Category Archives: Fishing Adventures

Wheeler Lake BFL Regional – So Close!

I’ve been fishing the BFL series off and on for a while now.  Each year I have been able to fish a full season (or close to a full season), I’ve been able to qualify for the year end regional tournament.  For those unfamiliar with the BFL’s, they will take the top 40 or 45 anglers from each division, and then put 5 of those divisions together for a fish off.  After two days of fishing, the field is cut from ~200 to 12, and those top 12 fish one last day.  From there, the top six qualify for the All American.  The best way to think of the All American is to liken it to the World Series for this level of fishing.  First place in the co-angler division for the All American is $60,000, so we are not talking about small peanuts here!

In my time fishing the BFL’s I’ve fished in 5 regional tournaments, with marginal results.  In 2008 I manged a 16th place finish, just out of the top 12 cut, but other than that, you had to look pretty far down the leader board to find me.  Granted, fishing on the co-angler side is very much “luck of the draw,” but because of that, when you do have a partner around fish, you have to capitalize, and in a big way.

For the past two years I have been fishing a BFL division that isn’t necessarily the most convenient, but it is on a great lake.  I’ve always wanted to learn Guntersville, but since it is about 2 hours from my house, and I can be at a lot of different lakes in less time, I rarely go.  That is why I made the decision to jump into the Choo Choo division last year.  So far, that has really panned out to be a solid decision.  In those two years, I’ve managed to snag two top tens, one being a win, and cash over $3,600 in checks.  I figure that’s not too bad considering it’s only been a total of  12 tournaments.  But, that’s not what this is about, this is about the last tournament I fished, the BFL regional, which was on Wheeler, not Guntersville.

Having only fished Wheeler one other time, I wasn’t too familiar with the lake.  But, thanks to YouTube, I was able to find old replays of FLW and BASS tournaments on the lake, and drew a few conclusions about the lake.

  1. It’s shallow – In the past, this would mess with my head since I tend to be a deep water, spotted bass fisherman.  But, since fishing Guntersville, 3 feet of water seems normal to me, and I have no reservations about working up shallow.
  2. There is grass and lilly pads – Again, as a spotted bass fisherman, I don’t mess with this too much.  However, because of my time on Guntersville, this has become second nature to me.
  3. There are spots and small mouth – While I’ve never actually fished for small mouth, I know a thing or two about spotted bass, as well as how to try and entice a few, should the bite get tough.
  4. This lake falls right into my wheelhouse – Since I’m comfortable fishing shallow grass or deep ledges, I felt pretty confident I could do well.

On day 1 I drew a great partner.  He was on fish, but they were a long way from the boat ramp.  After ~45 min run, we pull into the back of a creek, and he proceeds to go to work with a buzz bait around shallow cover.  To say he put on a show would be an understatement.  Before I got my first bite he had already caught a limit and culled one time.

We were fishing a shallow flat, with scattered wood.  As we fished around, I was throwing an Evergreen Showerblow in the areas around the timber, and walking it by slowly.  Even though my morning started off slow, I had been having a lot of luck with the bait in practice, and I felt it was only a matter of time before I got bit.  Sure enough, I didn’t have to wait too long, as a monster blew up on my bait not once, not twice but three times.  Each time it failed to get hooked up, so I cast at it again, and sure enough, two more blow ups, with a momentary hook up.  I wasn’t hopeful on my third followup cast, since I did stick the fish for a split second on the prior cast, but about two seconds after the bait hit the water, there was another explosion, followed quickly by a second.  This time my line went tight, I set the hook, and a few moments later I was guiding the beast into the net.  I’m not sure of the exact weight, but it was a good one!

At this point I would like to give all the credit in the world to my partner.  There are not many guys who would stand by, and not cast at this fish after the first blowup.  Not only did he not cast after the first blowup, he didn’t cast at all until this played out.  He wanted to be ready with the net, because he saw just how big this fish was!

As I was taking this fish off, my partner made a follow up cast, and had another fish blow up on his topwater, but it didn’t get hooked.  At that point I figured we had a pretty good school, and I fired a Senko by the tree.  Over the next four casts, I was able to fill my limit!  It really was amazing.  As the day progressed, I managed to catch one more on the Show Blow, and cull out a small fish, for a first day total of 10lbs and change.  This had me sitting in 5th.

Day two rolls around, and my second day partner struggled on day one.  Because of the practice time I spent on the lake, I had some fish located near the ramp, and suggested we go try them.  He was game, so off we went.  This area was simply a long stretch of rip rap, that was loaded with 14 – 15 inch largemouth.  As we started working down, I hooked up with my first keeper pretty quickly.  About that time, my partner turns on the afterburners and hauls down the bank.  I know his intent was to cover as much water as possible, to try and get a limit, but the way the fish were positioned, and the baits I was using, this really didn’t work out well for me.  At the end of the day, I weighed in two keepers for about 3lbs.  I thought I was out at this point, but as fate would have it, I squeaked into the top 12 cut in 11th place.

For the final day I drew my day one partner again.  I was pretty excited about this, because I knew he was around fish, but I was also nervous because, if it were not for that one flurry, my day would have been drastically different.  As we were waiting for blast off that morning, he was telling me of a new area he found, and he thought the Evergreen would be killer.  As it turns out, her was right!  Our first stop was a large flat, with a lot more timber, but also a lot more area to cast.  The only problem was the amount of timber would sometimes make casting tough.  Right off the bat though I hook up with a decent fish.  As I’m fighting him in, he gets hung up on a tree a comes off.  I was a little disheartened, but I didn’t let it get too me too much.  As we work down this flat, I manage to hook a gar and a small non keeper, my partner doesn’t get a bite.  I can tell this is weighing on him a bit, so we decide to run up a creek just a bit.

We take off up this creek, and as we are heading up, we pass a small patch of lily pads.  My partner initially drives past it, but then changes his mind and whips the boat in.  Within his first few casts he has a monster blow up on a frog, and he looks to me and says we will be here for a bit.  Not planning on frog fishing, I only had one frog, and none of my gear was setup for it.  But, with a little re configuring, I’m up and running pretty quickly.  We fish these pads for probably the next four hours.  In that time I put two solid keepers in the boat, miss two good blowups and have one fish get tangled up in pad stems and come off (that’s two keeper fish I’ve lost up to this point, if you are keeping track).  My partner, on the other hand, has sacked up a nice limit, and culled out a small fish.  He is sitting on about 16lbs, and feeling pretty good. 

About two hours before weigh in, the frog bite has all but died, and we decide to make the long run back to the ramp.  That way we will have plenty of time should any issues arise.  Luckily there were none, and my partner took me to a few areas he thought I could catch a few keepers.  The first is a large flat, with scattered grass.  I fire my Evergreen out, and walk it by an isolated stick up.  Sure enough, a fish comes up and grabs it!  I feel almost instant relief as I knew I was really close to making the cut, and one more decent fish should put me in.  But, almost as soon as that feeling arrives it passes, as the fish pulls off, and I know time is running short.  We fish the flat another 20 minutes without so much as a sniff.

My last hope was a rip rap bank right next to the ramp.  I pull out the spinning combo with a ned rig, and start beating up the rocks trying to catch anything.  I do manged to catch one more 13 inch keeper, stick him in the well and cross my fingers.

At the weigh in, I’m hanging in better than I expect.  Trying to do math as everyone weighs in, I know I’m close.  As the last guy weighs in, and the final cut is called, I’m 7th.  The worse part, I’m 7th by one pound.  There are so many scenarios that I have been playing through in my head, so many “what if’s,” but at the end of the day, they won’t change anything.  I’m bummed I was so close, and had the bites to make the All American, but it’s also a great lesson about multi-day tournaments.  If my 1st and 2nd days were switched, I probably would have gone into day 2 in such a foul mood I wouldn’t have made the cut. And that in itself is a big lesson!

On the three hour ride home, I sat in silence.  I had friends and family calling to see how I did, and I didn’t want to talk about it.  I have a hard time putting the feeling I was experiencing into words.  I guess it was a mix of anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness.  But, then I realized how lucky I was to be where I was, and I reminded myself no matter how the tournament went, I’m very fortunate to be where I am, and doing what I’m doing.  Perhaps this was a life lesson I need, more than I needed a trip to the All American.  Plus, there is always next year.

It Finally Happened! Crushing them at Guntersville

March 5th marked the second stop of the Choo Choo division on Lake Guntersville. After a mediocre performance at the first event, I was hopeful to do a bit better the second time around. I made sure to stock up on jerkbaits, and also switched up my rods a bit, thinking that this tournament might be dominated by the trap a bit more than the first one. The weather was looking promising, and I felt pretty confident we weren’t going to be freezing through 90% of the day. All things considered, I was feeling good, and ready to rock and roll.

Since I’m a co-angler, I don’t break my neck to get out to the tournament waters early the day before the tournament for practice. Don’t get me wrong, I think practice is VERY important for a co-angler, but more for understanding the fishery in general, and being able to prepa
re for the types of fishing you will be doing. So usually, I will take the day before the tournament off work, and spend a majority of the day with my family. Since Guntersville is only a 2ish hour drive from my house, I’ll hang out until 2 or 3, and then make my way west. On this day, I was closer to 3, and being in an Atlanta suburb, traffic does start to get heavy around that time. I was in a bit of a rush to get out, and sure enough, as soon as I hit highway 41, traffic was already bad. Bummer. I manage to pick my way through Cartersville, and halfway to Rome IMG_0911when my wife calls.

“Do you need this tackle bag that’s sitting on the boat?”
Talk about an instant hot flash! Yep, I need it. That’s my Guntersville bag, and everything I may need is in it. I contemplated just going on without it, but since I didn’t have a specific time I HAD to be in Guntersville, I opted to turn around, and my amazing wife met me out on the highway.  All in all, it was about an hour detour, but it resulted in getting some Chic-Fil-A, so it wasn’t too bad.

I finally roll into the house we stay at, and everyone is sitting around, poor mouthing the terrible fishing.  I’m looking around, ready to go out to dinner (assuming they had waited for me), when one of my buddies informs me everyone had already eaten.  At first I was bummed, but then I remembered a Krystal up the road.  That tends to not be a popular choice, but I love it.  So, off to Krystal I went.  After that, the evening was pretty uneventful.

The next morning, I wake up, get packed and head to the lake.  I meet up with my partner, who had already launched his boat, and was tied up directly in front of the parking lot (score!), and we do the idle banter back and forth, getting to know each other.  As it turns out, we had some mutual friends, and the next bit was spent cracking jokes on them.  As the sun starts coming up, we Big Fishnoticed it was a bit foggy, but little did we know we would be in for a 3 hour fog delay.

One thing to keep in mind when fishing as a co-angler in the BFL, 3 fish will usually get you in the money.  This may not always be the case, but most days you will be sitting pretty with three fish.  So, with a shortened day, I knew catching fish quick was a top priority.  Around 10, we finally blast off, and up the lake we go.  At our first stop, my partner smacks a nice bass really quickly, and tosses him in the well.  He quickly follows that up with #2.  After his second fish, I pull out the ol’ Megabass (Megabags) 110 and go to work.  Pretty quickly I put three keepers in the well.  Over the next few hours, the bite just dies.  My partner manages to grind out a limit, I catch a short, and hav
e one pull off at the boat.  I’m not sure if it would have been a keeper or not, but I never saw it, and it didn’t pull too hard, so I convinced myself it was short too.  Even though I hadn’t caught a keeper in a while, I was feeling pretty good about my day.  The fact that we had less fishing time, and I already had three in the box, with a few hours to fish, I knew a limit was still in my grasps.  After my boater caught another keeper, and went to cull, I decided I needed to change up baits.  He actually had another rattle trap, identical to the one he had been using, and offered it to me.  I resisted for a bit, but after his second cull, I gave in.  I tied it on, and within 10 casts, my rod doubled over.  I set into the fish, and it was solid, almost too solid.  Guntersville is full of big drum, and I’ve had many a big drum fool me on a hookset, so I was a bit skeptical when I hooked up with this fish.  The water was pretty stained, and the first time either one of us got a good look at the fish was when it jumped at the side of the boat.  My partner went to net the fish, but missed because his knee’s got week, and he almost took a tumble into the bottom of the boat.  But, after one last run, we netted a giant bass, and I threw her in the livewell.  At the time, I wasn’t sure just how bit it was, but I did know it was the biggest bass I had ever caught in a tournament.  I looked at my boater, and neither one of us could contain our excitement.  We both knew that now I had to, HAD TO, catch another fish, and fill out my limit.  Because of that fish, I was now in legitimate contention for first.  Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long.  About 15 casts later, my rod doubled over again, and I knew I had fish #5 on.  I played that fish like my life depended on landing it, and honestly, I was more nervous fighting that fish than the previous one.  When that fish hit the net, the excitement instantly set in, and the last hour of that tournament seemed to take forever.

When we pulled up to the dock, the rumor was that 10lbs was leading the co-angler side.  I knew better than to believe it, but that instantly pumped me up more.  I grabbed a buddy, and told him what I had, and he echo’ed the low weights on the co-angler side.  As we walked to the waiting tanks, I eyed everyone’s fish, and didn’t see a single co-angler limit.  I told my partner I felt like I had a shot to actually win.

When I got to the scales, my weight was 18-4, and put me in first place.  My biggest weighted 7-14, and put in first for big fish as well.  We were the last flight, Trophy2
and I knew there were only a few people left to weigh in, so when I stepped off stage, I instantly called my wife and told her I thought I was going to win it all, the tourn
ament and big fish.  I was on cloud nine, but still tried to keep my cool, knowing it wasn’t over until the scales were closed.  My partner and I snapped a few pictures, and then it was off to the release tank and then to put his boat on the trailer.  Once we finished that, we started walking back to weigh in.  A buddy came up to me, and congratulated me on my win.  That was when I finally let the emotion come out.  But then, some bad news, I got beat for big fish by one of the last guys to weigh in.  I was disappointed, but that passed almost instantly when I realized I finally won a trophy.  Ever since I began fishing with FLW, I wanted a trophy, and on my 30th tournament, I finally did it!

The whole ride home was a blur.  Coming out of Guntersville, I had pretty terrible cell reception, so the entire trip was a battle of 45 second conversions, followed by 30 minutes of no service.  I didn’t care though, I finally had my trophy.

http://www.flwfishing.com/news/2016-03-07-mann-cracks-27-13-for-choo-choo-title

BooYah!

That’s How the Jerkbait Crumbles – A G’ville Recap

Well, the first tournament of the year is finally in the book, and it was nice to get back out on the “scene.” Believe me, I have no delusions of grandeur, I’m not going to be the next KVD, nor do I strive to be. But I do enjoy throwing my hat into the ring from time to time, specifically on the bigger derbies. This year I decided to hop back in the BFL’s but on a lake I’m not very familiar with. Because of that, I signed up as a co-angler, figuring that most of my partners *should* have more experience on the lake than I. Well, this first tournament was a reminder that is not always the case!

The night before the tournament, we have a pre-tournament meeting. This meeting is to make sure everyone is familiar with the rules, and to assign partners for the next morning. With the meeting being outdoors, and it being a balmy 30-something degree’s, the group I was staying with decided we should check in, sign our paperwork, and then bail. Since FLW text messages you with your partners information, there was no need to stand around being cold, especially when there was a warm booth with our name on it across town, just waiting for our fatness to show up and destroy some burgers. So, we get signed in, and then split.

Just as we are ordering dinner, everyone’s phones start going off. It’s the “partner” text messages. Shortly after that, the phones started to ring, with those partners wondering why we weren’t at the meeting (turns out those suckers were all still standing outside, and had been for the last 45 minutes!). Suddenly my phone rang, and it was a Kentucky number. I thought that was odd, seeing as we were in Alabama, and I felt like Kentucky would be quite a haul for a weekend tournament. Non-the-less, I answer the phone, and a garbled voice is on the other end. I can barely make out what the voice is saying (I’m on T-Mobile afterall, so poor call quality is nothing new). About all I can make out is that my partner is from South Africa, never fished the lake, and is hoping I had some ideas on how to catch a few. Instant anxiety set in, and I told him I would call him back when I had better reception. All through dinner, I moaned to my self about my draw. For some reason I was positive I’d draw out with Casey Martin, or Dereck Remitz, a couple of pro level anglers who happen to be local to Guntersville. Instead I end up with a guy who will have never set foot on the lake until tournament morning.

As dinner concluded, and we all loaded up to leave, my anxiety began changing to excitement. Realizing that this guy was not familiar with the lake, I knew my biggest concern was no longer a concern. See, this time of year the rattle bait bite is usually in full swing. But, so far this year, I nor none of my buddies, had been able to get on a good trap bit. I was concerned I would draw a guy, we would throw a trap for 8 hours, not catch a fish, and then head home. Now I knew that wasn’t going to happen. So, the next step was to try and figure out where we could fish.

After talking with some friends, and doing a little thinking, I figured our best bet would be to go into a nearby creak, and fish some slightly deeper rock banks.  Since a cold front was coming through, I felt like the fish might be sitting just a tad deeper, and the rocks may draw them up shallower as the day went on, since they would heat up and provide a little extra heat.  I gave my boater a call, and ran the game plan by him.  He seemed very happy with it.  It was at that time he also informed me that he was renting a boat for this event, and it was a smaller aluminum Triton with a 115 hp engine.  There is nothing wrong with that setup, but for a BFL on Guntersville, with the wind blowing, I knew I was going to be in for a rough ride or two.  Either way, we discussed our tactics, and as I headed to bed, I was feeling pretty good about things.

The next morning we woke up to a 25 degree morning, with a 10 mph wind.  Living in the southeast, we don’t get many days like this, and rarely do we fish in them.  But, today was tournament day, and off we went.  Because of the wind, and the fact we were boat 30, we decided to lay low around the ramp first thing, so that the wakes from the other boats could die down, and give us a little easier ride across the main lake.  When our boat number was called, we made a quick turn around the marina, and just fished the near by rip rap for about an hour.  After getting zero bites, IMG_0856we decided to make a move, and head down the lake to Honeycomb Creek.  Having never fished there, my partner was having a hard time decided where to start.  I had a few suggestions, but he was really drawn to the island that sits in the mouth of the creek.  I must admit, it looks like a great place, but after fishing all around it, and not getting a bit, we slowly worked our way into the creek.

The next “spot” we stopped at was a rocky point, and this was the first area I really felt good about.  In fact, it only took me about 5 casts with my jerkbait to catch our first keeper, a 2lber.  Pretty quickly after that, my boater hooked up with a similar sized keeper on a crankbait.  In less than 30 minutes, I was hooked up again, this time with a solid 3lber.  I felt like we finally found the fish, and the day was turning around

pretty quickly.  It was just a little after noon at that point, and I felt confident I was going to catch at least one more fish, and cash a nice check!  That was until I noticed the bill on my prized Megabass has broken off, and it was the only dark colored jerkbait I had.  I tried to not let it get to me, as I tied on another, but I couldn’t help but notice how much flash the new jerkbait had compared to the other one.  My doubt was quickly overshadowed by my boater hooking up with a nice fish.  I scooped it up in the net, and tried to reassure myself that fish were still in the area, and I just needed to stick with my game plan.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get another bite the rest of the day.  There were multiple times I considered changing things up, and I probably should have, but I had just enough confidence in the jerkbait bite, that I couldn’t.
After it was all said and done, I managed to have 5lbs even.  After looking at the results, I ended up doing much better than I expected.  There were almost 100 zero’s on the co-angler side, and I missed a payday by only 12 ounces.  It wasn’t the start I had hoped for, but I got some solid points and am happy how it worked out.
standings

Fishing on Guntersville – We’re Talking About Practice

We are now officially less than a week away from the second attempt at the season opener for the Bass Fishing League (BFL) on Guntersville.  Having never fished Guntersville much, even though I live about two hours away, I figured the Choo Choo division would be a great way to get out there and check it out, since the entire season is on Guntersville.  Thanks to a couple of buddies who are fishing on the boater side, I’ve been able to hop in their boats almost every weekend, and ride around the lake with them.  It has been great, except for the weather.

This winter has been very strange.  We have had days in the 50’s, and days where it snowed.  It seems like as soon as mother nature decides it’s time to get cold, she changes her mind and it gets warm again.  Don’t believe me, check out the forecast for the next week.  Notice the 18 degree temperate swing coming up? weather

On top of that, we have had some serious rain over the last month, which has caused some flooding.  The ramp we have been launching at the last few weeks is littered with debris.  In fact, only one lane is able to be used to launch a boat because all the others have an unbelievable amount of trash on them.  This is one of the two docks at the ramp, and it has been beat up pretty good. You can see all the large trees that have managed to be washed ashore, along with tons of smaller branches and other debris.

So why do I bring this all up?  Well, mainly to say the lake has been fishing incredibly tough.  Because of all the rain, the current on the main river is flying!  One day we tried to stick it out on the main channel, and I was throwing a 3/4 ounce jig.  I was throwing it into 12 feet of water, and before it could hit the bottom, it was behind the boat.  Needless to say, we didn’t do too well in the main lake.  Plan B was to move back into the creeks, and start poking around back there.

While we did manage to catch fish every day we 12573696_1028540873872049_4770537510998942720_npracticed, we didn’t ever get on any big ones.  The largest fish I was able to catch, over multiple days, was a little over 3.5 lbs.  If I was fishing on Allatoona, my home lake, that would be a stud, but for Guntersville, that is just an average fish.  But, practice was not a total waste, not by a long shot.  Since I had not spent much time on Guntersville in the past, I really wasn’t too sure on the best ways to setup my rods and reels.  After a couple days of experimenting, I feel like I have my equipment pretty dialed in.

12573825_1033007026758767_4781511633163856309_nBeyond that, I feel like I have a pretty good game plan.  I don’t expect the current to slow down much, since there is a little more rain
in the forecast.  So, I’m hoping my boater partner does not try and fight the current all day.  To be honest, I don’t know of many trolling batteries that could stand up to that type of current all day.

Now, my game plan is very simple.  If we get shallow, and there isn’t much grass, I’ve been having pretty good luck on a bream colored crankbait.  If we do get into a little grass, then I’ll just switch that up for a bream colored chatterbait.  The bream color has been the ticket for me for the last month, and the only reason I can think is because the water has had a decent stain to it, and the bream color just fits the water clarity.  With that said, we did find some super clear water this week, and when we did, we slayed the fish on a jerkbait. We have fished all day, only catching 3 fish.  But, once we got into the clear water, we managed to catch 5 in less than 30 minutes.  That is something else I’m going to keep in mind, just in case we find ourselves in some clear water

As they say though, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  I’m going to be sure and take a few shakey heads, a drop shot weight or two, and maybe even a senko, just because you never know what the fish may throw at you.  But, I’m honestly feeling more confident going into this tournament, than any other tournament I’ve fished in a while.  Well, as confident as a co-angler can be, before meeting their partner.

The Life of a Co-Angler

I’m not going to even being to pretend I’m the worlds greatest co-angler, or even a good one.  If anything, I’d say I’m mediocre at best.  But, I have spent a fair amount of time fishing from the back of the boat in both FLW and BASS events.  And in that time, I’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons.  For anyone looking to step up into a larger tournament circuit, I honestly believe the co-angler divisions are a great way to get exposed to the “next level” of competition.

With that said, being a co-angler is not as easy as it sounds.  When I first started, I thought being a co-angler would be easy, no practice, no choice in spots and no need to bring a boatload of gear.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Tournament Preparation

Sure, on game day you aren’t driving the boat, but I’ve been asked quite a few times by boaters if I had any spots I wanted to try.  Usually that question is being preceded by a brutally tough fishing day.  Granted, there is a good chance you may draw a boater who doesn’t get a bite all day, and will continue to try and grind out a miracle, but there are also guys who will be unfamiliar with the lake, or just not able to adjust, and they will ask for your opinion.  I even have a friend who made his way to the All American on the co-angler side, and a big part was due to a boater taking him to fish he had found in practice.FLW Five

Not only is it nice to have a back up plan, should your boater ask, but practicing allows you to get some idea of what the fish will be doing.  Again, you may draw a partner who is fishing a totally different pattern, but if you know what colors have been working well, or what style of baits will/won’t work that time of year, then you are ahead of the game.  Not only does it make packing for tournament day much easier, it will help keep you calm if you know fish are biting better in the afternoon, or they have been really keying in on green pumpkin red instead of green pumpkin pepper.

Packing for the Tournament

Since you are in the back of the boat, your storage space is going to be limited.  Some boaters will leave a rear compartment open for your gear, and others will not.  It’s never a bad idea at the tournament meeting to ask your boater if there is any space available for extra gear.  Personally, I will plan on packing with the understanding that everything will have to be kept in the floor, at my feet.  This is where practice will come in handy.  If you’ve already whittled down your tackle, it’s much easier to travel light.  But, I do bring all of my gear from home.  You never know when you might want a special color worm, or particular spinnerbait.  Because of that, I’ll bring a majority of my tackle to the tournament, and then whittle it down the evening before the tournament.

FLW One

Now, as far as the rods go, I will normally take no more than 5.  Depending on the lake I’m fishing, I feel like I can cover just about every technique with five rods, especially since some can be used for multiple techniques.  The biggest tip I have for your rods is to use rod sleeves.  They will save you tons of time later in the day.  As you fish, and pick up/shuffle your rods around, they will get tangled up.  The five seconds it takes to slide a rod sleeve over a rod when you fish using it, will more than pay off later in the day, when that rod has made it to the bottom of the pile, and you’re trying to grab it in a hurry!

Another thing that will speed up your fishing is to create a “go-to” box.  This will be just a plano box with the main things you think you will use that day.  For instance, I’m going to be fishing Guntersville as a co-angler in a couple weeks, and my “Go-To” box will have an extra umbrella rig with the swimbaits already rigged, two different rattle trap style baits, a couple jerkbaits, a couple crankbaits and a chatterbait.  If I had to guess, those would be the baits I would be looking for during the day.  Since I know I can find them all in one box, I won’t have to spend time digging through my tackle box, trying to locate them.  I will carry spares, but this box is there for quick access.

Tournament DayFLW Three

When tournament day finally rolls around, it can be very exciting and very nerve racking at the same time.  Most boaters will ask you to launch their boat, so if you are not comfortable backing a boat in the water, TELL THEM!  Every tournament there will be a wreck in the parking lot, from someone not familiar with pulling a trailer.  Once you get in the water, it’s time to get in the zone.  One thing about fishing as a co-angler is that generally, the weights in the money will be lower, and one fish will make a big difference.  There are very few tournaments I’ve fished where a limit didn’t do very well, even a small one.  I’ve even cashed a nice check with one fish, granted it was almost 7 pounds, but that one bite is all I needed to be in the money.  So, even if you are having a tough day, don’t give up.  Keep casting, and keep your mind in the game.  Until the last cast, you are still in it.

That’s it, a quick rundown on fishing a co-angler.  As I get back to fishing more, I plan on adding more detailed tips, but that should give the first timer a good idea of what to expect!