During tournaments you cannot pick the weather…
“Tournament Strategy (Part-2)” You have been practicing for the next tournament and you did very well. Now you want to test yourself against other anglers. But are you ready? – Bennie Wiese
In Part-1 we looked at mental and physical preparation, studying the venue and looking for active fish. In this issue we will look at alternative baits, managing your fishing time and landing big fish.
Top anglers almost never reveal the lures that they catch kicker fish on, especially on dams that get a lot of tournament pressure and social anglers year after year. I believe bass get conditioned to certain baits and weekend boat traffic. Fishing can be better during the week days, but come weekends, and bass get lock jaw.
Spinnerbaits, worms, and jerkbaits, are conventional baits that will catch fish and generally these are the fish that won’t win tournaments. If you fish an in-house competition, you will look good with an average size bag but if you want to do better and win tournaments, you will have to go after big fish.
Bigger fish are usually caught on walking baits, buzzbaits, frogs and some of the new baits like the D2’s and Sweet Beaver. Jigs can give you better quality fish but it isn’t enough to ensure a win. Topwater baits like Zara’s, Dying Flutters, Jitterbugs and pencil poppers have always delivered big bass in the past. Many big fish have been taken on these lures because the fish don’t see them often. Just ask yourself when was the last time you used these lures? Bass get fooled by the lures they don’t often see. Personally, I like to get a limit of five fish in the boat before I start looking for big fish.
It is important to work these baits in specific ways that will make the difference, even if some of your competitors are using the same lures. Fishing around structure with topwater baits or dead sticking baits, or casting directly to the structure can be very critical. I believe that with these baits you also have to have a lot of patience and nerves. Dead sticking can be a very effective way to fish especially on pressured waters. Dead sticking is using soft plastics baits weightless, and leaving the baits for long periods without moving them next to structure and it takes a lot of patience.
Personally I like fishing suspending jerkbaits. This way, pressured dams produce bigger bass. Don’t fish the bait with too much action - just let it sit there for a long time in between movements.
Managing your fishing time
Learn to properly manage your time throughout the day. You must know when to leave the area and move to the next area. A key part of the game plan is to know when and how to use your time. The mood of the fish can be different to the day you found them so you have to adjust to the day’s conditions. Cold fronts can move in any time and spoil the day. Go out and practice at any time of the year, even if the weather is bad or cold. During tournaments you cannot pick the weather and the odds are that many tournament days will be in the rain and wind and you will have to be prepared and know what to do on these days. How many times have you been out fishing and the weather has changed so
You have been practicing for the next tournament and you did very well. 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.
you’ve packed up and gone home? It cannot happen during tournaments. So it’s best you keep on fishing and gain the experience.
If possible, plan your practice for when the weather is bad. It is the only way to the learn what to do. Make as many casts as possible until the very last minute, just before lighting chases you off the water. When the weather clears up, get back on the water as quickly as possible. Remember, time is important in tournaments and you must know how long it will take to get back to the weigh station in time. You will need to practice driving your boat in bad weather, under rough conditions and at high speeds, if you really want to win. Many anglers have miscalculated their time in the past and have subsequently been disqualified for arriving late at the tag board.
Practice landing big fish
Try to make trips to venues where you can gain experience in fighting and landing large fish. Confidence can be the key to success in this game and by getting over excited when you see the big fish can be your downfall.
Tournament bass angling is a mental game and anglers must learn how to keep a high level of awareness during the day’s fishing. Don’t get distracted and don’t pay attention to other competitors landing fish next to you. Keep to your game plan and focus. Don’t try to show off because I have seen many anglers losing fish at the boat while landing them or at the weigh station while taking fish out of the live well.
Maintain your tackle and use the best equipment that you can afford. This will strengthen your confidence. I don’t say that it must be the most expensive equipment, but you must have confidence in it and in your own ability to use it properly. Don’t neglect the basics either, know how to tie all the proper knots for the baits you are using and use the highest quality hooks available. I can’t emphasize this enough. *Bennie Wiese is the editor of SA Bass magazine and an experienced provincial bass angler.
If possible, plan your practice for when the weather is bad Buzzbait
Junebug Chart Swirl soft plastic frog