So you’ve spent the last, or however many nights, going over scenarios, looking at maps, talking to your fishing partner and it’s the morning of the tournament. One of the most important issues, like I stated in the last article, is not having an open line of communication. Many issues between a boater and co-angler can be resolved by simply asking the questions before you hit the water. This article is based on the day of the tourney and the time on the water.
The first part you need to establish is your gear. Where will it go, how much can you bring, what do you need? All of these questions should be figured out before you hit the water. If you talk to your boater before hand, you will know what technique you will be fishing, and you can plan your gear accordingly. Personally I usually carry 5 – 6 rods, an over the shoulder tackle bag that holds 4 stow –away boxes, and a small “speed bag” or “deck bag” that I keep my plastics in. A lot of times the boater will have a storage box empty for the co-angler to keep his gear in, so if available that’s where my stuff goes. Out of the way, and prevents tripping when grabbing for a net.
Once you’ve hit the water, there are a few things I absolutely swear by. The first thing is that I will never cast past the center console of the boat, unless the boater has told me to. They may need me to run the boat while they’re removing a fish, or fixing equipment. If they don’t say to do so, I don’t do it. Another thing I will never do is make them wait for me to take off. If I get the feeling they are buttoning up to run, I’ll have my vest on and be seated in the second seat before they fire the motor. Obviously this doesn’t hold true if you’re reeling in a fish, but don’t make them wait, it just slows the whole process down. The third and most important thing I’ll do is learn from them. I’ll ask questions, and I’ll constantly be paying attention to their pattern and technique.
First thing in the morning, I will throw the opposite of what they are. If they’re throwing a buzz frog on the surface, I’m throwing a plastic or a jerkbait. If they’re fishing a brush hog along the bottom, I’m fishing a crank straight behind the boat along the dropoff, until we establish what is going to catch them. I also will be open with information, as I hope they will be. When I land a fish, I’ll explain why. I’ll tell them “that one came right on the edge of the grass and hammered it,” or “ that fish was in the thick of it, and I only felt resistance.” This will help you both as they are in control of the boat. If they don’t know what the fish are doing, they absolutely cannot put you both on the fish.
The last major thing you need to remember is netting. Once you’ve established with the boater that he wants you to net the fish for them, make sure you understand how they want it done. Most fishermen want the net stationary next to the boat, and they will guide the fish in. Don’t jab at the fish, it will only cause it to run. Don’t sweep after the fish, unless this is how the boater wants it done. An unsuccessful netting can throw off the whole mo-jo of the day. If the boater is not on point, and thinking about other things (like the fish he just lost) it can trickle down into both of you not having the right chances to catch fish. Frustration and lack of confidence can cause the boater to make bad decisions, and the fastest way to bring these about is to lose a 4lb bass at the side of the boat. I always ask, during the retrieve of the fish, “do you want to bring it to me, or me to go get it.” They will know what you’re talking about.
A lot of these things may seem minor, but can really help your day. The overall goal of every tourney is to win, and you’d be hard pressed to find a boater who would be upset if you both ended up taking first place.