It is an hour before daylight, the long string of headlights and trailer lights are headed towards you. The matching trucks and newest model of boats pull in around you. You think, wow that’s a nice boat, with your stomach turning and your heart beginning to race. This could be the beginning of a great day on the water, or your worst nightmare of second-guessing yourself. Just remember, you don’t have to be a boat owner to prepare for a tournament. I have prepared for tournaments as a boater and a non-boater.
Your tournament preparation should begin at least a week before the event. I think the first step is to begin visualizing everything that you will be faced with or might be faced with. Write the things down you think of and what to do if they occur. By doing this nothing will be a surprise to you, and you will keep calm in a difficult situation. Keep in mind that you cannot control some things like the weather, or how another angler fishes.
The second is to check everything mechanical. This includes your vehicle, trailer, and boat. With the vehicle I start with the tires, pressure and tread ware. I check all fluids in the vehicle and also change oil if it is a long tow. Your trailer is often overlooked, so make sure to check tires also. Boat trailers do not have shocks, so straps and bolts often come lose over a rough road so give them a second look. The boat is the tool you will be in all day. This is very important to get in order. Starting with the engine, remove the spark plugs and replace if fouled. Next would be the oil. Fill if need and check the fuel filter. The steering should be greased or hydraulic fluid filled. Putting extra things in your boat like spare prop for trolling motor and big engine. Some electrical supplies like tape, fuses, and trolling motor plug are a must. Last but not least is safety equipment; history has shown that you never know what can happen during a tournament.
Tackle is what connects you to the fish. This is the last thing you want to fail. Go threw all reels to make sure they are in proper operation, oiling and adding grease at this time. On your rods check every guide for nicks that might fray line. Moving on to the line, never cut corners on this. Use the best quality line you can afford. I would recommend P-line for it low memory and abrasion resistance. Now is the time to match rod and reels for the appropriate tactics one might face in that event. Your lures should be in perfect order. There will be no time to waste looking for something misplaced. Make sure that all of your hooks are sharp. Don’t forget to replace skirts on jigs and spinner baits that are wore out. Setting up a go to tray or bag with baits for the day, to be right at hand for a quick change, is a good idea. Have plenty of the baits and colors of the baits you plan to use. We rely on our baits so it would be bad for confidence if we ran out. Always have a camera with you for your days catch or for sponsor promotions.
The night before the tournament is very important. Everything should be double checked before bed. With vehicle, trailer, boat, and tackle all in order there should be no chance for negative thoughts during sleep. Getting to bed early is a must. In the morning the last thing you want to have to do is rush. Plan on rising early, getting a good breakfast and on the road well before estimated time of arrival. This gives room to change a tire or gets some coffee on the way to the ramp.
Rise early, the morning of the tournament. You should clear your mind of all conflicting thoughts. Check the weather to see what it will be and if it is nasty, you know what to prepare for. Some one will not be so prepared and that gives you an advantage already. My thinking is if your not twenty minutes early then you are already late. The ride there gives you another chance to visualize your day; this is the time to think all positive. When you are calm and prepared you are relaxed. Other anglers notice this and the games begin. So here they come down to ramp, they see you there early that shows them something. You are calm also, that’s something. The next thing would be to avoid the dock talk, remember the fish can’t here in the parking lot so let them tell you what to do when you’re on the water. I do think you should hang out though, tell stories and talk about lures, etc. Just avoid things that will affect they way you might approach the day. Remember you and the fish; we cannot control how the other anglers do. Go head and get your boat in the water, this will keep you out of the mad dash right before the tournament starts. This gives you another chance to review everything, meet co-angler and discus the day to come with him. While waiting to ease off, try not to look at the new boats and equipment as an advantage over you. This will sink you right there. You are well prepared for just about anything and that gives you a better advantage.
This should give you the confidence to keep the tournament intimidation from beating you at your next tournament.