Back in the spring I wrote an article about matching up your rods, reels, and lines so that you have balanced equipment, which in turn makes you a more efficient angler. Throughout the tournament season an angler learns, usually through a lot of trial and error, ways to make their fishing more efficient. Anything from loading and maintaining their boat, to presenting baits, to laying out their tackle and equipment. As has been stated countless times, luck plays very little part in tournament success. Luck comes into play after you’ve done your research, located some fish, worked on a pattern, made a pitch, and hook a six-pounder that was sitting on the rock pile you just pulled three two-pounders off. Organization, preparation, practice, and time management will help to control the variables that can be controlled. Things like the weather, other boaters on the water, and the price of gas are out of our control and as such, we shouldn’t fret over them.
OK, if you’re anything like me, you have to have some way of organizing everything into a system that works. We’ve all seen them – the boats with compartments just stuffed full of Ziploc bags, plastic worms here and there, and rods just dropped on the deck or put in a compartment in no particular order. Maybe that works for them. But, how much more efficient would they be if they took some time to organize their equipment and come up with a system, so they know where everything is, ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice? Think about it – would you rather spend, say, thirty extra minutes of a tournament day digging through your compartments looking for something, or would you like to use that thirty minutes to make thirty, forty, fifty or more casts? Would you rather throw all your stuff for the day in the big compartment up front and have to go rifling through plastic bags to find your Yum Dingers, or would you rather open a compartment lid, pull out a box and have what you need right there?
I’ve learned a lot about fishing, boat control, and time management by practicing, and making my own mistakes (and learning from them). There are literally endless resources on the internet, in books and magazines, videos, and seminars that you can pull from and tweak to fit them into your system. But one of the most important resources, and often most overlooked, are other anglers in your club (or just your regular fishin’ buddy). If they’ve already tried something, come up with something, or changed something to make their lives easier, maybe you could draw from their lesson and make it work for you. Most times, communicating and tip-swapping with other anglers are the best means to come up with something that works for you.
When I first started fishing competitively, one of the most important things I did after the weigh-ins and at meetings was listen. I paid attention to what some of the other successful, more experienced tournament anglers were saying, and more importantly, what they were doing. Since then, I’ve won tournaments, had numerous top-5’s and tournament lunkers, won lunker of the year, and even won angler of the year. And even after that, I know I still have a ton to learn, a lot of room to improve, and continually tweak my system to make things even more efficient for me, so I can make the most effective use of my time on the water. I still listen, pay attention, and ask myself, “how can I improve what I’m doing?” I think a lot of it is the drive to compete – personally, I love the competition, and that fuels the fire to continue making improvements and coming up with ways to be more competitive. As you continue to improve and do well, you become more confident, and you continue building that confidence when you line things up and become more efficient and more effective.
So, what is the over-riding lesson here? Through hard work, many hours of practicing, and some good ole’ trial-and-error, I’ve refined how I prepare and organize, where I keep things on the boat, and how I use my equipment. Preparation and organization are a personal thing – the way I do it, and where I put things, may not work for everyone. The key is to find a system that works for you and exploit it to the fullest. The same goes for where you keep everything stored on your boat – sit down and make a list of everything you carry with you. Then make a small diagram of your boat and compartments. Put some thought into it, and map out where you think the best place for everything would be (keep in mind balancing your load, and keep the heavier stuff in the back of the boat). Try it – does it work, or do you need to move a few things around? Make it work for you.
How do you use your equipment (rods, reels, tackle)? Hopefully, you keep your rods protected with a Rod Glove or something similar, stored in the rod locker until you need them. What about your lures? Are they in dividers, like Bass Pro Shops 370 boxes or Plano dividers? Are your reels clean, oiled and greased? How about your hooks – are they sharp? Did you change out any rusted or bent hooks? Small details, no matter how much you think they don’t matter, they do. I want to know that when I open up my box of terminal tackle and grab a Gamakatsu 4/0 EWG hook that it’ll be sharp, rust-free and ready to go. Remember, take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.
As I’ve written in my last article, I try to keep things as simple as possible, which I feel leads to better efficiency on the water. I like to have all of my rod & reel combos to be similar (even though each combo is for a specific technique or techniques). It may not always be the cheapest way, but it’s psychologically easier when I switch from a spinnerbait to a jig to have a rod and reel that feel the same. Some people have a Dobyns rod with a Shimano reel for crankbaits, and a Daiwa rod with a Lew’s reel for soft plastics, and they can put one down and pick up the other and it makes no difference to them. There is nothing wrong with that if it works for them. Again, if it’s something you’re comfortable with, and it works for you, run with it. Just make sure that everything you have, and everything you do with it, is done with purpose.
In my next couple of articles, I’ll describe, and go into some detail about, the equipment and tackle that I use. I’ll also describe how I lay out my boat, and where I keep things, to make the system that I have that works for me. If nothing else, maybe it will help you make a decision about your system, or help you figure out where or what you would like to do.
Jason A. Bean