Wow…where to start? This is a very broad subject and there are a lot of variables. The first thing is “Where’s the tournament?” Let’s start here and work our way through the process. Once I know where I’m headed for my next event, then I start to search for recent tournament results that have taken place and other results that occurred during the same time of the year that I’ll be there. I’ll search the top professional fishing organizations like Major League Fishing (MLF) which has the BFL and Toyota Series results, B.A.S.S. Elite Series and Opens, American Bass Angler or ABA Opens and Top 150 Series results along with anything else I can find from local club tournaments to open events.
Next, I need to try and determine what bait I need and how I’m going to attack the lake, which is mainly determined by the time of year. Is it late winter, early or late spring, early or late summer or is this a fall event? Each of these so-called “times of year” will help you decide what baits you probably need to pack. This is where YouTube videos come in handy as I try to watch and compare how they caught them during the same time of year that I’ll be there. But you can’t always go by this as more often than not, Mother Nature will throw you a curveball with bad weather which changes everything. There are other variables as well, such as is the lake water level on the rise, stable or falling. This has a big influence on where the fish will be set up and will help give you an idea as to how you might catch them.
Next, it’s time to pack and load everything, and I mean everything but the kitchen sink….only because the cabins we stay in already have one of those. Now some guys take the bare minimum while others like me pack heavily. After all, I was a Boy Scout and our motto was, “Always be prepared.” Now depending on, once again “time of year” will determine if you bring clothes for both mild temperature days or the possibility of a major cold front passing through. Also never forget your rain suit as this can be a true lifesaver. It just might be the most important thing you can bring. After this, time to load the truck. Clothes, cooler for cold stuff, computer, snack bag (essential), water, bait tubs (I have three), extra spools of new fishing line in various sizes, dip net, towels and boat cover. I also bring a utility box that has pliers, line conditioner, extra hooks, extra tungsten weights, scissors, extra dipping dye or dye pins which I prefer over bottled dye. And I always have a bottle of one of the greatest inventions of our time….neutralizer that comes in handy when you spill a bottle of dipping dye in your boat. This stuff is amazing at how it will completely breakdown and take out any dye color you spill on your carpet or boat hull.
There’s an old saying when it comes to fishing, “You should have been here yesterday, the fish bit really well!” It never fails that every time I go to a tournament, someone always makes this comment in some form or fashion. That’s why tournament fishing is such a mental game. Just like any other sport, it requires a lot of mental preparation. Some days it seems every decision you make is always the right one and then there are times when you never make the right decision. Which is what tournament bass fishing is all about! Bad decisions allow for doubt to creep into your mental psyche and this can cause an angler to what we call “spin out.” When this happens, you’re pretty much done, and your fishing day is over. Anglers who conquer the “spin out” syndrome, usually do very well on tournament day.
As you can see, there’s a lot to this tournament preparation thing. Sometimes you can over prepare and at other times, you’re never prepared enough and just when you think you have it all figured out; something happens that throws you off your game. Then there are those rare days when it all comes together and believe me, there’s not a better feeling in the world when you know exactly where to go and how you’re going to catch them. So, if you ever get into tournament bass fishing, make sure you’re prepared and do your homework if you want to step into the winner’s circle. Till next time, don’t forget to set the hook! – Steve Graf