Part 1. Before you hit the water. Last year was the first year I did any kind of competitive bass fishing, and had a ton of fun doing it! As far as stats go I’m middle of the road in a small club that is very relaxed in its rules. Our buy in is very inexpensive, we have very little per tourney cost, and at the end of the tourney we all get together and go over what was working. The biggest thing that our club is based on is the sharing of information. The basis of this article does not have the basis to put more fish in the boat, but it’s more along the lines of increasing the enjoyment of the day for both the co-angler, as well as the boat owner. There are a few simple rules I follow to help ensure the day goes as smooth as possible.
Prior to tourney day, I always get together with the boater and go over what is going to happen on the particular day. My club meets the second Thursday of every month, and at that time I’ve already figured out who I’m going out with in the upcoming tourney and will exchange info so we can touch base closer to the day were going out together. I’ll also mention possibly doing some ‘pre fishing’ together so we can feel each other out before crunch time. At the meeting I will make sure I have the phone number, as well as the email address, of the person I’m hitting the water with, and ask them if they are going to be going out between that point and when we launch. If so I’ll keep it in mind so I can talk to them the day after and find out what was working, or not working because that can tell you just as much if not more. This is not always an option if fishing a tourney with someone who is not in the area, or you’re not in the area, but communication is key. You don’t want to be that guy that has WAY too much stuff because you didn’t know what you were going to be throwing. Streamlining your gear is a great way to keep things efficient.
In addition to going over our pattern, I will use this time to discuss the other side of things. I will talk to the boater about how much cash I should bring in order to help out with gas/oil costs. I will also ask if they want me to net their fish for them, and establish what will be said so I know the netting is needed. I don’t want the tourney winning bass to come off at the boat because the angler is concentrating on landing the fish and I don’t know how big the fish is. I will establish it at this point, as well as on the water with a simple question of ‘do you need a net?.’ I always want to clarify as much as possible. You would be surprised how many guys set the hook while fishing plastics, and are so tuned in on landing the fish, they forget to let you know they’re hooked up. All the while, you’re focused on your bait behind the boat, you don’t see what they’re doing.
I have an advantage because I have worked multiple jobs where I was required to drive a vehicle that was pulling a trailer. Nothing huge, but I’ve had plenty of experience pulling trailers that outweigh a bass boat by a lot. This has given me an advantage when I need to back the boat into the water because it makes things a lot smoother on the ramp. We don’t have to tie off and let the boat block the ramp, making it easier on everyone around us. It also gives the boat owner a chance to sort things out within the boat, including letting the engine warm up, so at blastoff, were ready to go. My point is, please try and take advantage of any opportunity you have to practice backing up and driving with a trailer. Understanding this makes things A LOT easier.
A couple essentials I will have with me, in addition to my fishing gear are key to making things move quickly as well. I always carry my own personal life vest. My club requires the use of a life vest any time that the outboard is running. I personally recommend the use of a live vest as well, especially for a co-angler, because you can’t anticipate what’s going to happen as well as the boater can. A large wake, or funky bounce can send someone over-board. The boater might see this coming, but when traveling across the water at a high rate of speed, communication is rather difficult. A life vest can (and will) save your life. In addition to a life vest, I always keep a pair of pliers in a sheath on my belt, as well as a charged cell phone at all times. Personally I think this is essential for ANYONE on the water, but I’m not going to rely on my boater to have these things. Just a tip, to keep my cell phone, wallet, and keys safe, I will put them in a zip-lock bag and inflate it with air, leaving it on my seat when we’re not running, and behind my legs or bag when we are. This way, if the worst case scenario happens and the boat capsizes, the bag will float to the surface.
Some of these things may seem minor, but they can make tournament day a lot more enjoyable once the two of you hit the water.
From the Perspective of a Co-Angler)