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!

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