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Written By: Roger Lee Brown, March 12, 2012
Have you ever noticed whether it be club tournaments, divisional tournaments and even the pro tournaments, usually you will see a hand full of the same anglers consistently "In-The-Money" most of the time? Then while you're driving home after fishing some of these tournaments without much success you ask yourself, "What are these anglers doing so different than me?"
There are many different reasons these anglers consistently "Cash-In" or "Place in the money". I hope I can help you with some insight on what keeps these anglers successful when it comes to tournament fishing.
Bass tournament fishing is a very competitive sport in a multi-billion dollar industry. More and more anglers every day are joining the ranks of the tournament competitors. With all these new competitors joining the established ones, the competition seems to be getting tougher and tougher, making it harder to stay on top, or consistently be "In-The-Money".
I have outlined several tactics you can use to give you the edge over a good portion of the participants. These can stack the cards in your favor when it comes to tournament preparation.
The better that an angler can understand his or her quarry the better or more successful he or she will be at catching it. The most important factors when bass fishing is understanding how a bass reacts to changing conditions and how they use their senses (taste, feel, sight, smell, etc.). There is much to learn about bass, especially when you have to consider water clarity and depth, water temperature and oxygen content, vegetation, seasons, daily conditions, barometric pressure changes, weather fronts, available forage, colors, structure and there's more!
The first rule of thumb always to keep in mind is that bass need food, oxygen and cover to survive. Understanding these elements and relating them to some of the situations or conditions listed above should help prepare you for the "Pre-Fishing" period of a tournament. This is the start of putting a "Game-Plan" together.
This can be done by first obtaining a map of the waters you will be fishing. By understanding how to read a map and relate it to bass fishing you can just about "Pre-Fish" any body of water before launching the boat. Just by knowing where the structure is and by understanding how bass relate to the seasons, daily conditions, and water temperatures, you should be able to eliminate large amounts of water. Understanding the long list of factors I outlined previously, you should be able to key on the areas where bass relate.
Another way to gain familiarity with the water is to hire a guide. Depending on expenses I would recommend hiring at least two different guides on any given body of water. That way you can take the best of the two days to help find areas and patterns. Being a licensed guide as well as a bass angling instructor, I need to let the truth be known that there are very poor and very good guides on just about every body of water that holds large-scale bass tournaments so buyer beware.
Another way to learn the lake is to "fly the water." Go to a nearby municipal or county airport and find a pilot to fly you over the tournament waters. This doesn't cost very much normally, but you'd be amazed of what you can see from the air that you can't see while sitting on the water.
Probably one of the best ways to learn the color and bait patterns of any given body of water would be to visit as many bait and tackle retailers in the area as possible. Peruse the shelves to see what baits and colors are the best sellers. If you visit several of these retailers you should be able to get a very good idea of what colors and baits to use, based on the average of all these different places combined.
One of the best ways I've found some great honey holes in the past is just by observing the locals. While you are on the water and see a boat sitting in one spot for a while, just move off in a distance and watch. Remember some of these locals have fished these waters all their life and are not sitting in areas just to eat lunch!
In the morning before you hit the water, try to find the local diner where most of the locals go eat breakfast. Many times I've found some great information just by eating at the same place at the same time, and by sitting as close as possible. Many anglers like to brag! Just by sitting and minding your own breakfast, you can't help but over-hear these locals talking between themselves about the 10-pounder they caught off of Truman's Point using a Spook and so on.
Putting a game plan together for a tournament and sticking to it can make or break most of the anglers in the field. The biggest problem many anglers have is not sticking to a game plan.
Several years ago, I had the great pleasure and company of having Shaw Grisby Jr. and his father over at my home for dinner. That evening, I asked Shaw's father (A truly great and knowledgeable man) why he thought most anglers can't seem to stay consistent in tournaments, to which he replied, "They always leave the fish!"
To it put another way, if you are in an area where there are fish, WHY LEAVE? Give a spot time. The biggest part of pre-fishing is locating fish right? So don't just give a spot a few minutes then leave. I've sat on certain spots for a couple of hours without a bite, then all of a sudden they turn on and I've caught limits. I just had to wait them out.
When making your game plan, select an area where you won't have to run miles and miles to secondary spots. Try to keep at least three or four alternate spots within a few minutes of each other.
As I mentioned before, being a Pro Bass Instructor, I've had several students in the past who attended my 3-day Bass Fishing School that just wanted to learn how to "Pre-Fish" a tournament. By teaching them a better understanding of bass behavior and showing them such things as how to put game plans together, different techniques and patterns, color selection and how to locate bass, these former students are now consistent money winners.
The Bass Coach Roger Lee Brown is one of the nation’s most prominent bass fishing instructors and he also runs his own charter operation. When Roger talks bass, folks listen for good reason! For more information about him and his bass fishing school check him out on the web at http://www.basscoachfishing.com.
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