Many larger bass fishing tournaments are a draw format. Meaning, a non boater, is drawn to fish with a boater. This does many things for our sport. First this insures the sports integrity. As much as we all hate to admit it, our sport has anglers that will cheat to win. By drawing co-anglers to fish with boaters, the likelihood of this happening is greatly reduced. Second, using the ‘draw’ format presents less experienced angles an opportunity to fish bass tournaments and learn more about our great sport. For the boater, it’s chance to meet new people, share ideas, and in many cases enjoy teaching someone something new.
Through my experience as a boater in many different organizations, I have had Co-Anglers on both sides of the spectrum. Anglers that could be considered Professional Co-Anglers and others that were fishing their first tournament. I have learned a lot through trial and error or plain “I didn’t think about that” issues that happen when you meet someone mere hours before competition day. In a multi part set of articles, I’m going to share some things I’ve learned over the years. There are way too many things to discuss in one read so I’ll try and categorize some and break it up. I’ll start with some of the first questions you should ask and get out of the way.
When you find out who your Co-Angler for the tournament is going to be, quickly find him in the crowd and snatch him/her up and head to a quiet corner. Get away from the crowd, so you can speak clearly to each other, and nothing is misunderstood. I have had Co-Anglers that could not hear well because of age or type of day job they have. There is nothing worse that miscommunication.
Introduce yourself and be friendly, you don’t want to set a bad tone right off the bat simply because you had a bad prefish or blew a tire on the way to the meeting. Have him/her repeat his/her name a couple times to make sure you got it. Most organizations give it to you in writing or give you the ability to write it down. Between talking and writing, make sure it sticks. I hate being on the water and fishing with someone all day and I can’t remember their first name. Or the tournament director may ask you your Co-Anglers name for various reasons and you’ll need to know it.
Find out what kind and color of vehicle they drive. While many would say it’s the Co-Anglers responsibility to find you, the fact is if your Co-Angler doesn’t show up you may not get to fish, or you’ll be paired with another boater that is in the same situation. So make sure you know what to watch for. On that note, make sure they know what you drive, what kind of boat you have, what color both are and anything that will set you apart from the rest of the trucks pulling boats that morning. There will be 100 trucks and boats and odds are if you tell your Co-Angler to look for the blue triton; he’s going to walk up to several people that are not you before he finds you.
Before you leave the meeting, make sure you have exchanged phone numbers. Everyone has a cell phone now. While you’re standing there introducing yourself, call each other so that you already have it in your phone. This gives you another chance to write (type) his/her name and also a reference to look up should you forget. Also, I’ve learned that connections are important in life. You may not learn it until the next day, but everyone has connections, and your new acquaintance may just have what you need one day.
Establish a meeting place. Some launch locations are plenty big enough to handle truck and trailer traffic along with all the single vehicles; however, many are not. It’s best to find a location near the ramp, yet not at it to meet up and gather his equipment; then proceed to the ramp. While you’re deciding this, also establish a meeting time. I like to meet up at least 30 minutes earlier than we need to. First this gives some over sleeping room. It happens; alarms don’t go off, power goes out, you name it the excuses happen. So leave some wiggle room in your meeting time. I also like to discuss the fact that if he is two minutes late I’m going to be calling. Not to be an ass, but just to make sure they are on the way. If a situation has happened that is going to cause an angler to be late, the sooner you start dealing with it the better.
Make sure your Co-Angler understands the space you have available for their equipment. This will allow him/her to prepare and not over load their part of the boat. A Co-Angler that has trouble storing equipment is going to slow you down on the water when you’re ready to move to a new location.
Ask your Co-Angler if they have a life jacket. Most do and in my opinion it is their responsibility. I say that it’s their responsibility because a life jacket needs to fit properly. Co-Anglers are people and people come in all shapes and sizes; there is no way a boater can possibly carry the variety of sizes needed to find a proper fit. However, an angler that doesn’t have a life jacket is disqualified, and you now don’t have a Co-Angler. This puts you out of the event or fishing with another boater; so as a boater I carry two different spare life jackets.
Finally, you’ll want to talk strategy. You don’t have to give away a secret, and I don’t recommend that you do. Many anglers travel together and to be honest the first thing I ask my travel mates that are Co-Anglers is “What did your boater tell you, what are you going to be fishing?” For me, this isn’t so I can have a backup plan, but more so I know how popular my pattern is going to be. There are a lot of anglers out there that might be having trouble catching fish, and if you tell your Co-Angler specifics, the word is going to get around. For me, I can’t catch someone else’s fish. No matter how hard I try, the confidence isn’t there and I’m wasting time trying. However to know if the creek I picked, the dock pattern, or the flats I found will be crowded is useful information. Just know that everyone talks. That all said, talking strategy can also help you. By telling your Co Angler that you’ll be doing a lot of running and gunning, the trolling motor will be on at least half speed all day, or that your fishing brush can prevent him from bring extra rods just in case. A Co-Angler that brings 15 rods simply because he has no idea what to bring or how you’ll be fishing can really hamper a boater. Just give your Co-Angler some general information to help cut his rod selection down to 4 or 5. With enough information, a Co-Angler can cut tackle bags down to just one larger one or two smaller ones.
One problem I’ve run into, that most nor I would think about, is the deck fishing seat. I don’t have ‘sit down’ seats. Both deck seats are pole seats. During most events I only have the rear pole seat installed. Some Co-Anglers may or may not want the seat on the deck. Take me, for example, if I were to fish as a Co-Angler I wouldn’t want a seat on the back deck taking up space. So the boater could leave it at the hotel. There is a flip to that, a recent Co Angler of mine was an elderly gentleman and standing all day was not an option. Because of bad knees he needed to sit down. He attempted the day with the pole seat; however, between wind and boat traffic wave action he was unable to stand or lean on the back deck more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time. This particular angler, out of shear necessity sat in the passenger seat to fish the majority of the day. In this position, even an experienced angler is going to have trouble with accuracy. This particular angler was a hindrance in that he was banging the boat with baits, hitting the docks I was trying to fish, and when either happened he naturally got a backlash. These backlashes would require him to drag which ever bait he was using behind the boat as he cleared the backlash. Resulting in getting hung and requiring me to retrieve it. If I had a sit down seat he would have been more comfortable, more accurate, and I would not have lost productive docks or valuable fishing time. The point here is, find out where your Co-Angler is on this and be as accommodating as possible; it will only work to your advantage. I still do not own a sit down seat; however after this experience, I’m considering the purchase. Many would say that this is going to the extreme; however, if it betters my abilities to win a tournament, call it selfish, I’m going to explore the options.
These are some things that a Co-Angler and Boater should discuss, to help make for a smooth transition to getting the boat in the water. All these items are important to a Co-Angler and a Boater, so no matter what side of the coin you’re on at your next event try to remember some of these things and talk about them at the pre tournament meeting after you find out who you’ll be fishing with. Next I’ll talk about some of the many things that anglers should discuss while in the boat waiting on blast off!
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