I have fished over 250 tournaments. I have never seen an article on preparing for a bass tournament in detail. The purpose of this seminar is to put forth as much information as possible with respect to preparing for and fishing a bass tournament. I think you will find things helpful for the novice as well as the experienced angler.
If you are a seasoned angler or fished a number of tournaments, I am hoping you can pick up a few ideas. I learn something almost every time out on the water and hopefully you will also.
I find that 80% of the tournaments I fish come down to a win or loss based upon one fish. It could be one fish that is your limit, one big fish or one big fish lost. For those who fish bass tournaments, they already know that this is a more complex sport that people believe. You start with the preparation on the water, you make decision after decision as to where to fish, how long to stay, water temperature, water clarity, cover meaning grass, bull rushes, buggy whips of wood etc. what baits to use, what colors etc. It is a constant rethinking of everything that goes on while you are on the water.
With respect to boat preparation, I always do several things prior to leaving for the tournament. Some of these are basic, but I think its necessary to run through them:
I usually rig 8 or 9 rods for every tournament. I have several baits that are my number 1 and number 2 as to catching fish. I usually double up on those baits. If it is a tournament in which I am throwing a Chug Bug, I will rig two rods with that lure. I will also rig two rods with a jerk bait. The reason is if I have a problem with the rod or reel or line issues, I can simply set the rod down and grab another rod that is rigged with the identical lure.
YOU DO NOT WANT TO WASTE TIME DURING THE TOURNAMENT TYING AND RE-TYING LURES. THE IDEA IS TO RIG A COUPLE OF RODS WITH DUPLICATES SO THAT YOU CAN MERELY SET THE ROD DOWN AND PICK UP ANOTHER ROD. WHEN THE FISH ARE BITING AND THE ACTION IS HOT YOU DO NOT WANT TO SPEND 10 MINUTES IN THE BOAT TYING AND RE-TYING LURES.
I personally do not like bait casters so I do not use them. I rig every rod exactly the same. Usually for bass fishing it is 20lb or 30lb braid. I put a two foot fluorocarbon leader tied to the braid with a double uni knot. When I tie to a lure with the fluorocarbon, I use a triline knot. Anytime you tie fluorocarbon, you need to wet it down with saliva so that it slides properly and does not heat up.
As to lures, any hard lure, I put a split ring on it. The reason is that it gives it much more action than tying directly to the lure. I use only one scent, Gulp in the Earth Worm scent.
I find that fishing in Florida I am always looking for water clarity and water temperature. With respect to water clarity I am always looking for 2 feet or greater clarity. Sometimes a lot greater than 2 feet. With respect to water temperature, the highest possible during most times of the year. Anything over 62 degrees is topwater temperature in Florida.
I like to pre-fish before the tournament, sometimes the day before and sometimes the week before. Conditions can change dramatically one week later so sometimes fishing a week ahead of time does not help much, although it can give you an opportunity to view the water, the clarity and where you think you may be able to catch a few fish. If the weather completely changes between the time you pre-fish and a week later, then the pre-fishing was less effective. In pre-fishing, I like to cover a massive amount of water and look at the clarity, the cover, meaning wood grass, buggy whips, things like that. In pre-fishing I am essentially eliminating the water, that is I am eliminating water I think is non productive and my goal in pre-fishing is to have 4 spots that are my 1, 2, 3 and 4 go to spots when the tournament begins. When the tournament begins I want to be able to run to my number 1 spot and if that is not effective and we are not catching fish, then immediately go to number 2, 3 and 4. You have to set number 1, 2, 3 and 4 as a priority based upon where you are running as you don 't want to run distances any longer than necessary.
When the tournament starts I immediately run to my number 1 spot but I do not fish more than 30 minutes unless it is producing. I will try a variety of baits. If I do not get a strike at the number 1 spot then I immediately pick up and run to 2, 3 and 4. At one of the spots I will probably start catching fish. The question is always, do you stay or do you go if you have caught one or two fish. That is the decision you have to make based upon your gut.
Sometimes in running various spots, some will be productive at different times of the day. I always try to fish the topwater spots first. If it is a day without clouds, topwater works best early. If you have cloud cover, you can catch fish on topwater all day long so it makes no difference.
Some spots are better in the afternoon, particularly if there is a warming trend.
Once you hit all your spots, you will know where the fish are or that you have bigger problems, namely that your spots are not producing. At that point you analyze the highest probability bait and where you have the best chance of catching something.
There are times that it is beneficial to wait out the fish. This means that although they are not biting now, you know that at some point it will turn on.
I net all fish during the tournament. The one fish that you try to grab or sling over the side of the boat will be the fish that comes off and will cost you the tournament. Maybe not this tournament but it will cost you a tournament at some point. Always net all fish.
I hope that some of these tips will enable you to be more productive in your next tournament. If you have any questions, please call or email me.