Doing it yourself and networking with other anglers are both effective means of preparing for a tournament, but which one is right for you? Two of FLW’s biggest stars, Scott Martin and Andy Morgan, weigh in.
“Two Schools of thought on Tournament Preparation” Doing it yourself and networking with other anglers are both effective means of preparing for a tournament, but which one is right for you? – Ken Duke
They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s definitely more than one way to prepare for a bass tournament … or even a long weekend on the water. Just ask Andy Morgan and Scott Martin, two of FLW’s brightest stars. Between them, they have a Forrest Wood Cup championship (see sidebar), 36 Cup appearances, four FLW Tour Angler of the Year titles, eight FLW Tour wins and almost $5 million in tournament prize money.
You could make a solid argument that either pro is the B.O.A.T. (best of all-time) in FLW history, but they have different approaches to tournament preparation styles.
Morgan is old school, preferring to find and figure out bass on his own, with as little outside influence and input as possible. He exemplifies the do-it-yourself attitude that has mostly prevailed in the sport for decades.
Martin’s approach to preparing for competition, which includes gathering information on a fishery from outside sources, isn’t “new.” In fact, many would say his father – the legendary Roland Martin – was its pioneer. More recently, Scott has developed a small group of confidantes who can give him insight into various fisheries and help him find what he calls the “pulse” of the water before he ever launches his boat.
There’s no question that either method can work – the results of our experts speak volumes – but each can fail just as spectacularly if done without considering a number of mitigating factors. And at least in this case, the “two schools” of thought are not really at odds; call them different responses to different needs and different circumstances.
Andy Morgan: “I occasionally like to get some good general information, but I’d rather figure things out myself. Part of the problem is finding sources you know really well and who know how you think and fish.”
Scott Martin: “Figuring things out all on your own is great, but it can be impractical at times. I can’t always get away to pre-practice for an event, and my home in south Florida is a long way from most of our venues. Utilizing my resources as best I can within the rules of competition is just another way of educating myself and getting up to speed about what’s happening on a body of water when we have such a limited period of time to prepare.”
Andy Morgan: “Figuring things out on my own and avoiding dock talk or other outside information keeps me from having a lot of preconceived ideas about where the fish are and what they’re doing. That stuff can waste a lot of time and give you a lot of mental hurdles to overcome. It’s hard to focus on one technique when you hear that you
should be trying something else, especially when that ‘something else’ is not something you’re comfortable doing.
“I’ve never been successful running somebody else’s stuff. I feel like I’m off chasing rabbits. When I was growing up, if anybody told you anything about fishing, they were probably lying to you. I tried figuring things out on my own because I didn’t have a lot of people I felt I could trust.”
Scott Martin: “When people talk about getting outside information to prepare for a tournament, a lot of them have the wrong idea. I don’t want specifics or waypoints or even baits or colors. I want good, general information like which end of the lake has been most productive or what techniques are catching the most fish or a very general overview of what’s happening. I want the ‘pulse’ of the lake, and it doesn’t tell me exactly where to fish or what to throw, but it gives me a starting point to figure things out.”
Andy Morgan: “I want to get paid everywhere we go. Basically, I rely a lot on seasonal patterns, and I watch the weather really closely for two or three weeks in advance of a tournament. Otherwise, I’m just looking for very general information – like how much weight it’s taking to win local tournaments and stuff like that. If it takes 20 pounds to do well and I’m only catching 12, I know I need to be doing something different. I just want to know if I should hold ’em or fold ’em.”
Scott Martin: “I’m looking for information that can help me get on a pattern – or two or more. I don’t want spots because they rarely hold up – conditions are always changing – and spots rarely win tournaments. Spots are usually what you fish when you don’t have a solid pattern.”
Limitations and Pitfalls
Andy Morgan: “Because I’m battling the clock and my own preference for certain techniques, doing it myself can be limiting. A lot of times I don’t get on the winning pattern or location or bait, and as a result I haven’t won a lot of major tournaments in my career. But I’ve been consistent and have picked up a lot of checks and Angler of the Year points.”
Scott Martin: “I had to learn what information I wanted and who I could
trust to give it to me. Sometimes, getting too specific has cost me. And sometimes practicing and getting on fish too far in advance of the tournament has caused me to waste a lot of competition time. It’s easy to get locked into what the bass were doing rather than focus on what they are doing. Until you have some experience working with information from other anglers, that can create problems for you. It’s one thing to have information – even good information – but something else to use it successfully.”
Andy Morgan: “Doing things on my own and without a lot of outside information has forced me to focus on what works for me rather than what works for other guys. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I rely on about four different techniques, but I can adapt those four techniques to a lot of different conditions just by moving shallower or deeper or by speeding up or slowing down. That makes it easier for me to break down the fishing conditions as quickly as possible.”
Scott Martin: “Working with other anglers I trust has made me a more versatile fisherman. When you talk with an excellent angler and he tells you that a certain pattern might be strong, you either learn that method or lose the benefit of that information. Over time, you become more well-rounded, and there are fewer holes in your game. Tournament preparation and working with others has made me a lot better through the years, and it keeps paying dividends all the time.”
Andy Morgan: “I’m confident that my way is better … for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone. Until you know what your niches are and how your mind works as a tournament angler, you can’t really make a determination like that. I do believe that doing everything on your own is becoming a thing of the past, and that it’s an increasingly difficult method to use. Information is key, and it’s getting easier to find good, reliable information these days. There’s just too much information out there.”
Scott Martin: “First, you need to trust your instincts. Develop them and know that they’re more valuable than any outside source. Second, do your research. Look at maps, check Google and generally do all the homework you can before you get to the water. Finally, if you’re going to work with other people, use one or two sources. Don’t try to get a piece of information here and another piece there. Find a handful of trusted friends that you can look to, not a bunch of random dudes you don’t know well. And consider working with someone else who’s fishing the event with you.”