Preparing for a tournament can be almost as enjoyable as fishing the tournament itself, and taking the time to prepare well and pay attention to the details can help improve your results. I am sure I’m not alone in how exciting the days leading up to a tournament can be, and here are a few ways you can spend that time wisely.
Gear preparation is critical. Even if you are busy during the week, take the time to do the little things. We might not respool as often as the Elite Series guys do on the Bassmaster tour, or the FLW pros, but if your line took some abuse the last time out, respool those reels. Take the time to consider the lake before you do- if it is a clear water lake and you’ve been fishing stained water, it might be a good idea to downsize, or tie a leader on your braided line, for example. If you haven’t done it in a while or if it rained a lot during your recent fishing trips, oil your reels. Put a drop of oil on the worm gear, and take the side plate off and put a drop of oil in the bearings on either side of your spool. When you tie your lures on for specific techniques, this would be a good time to set the drag on your reels, although I like to check it at the lake as well, since it can get bumped in transport. Speaking of lures, throw away that old worm or jig trailer if it has seen better days, and tie on a fresh one. This stuff is relatively cheap in the big picture, and you’ll get better results with a fresh lure that has fresh scent and doesn’t constantly slide down the hook or get hung up as often. Clean your sunglasses with a little dish soap and water so they don’t fog up unnecessarily.
Clean your boat. Pick up the used soft plastics and the worm weights or lures left in the cup holder or on the deck. Go through your tackle storage containers, and put lures back where they go, if they got disorganized during your last trip. Make sure your batteries are fully charged. It is good for your batteries to charge them as soon as you get home from the lake, but I like to plug the charger in the night before and make sure they are still fully charged. If your charger is like mine and only has enough banks to charge your trolling motor batteries, put a manual charger on your cranking battery and top it off for a little while. I like the peace of mind knowing my cranking battery is at 100 percent instead of 75 percent, especially with the hope that the livewell aerator will be running most of the day. If you have the opportunity, hook the boat up the night before and go get gas then, it is one less thing you have to worry about in the morning.
Mental preparation can be just as beneficial. I like to do this in the evening while unwinding from the day. Review the details of your practice time in your head, study both paper maps and online satellite maps, and solidify your game plan. I actually start to envision where I think I could get bites and what size, it is just a mental exercise that builds confidence. Think about what you will do if your plans don’t produce, and how long you will stay in your areas before going to plan B or C. Study log entries if you keep a fishing log- this is something I need to get better about keeping. Use your laptop or tablet and read as many old online fishing reports as you can find from around the same time of the year, to get additional ideas about what might be going on at the lake that I haven’t considered. I also like to watch segments of fishing shows like The Bass Pros that might be relevant for what I plan to do during the tournament. Many of the segments are relatively basic, but they still might make you think of something you hadn’t that could help you. Online technique specific videos can be helpful too, and many good ones can be found on the Bass Rumors homepage.
Get plenty of sleep, and make sure you are hydrated. If you don’t get enough sleep during the week, you can’t catch up in just one night, and it seems that going to bed at 9 before a tournament always ends up being 11:30 or 12. Skip the alcohol except for a beer or two, or a glass of wine. Eat as if you were preparing for an athletic event, because you are! The buffet at the Golden Corral might not be the best choice for dinner the day before the tournament, unless you are young enough and still fortunate to have a stomach lined with steel. Set more than one alarm, and make sure one of them is out of reach. It is really easy to accidentally turn your alarm off when you meant to hit snooze, and you aren’t likely to wake up again on your own at 4:30 in the morning. If you set an alarm on your phone and plug it in across the room, it can be a good insurance policy.
These things are common sense to most tournament bass fishermen, especially experienced ones, but it is easy to get away from good preparation practices. Some of the best fishermen I’ve known over the years could’ve been even better if they were more prepared both mentally and physically, instead of seemingly always being on their heels, scrambling and stressed. If this describes you, consider what you can do to improve in these areas, and you will have more fun, and likely become a more consistent tournament angler.