When it comes to tournament fishing every second is valuable. If you can get 20 or 30 even 50 more casts in throughout the course of a day on the water that can be a big difference. Secondly, it is important to treat the netting of the fish as detailed as you treat the actual fishing for the fish…
When it comes to tournament fishing every second is valuable. If you can get 20 or 30 even 50 more casts in throughout the course of a day on the water that can be a big difference. Secondly, it is important to treat the netting of the fish as detailed as you treat the actual fishing for the fish. As an average fisherman I feel the need to pay attention to every detail allowing me as many small advantages as I can get against the more skilled anglers I fish against. One detail, one mental mistake, one missed cast because of a retie or a bait I can’t find can be the difference between cashing a check and going home broke!
We all read articles and books on how to be a better angler, how to fish a new technique or that amazing new bait that is going to win every tournament for us. Sure those can all help but, there aren’t any guarantees of an advantage in any of them. On the other hand, if I told you I am going to give you an extra 30 minutes on the water compared to your competitors I am sure you’ll think that’s a big advantage, and believe it or not it’s easy to do!
Bait and Boat Organization:
First off, bait organization is step number one. When you decide you want to change baits, you need to be able to find the one you want exactly where you think it is. It should be in the first box you look in. Wasting time looking for the right bait costs you important casts. Fact is, most of us have too much tackle in the boat and that makes finding that perfect bait that much more difficult. What I recommend is labeling your boxes with exactly what’s in it. I went as far as to buy 60 of the exact same Plano box so that every one of my boxes is the same size and fits nice and uniform in my storage box on my boat. This might be overkill, but the point is – take the time to get your baits organized so YOU can find them immediately when that time comes.
Next I only have the baits I need for the lake I am fishing and the time of the year in my boat. By having your baits broken down into Plano boxes by type, color and maker you can quickly pull 10 boxes from the garage and replace them with 10 boxes from the boat quickly. For example: when I fish a spotted bass lake I’ll grab my tubes, “one-ton” jigs, flukes and spinnerbait boxes and replace them in the boat with my big baits. Most of my big baits don’t fit in Plano boxes so I keep them in Eye Surrender swimbait wraps, which are also labeled by size and manufacturer. My boat is only for tackle I plan to use, or could need on the body of water I am fishing. There is no reason for me to have baits in my boat that I know I won’t throw on the lake I am fishing that day. My boat is a boat not my tackle storage unit!
Same bait, Three rods
Ok, we’ve all had it happen. We find the pattern; we’ve got the spots and the perfect bait to load the boat. It could be a morning bite where we’ve got about an hour to an hour and a half of the bite being hot and then it’s over. The last thing you need to do during these occasions is waste quality minutes retying a bait after catching a few fish. So what I’ll do on these occasions is tie on the same bait on three different rods. When I think its time to retie my bait I’ll just switch rods instead. Later when the bite isn’t so hot I can take a few minutes and retie all three if need be. Saving these two or three minutes to retie can be the difference in catching that kicker fish or not.
Mark your reels with the line.
I can’t tell you how many times I have tied on a spook, sammy or other top water bait just to find out on my first cast that it doesn’t walk right – because I tied it on flourocarbon! Worse yet are the times I made a cast with 10 lb test thinking it was 14 lb test only to catch a fish and snap it on the hook set or in a tree branch because I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Nothing bugs me more than to make a mental mistake like these on the water. Sure we all have fish come off or line snap but, those things are something we can control with just a little planning. Confusing your line is a mental mistake and can be easily avoided with some simple planning.
There are hundreds of ways to mark your reels with the line you have on them. You can simply right it on a piece of masking tape and stick that to your reel or to the butt of your rod handle. I sometimes even mark the date I put the line on it so that I know when I need to change it. I use a simple 14 F for fourteen pound fluorocarbon or 14 M for fourteen pound monofilament. Braid I mark with a B, although it’s generally pretty apparent that its braid but, I still want to know what pound test braid. If for no other reason than piece of mind.
Mark your rods with the action.
We take 10 to 20 rods and we stuff them in the rod lockers of our boat. We get out on the water, we pull the rods we want out and we go fishing. Now we decide we want to try a new technique and we need to get that rod out. In some cases, the rod itself stands out based on the color, manufacturer or the bait tied on that rod. However, when that isn’t the case we end up on our hands and knees trying to read the little labels the manufacturers put on the rods to signify what rod it is. In a dark and sometimes even in a lit rod locker that can be a very time consuming task to find that exact rod we are looking for. This is why I label my rods with either a sharpie on the cork or a metallic pen on the actual rod, in big letters 7’6″ H Flippin’ or 6’10 H Froggin’ or 7’4″ Crank/Spin or 7’6″ XH Big Swimbaits etc. That way, when I am looking for a particular rod – I can find it quick.
I can’t take total credit for this idea. I decided to do this after I met up with Dean Rojas for an interview on Clear Lake. He had his frog rod in his hand and it said “frog” on the cork of his grip. I gave him some ribbing for it before I asked him why it was on there and he told me why. It made total sense and that night I labeled all my rods. It may not save you lots of time, every time – but, it will save you some time, most of the time!
Mark your Fish
Nothing wastes more time during a tournament then trying to figure out which fish to cull. Sure it is very important to cull the right fish, but that does not mean it has to take 5 minutes per cull either. Many of us make the mistake of catching the first 5 fish and just tossing them in the livewell. Only when we catch that sixth fish we end up sitting down and wasting ten minutes figuring out what each fish weighs and which one goes back. Usually after that we have a pretty good idea of what fish to cull, but that’s 10 minutes we could have saved, well maybe 8 minutes after adjusting for the weighing of the fish individually as we catch them.
There are lots of products on the market for weighing fish, marking fish and keeping track of what each fish weighs. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune to save time. A simple system is a decent set of culling tags, a scale and a grease pencil. Immediately after catching the fish, weigh it, tag it and write it on your windshield of your boat. I use short hand like R-3.2 for Red – 3.2 pounds, G-2.9 for Green 2.9 pounds, etc. When you cull the grease wipes off and you can write the new weight in there. This way when you catch fish number 6 it’ll take you about thirty seconds to weigh it, mark it and throw the small fish back.
On a side note, on fish close in weight, I highly recommend the use of a balance beam because scales on boats aren’t very accurate.
Get the Net
Teamwork is important whether you are in a team event or a pro am event. So whenever I fish with a new partner I explain to him/her a few things about my boat. The first is storage of the net and the second is how to actually net a fish. These may sound elementary but, they can make or break a tournament for you.
I’ll tell my co-angler/partner that he/she is in control of the net. Meaning when we get to a spot, I’ll grab the trolling motor and they need to get the net ready and in position to be used quickly and effectively. When we get ready to run to the next spot, they need to prepare the net for the run. Every boat has better spots to have the net during both the fishing and the running so I’ll let you determine what’s best for your boat. However, on my boat I like the net laying over the driver console with the handle across the driver compartment and onto the back of the seat. That makes it easy to grab and keeps things from getting dropped on top of it during the fishing.
Next I always give a netting demonstration to my partner/co-angler. I explain exactly how I want my fish to be netted and how important it is to net the fish quickly and correctly. A fish lost within 5 feet of the boat is a netting error not a landing error. The way I like to explain it is as follows: ALWAYS net a fish from your knees. When you are on your knees you can extend much further away from the boat or below the boat to net a fish. Until you actually see the fish you stay as low as possible and with the net pressed against your chest. Once the fish gets close enough to net it you reach out to the fish and scoop it in one motion. Never leave the net in the water and most importantly, once the fish gets in the net get it to the bottom of the bottom as quick as possible, The bottom of the boat, not the deck of the boat. From there the fish is safe from flopping out of the boat or jumping out of the net.
When it comes to fishing tournaments every second counts. Saving time by being organized, labeled and thinking ahead can be just the advantage you need. Now that you’ve got the extra time to catch that monster, you’ll need to pay attention to the often overlooked netting details in order to secure that pig and take home the big check! I hope you all catch a giant next time out!
By Tom Leogrande
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