Improving your bass tournament fishing skills can be difficult. I hear anglers complain all too often that they feel as if they have leveled off and that they are not improving anymore. There are several things that an angler can do to help improve his or her skill set. Among them, and what I think is the biggest, is “Seat Time”. Getting on the water and fishing. Nothing improves an angler more than time on the water. However, that time on the water has to be quality time.
When I say quality time, I’m talking about those times that the fishing is not easy, those times when you really have to work to get a bite. On a day with serious post front conditions, blue bird skies, a strong north wind, and a falling water temperature; that’s when you’re going to learn the most. For many anglers, these are the days that they stay home, not wanting to get out in the cold knowing that getting five bites will be a good day. However, these are the kind of days that once mastered, will win tournaments. Just because we all have such great luck, it’s also this kind of day that tournaments typically fall on. Or, if you’re fishing a multi day bass tournament during the fall, winter, or spring, you can be sure that at least one day is going to be like this.
Get on the water in tough post front conditions and practice. Learn to try different presentations, and experiment with different tools for the given water and weather conditions. You can build a skill set to use when you’re faced with these conditions on tournament day.
Stand around a tournament weigh in and listen. You will hear anglers complain about how they caught fish last weekend when it was nice, but “the weather shut them down”. That same tournament though, anglers caught bass, and even weighed in nice stringers. So did the weather shut the bass down, or just change where, and how, they were feeding?
Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s get to what I want to convey here. At tournament weigh-ins, anglers are talking. Most won’t stop long enough to let someone else get in a word. It’s these anglers that had great patterns set up and “were” going to win the tournament. It’s also at this point that these anglers will describe in detail how they were catching them. So it’s worth listening too, as secrets are given up. But, more importantly, you can file away what they were doing and know that it didn’t work when the bass were in a negative feeding mood. Using their experience you can rule out tools, area, presentations, and many other things that were not effective.
At the same time, you want to make sure to listen to the anglers that did catch bass. These anglers won’t be as free with their information; however, if you see them on the water, you can couple what they say with what you saw, and put the truth together. This all ties back into seat time; entering tournaments, getting on the water, chasing bass, no matter the conditions.
If you try and squeeze information out of guides or anglers that consistently do well, they will tell you to pay your dues. Well, what is paying your dues? Paying your dues is getting on the water and digging for the most effective pattern. It’s fishing tournaments and keeping your eyes open and watching. It’s standing around at weigh-ins when you know you’re not going to take a check, just to listen to the anglers that just beat you. Over time, things will start to click. When you see certain anglers constantly flipping heavy vegetation, and on certain water and weather conditions they win the tournament, a light bulb should go off. If you see that same angler doing the same thing, but fails to do well in the tournament, again, another light bulb should go off. To a small degree, you just learned when the vegetation bite is good, and when it’s not. On the day the flipper flushed the tournament, who did do well? Was it the crankers? The riggers? The jiggers? Keep in mind, most consistent anglers are versatile. You have to be versatile to be consistent in our sport. However, many anglers have their passion, and spending time on the water to learn what specific anglers like to do and when they do well at it should teach you something. You’re not going to learn these things if you don’t pay your entry fees and get out there on the water, paying your dues!
This is not to tell you to follow the anglers that are consistently winning around the lake, but there is nothing wrong with taking note of where you saw them, what you saw them doing, and then using your skills to duplicate that somewhere else.
The biggest thing I want to convey here is that you need seat time to get better. You also need to keep your mouth shut at weigh-in, and your ears open. Listen to what everyone has to say, even those that didn’t do well. There is much to be learned at weigh-in. Even if you won the tournament, learning what other anglers were attempting but failed is a lesson in itself for you.
So, get on the water when it’s tough, and figure out how to catch bass. Then enter tournaments and pay your dues, but don’t waste that money; make sure to learn as much as you can while everyone is proving who is the best angler. The best way to do that is to watch and listen.
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