accident occurs, please let your boater know immediately upon returning to the boat. Are the lights on “auto” or do you need to turn them off manually? Don’t walk away from the truck until all the lights turn off. Headlights off are easy to see, but are the running lights or a dome light still on? Make sure, as returning in the afternoon to a dead battery can cause real hassles. Triple check you have the keys before you hit the lock button. Also, when walking back to the dock to get picked up by your boater, make sure you take the driest path possible. Walking thru fresh cut grass, wet sand or dirt can quickly make a mess of a boat when stepping in and get the relationship with your boater off to a rough start.
Be ready to go
- When the boater says he is ready to move spots please be ready to go as well. Try not to have a lot of things to put away before the boat can get on plane. Over the course of a day this can waste valuable time and make the boater resent you for taking too long to be ready.
- One good rule of thumb is to try to be the first one to sit down when leaving a spot and the last one to stand up when you get to the spot.
Rods and tackle
- Try not to bring too many rods or too much tackle. The boater should tell you what to expect for the day so try to keep your load as light as possible.
- If the boater, ask you to bring or do something specific please try to conform with that as it will only help you both have a successful day (applies to shared weight format).
Netting and landing Fish
- It’s also a good idea to have a brief conversation about how the boater prefers to net/land the fish. Guys do things differently and it’s good to know what to do and expect regarding this before something bad happens.
Fish in the live well
- As a co-angler you don’t want to be the reason for a disaster happening with a fish jumping out of the live well. So, try to refrain from opening the live well unless the boater ask you to check on this fish and even when he does please pay attention and be ready for a fish possibly trying to jump out.
Casting angles and snags
- There will be times during any day where you might be in a difficult position to cast. Stay positive and make the most of what you have. Keep your lure in the water even if that means casting to the middle of the lake. Make sure your casts do not interfere or cross over the line of your boater’s cast. A good rule of thumb is to not cast in front of the consoles unless the boater tells you to do so. Also, try to keep your casts in the direction the boat is going this will make getting snagged lures more efficient. If you repeatedly make long casts behind the boat in the opposite direction and get snagged you better be prepared to break off as the boater will quickly tire of going backwards multiple times. Be prepared to lose some lures, if it is a simple jighead or Texas rig, just break it off. If it is a more expensive or exclusive rig, tell your boater right away you are snagged and ask him to “please help you get it” as soon as you are snagged instead of waiting until you move further away from it. It can also be a good idea to carry a simple lure retriever like a Pocket Whopper with you. It has a low cost, works quickly and is easy to store for non-boaters.
Need a seat?
- If you would like a seat in the back of the boat, please don’t forget to remind the boater to bring the seat for the day of fishing. Often times they don’t keep them in the boat so a simple reminder could make sure you have a comfortable day on the water.
- Please try to refrain from bringing giant bottles of whatever you like to drink. Bottle sizes should be 12oz or less to allow the boater to have enough room for all the drinks and snacks that must go inside the cooler. Boat coolers full of ice don’t work well with large water bottles if you want to keep it cold. Never hurts to ask the night before also if your boater wants you to bring a bag of ice.
Things to bring
- Don’t forget the important items that will help you have a comfortable day on the water. These items are but not limited to:
- Valid Fishing License
- Life jacket. Do not assume your boater has one, bring one with you.
- Buff/Sun Protection
Leave your fishing area clean
- This applies to during and after the day of fishing. If you re-tie or get out more things, put them away when complete. This helps with the ability to be ready to move to the next spot quickly. If the boater does allow you to use a back compartment, make sure you don’t leave it filled with trash when you remove your belongings at the end of the day.
Don’t step on the seats in the boat
- Every boat manufacturer has some sort of true step to get you to the back of the boat. Make sure that’s the only place you are stepping when accessing the back of the boat. Also, when you are accessing the back compartment try to refrain from putting your knee or weight in the middle of the seat as that’s how the seats get torn or seems come apart.
Rigs for success
- Shaky head, ned rigs, sticks and small swimbaits can be a great way to catch fish at any time of the year for any angler in the back of the boat. If your boater doesn’t provide a lot of information about what to expect for the next day these proven tactics can work anywhere and get bites in difficult conditions.
Be the extra pair of eyes
- When you are running on plane please assist the boater by looking out for any hazards that might occur. Even if he might already know about it or see it, it never hurts to be sure. Floating logs, ropes or nets can quickly end a day and often are low to the water and very hard to see. Four eyes are better than two, so treat the runs like you are driving and keep your eyes on the watch. Watch for other boats coming up from the sides that might be in the blindspot. It can also be a good idea to look behind you occasionally on longer runs and let the boater know if faster boats are approaching. That information can be very helpful to the boater as he plans turns or takes corners.
- It is never okay to tell your next day boater where you fished the day before because that could lead to you being in an uncomfortable situation if your next day boater takes you to that spot and your previous day boater is already there. Just because a boater brings you to a successful area does not mean you have the right to return on your own or in a different tournament. Respect his water and the effort he put into find the fish. An angler may spend 20 years learning a body of water thru time on the water, you might learn about that spot in 10 minutes, so respect the places you are taken and shown the same way you want anglers to respect your efforts.
- A positive attitude can go a long way on making a day successful. Every cast counts and it is a long day, you most likely won’t have equal opportunity so be prepared for that. You might fish seven hours with no success and then catch your limit in 15 minutes. The end of the day is just as important as the start and the boater will relax when he starts to catch some fish or finishes his limit. This will open things up for you and give you better opportunities. In tournaments like the Bassmaster Opens the limit is three fish, so there will likely be a window during the day for you to get that filled. Shared weight formats also can help you work together better. Relax, have fun, work together and try to make a new friend. Experienced anglers can be a great network for you in the future as you look to advance your fishing level and meet more people in the fishing industry.
Be flexible, throw something different
- Your boater will have a plan for what he is going throw, be flexible and throw something different. It is easy after a couple of fish catches by your boater to want to throw the same bait, but throwing some different will often allow you to target different fish that your boater’s technique. It will also help you work together as a team and develop other ways to catch fish in that area.
- This should ALWAYS be discussed the night before because a lot of Pro’s don’t allow smoking or chewing tobacco on their boat.
- Most Pro’s frown upon it. If you want to die a bait, try using the Pen type application. If you are using the Pen type, please don’t color a bait on the guys carpet or anywhere in the boat. Use one of your tackle boxes to lay your bait on to color it.
- If you have any special needs, please be sure to let the boater know ahead of time.
If you are looking for more great information on how to be the best co-angler, pro angler Bradley Hallman has a very helpful video from his years of experience fishing with co-anglers across the country. Follow these suggestions and you will have a great day on the water with your boater no matter how many fish you catch.