Start by breaking the dam into different sections, taking into account the following: time of the year, where the bait fish will be, weather and mark off the unproductive water on your map.
“Tournament Strategy (Part-1)” You have been practicing for a few days before the next tournament; you did very well and now you want to test yourself against other anglers. But are you ready? – Bennie Wiese
You have been practicing for a few days before the next tournament; you did very well and now you want to test yourself against other anglers. But are you ready? To win a tournament you have to have the edge over your competitors and certain tactics can produce a win.
Every so often just doing extra groundwork and preparation can make a difference. The key factors that can help you to win are confidence, practice and having a plan. So, by working your way up the rankings at club in-houses, divisional and provincial, can be a good start to getting that confidence.
To prepare mentally and physically for the challenge are two of the most important things to do. Ask yourself the question: How many times have I fished for two or three days in a row? Yes, maybe socially, but there was no pressure and you didn’t fish against time and other anglers.
Mental and physical preparation
Many people think that bass fishing is a laid-back sport. They don’t realize that a tournament day takes eight hours and that you can make thousands of casts during the day. This means you have to be in top shape to win tournaments, and it takes preparation ahead of time. If you consider embarking on club in-houses, divisional and provincial tournaments you must be in good physical condition. That means you must able to pick up, turn, bend, and move about in a variety of positions, without injuring yourself.
To be competitive you must not only eat and sleep right, but do regular physical exercise to get into excellent shape in order to pick up gear and leap from the front to the rear of the boat. Good balance is critical, as are fast reflexes, eating and drinking on the go without wasting time. Manoeuvring can be important too, like jumping down on your knees quickly and moving in many directions efficiently. Losing that one fish could be the difference between winning and losing. Many anglers put their tackle away in winter and in between tournaments. But this is the time to practice pitching, flipping, and various casting techniques. If it gets too cold to be outside, set up boxes and practise pitching, flipping and casting to targets to test your accuracy. Knowing your tackle like the back of your hand, and being able to promptly carry out a plan is critical in a tournament.
Practising all techniques frequently is vital to give you the confidence that you need to win when you get to the tournament. Being able to control your emotions and staying calm in the preceding days and nights can give you an edge over the inexperienced anglers. Many anglers that fish club in-houses, divisional and provisional at intermediate levels are at the top of their game, and take it very seriously, so a slight edge can mean a great deal. Anglers that can keep their cool, and can stick to their game plans under pressure, are the ones that are placed in the top final positions time after time.
Study the venue
The first thing you want to do before you start to prefish is to get as much information as possible on the venue. Look for maps, see what types of bait fish can be found and what the dam’s conditions are. Have a look at the past tournament results of the same venue. By visiting the local tackle shops and talking to anglers you can find some valuable information. Look at the shelves of the local tackle shop to see what the local hot colour is. Most of the time it is the one that is low on stock or out of stock.
Now you can start to work out a game plan. Do what you have been told, or put together your own plan for the venue. Find out more about the composition of the dam bottom, structure, both natural and manmade, along with water quality and levels. All of this will help you decide where to start your pre-fish.
Start by breaking the dam into different sections, taking into account the following: time of the year, where the
bait fish will be, weather and mark off the unproductive water on your map. These days its easy to pull the maps from Google earth on the internet, then select the most likely area to find fish, for example, if its summer and very hot, look for drop-offs. If your budget allows it, make a complete run of the dam so you have a physical look at the dam before you fish.
Now consider working at the grass, lay-downs, humps, rocks and also keep your eye on the shore line to see where there can be drop-offs (Unfortunately there are no contour maps available of the dams in this country). By doing your homework you will have a better idea of structure and the conditions of the dam.
Start by looking for active fish using search baits like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, lipless cranks and buzzbaits. When you find the active fish don’t go and pin ever fish that you get. Pin at least one to see what size fish is around and mark the spot by using a GPS. If you want to make sure there’s more fish on the spot, use the same lure without hooks. If you have time or practise more than one day, visit the marked spots at different times during the day to determine the best time to fish the spot.
Some times in the year bass will stage on a single piece of structure as small as a twig, reed stem or blade of grass. The bass are just looking for some type of structure to hold next to. The goal is to get at least four spots where you can get your five fish limit, then go and look for areas where you can look for kicker fish. A kicker fish is a big fish that gives your bag’s weight a boost.
In Part-2 we will look at alternative baits, managing your fishing time and landing big fish. Until then, enjoy your fishing. *Bennie Wiese is the editor of SA Bass magazine and an experienced provincial bass angler.
Get as much information as possible on the venue Look for active fish by using search baits like a spinnerbait
To be competitive you must do regular physical exercise