Pre fishing for a bass tournament means different things to different people. The concepts behind effective pre fishing are as varied as the opinions on which bait to use. However, something that we all do, or should be doing, is our home work. Deciding what time of year it is, and what bass should be doing. Then we prepare our equipment to match seasonal patterns. Correct seasonal baits, tied with proper line, all on proper action rods. This is all the easy stuff that we read about constantly, and have some experience to help us make these calls. The hard part is putting it all together and devising a productive bass catching pattern on the water.
Some people believe you have to try a bunch of different baits. Trying to find that special something that no one else finds, or a special way of working baits that no one else will be doing. While finding that secret bait can work to your advantage, it is difficult to come by and uses a lot of time to find, especially if you haven’t found feeding fish in the first place.
For me, pre fishing for a tournament is more about finding feeding bass. Most anglers know where they should be and what they should be feeding on. The trick is presenting them a bait to see what the fastest mode of fishing I can use is. Why use a drop shot when they will hit crank baits. To win tournaments, you have to use your time wisely. By putting your baits in front of the most bass, you will put more bass in the livewell. Using the fastest possible pattern is one of the best ways to do this.
First we need to find the bass. Using seasonal patterns, electronics, and presenting different baits, eventually you’ll either catch a bass or not. Both, catching and not catching can tell an angler, who is paying attention, a lot about what the bass are doing. A simple example, you are working a Texas rigged worm in a brush piles and not getting a strikes, finally as your winding your Texas rig back to the boat you get a strike. Obviously they want something moving faster. This is a very obvious example but each fish can tell you things about the bite if you pay attention.
Once I’ve found the bait that will catch bass on the given day; I’ll adjust depths, cover, and structure to see how effective it is. Many anglers say once you’ve found something bass will strike that you should put it down and look for something else when pre-fishing. I disagree. I’ll use the presentation bass have proven willing to strike, to help me find more feeding bass. It doesn’t make sense to me to use your local knowledge or electronics to find more bass and then throw something different. In doing this, you could be passing up quality fish. First I’ll use the pattern I know has been working, then once I prove I have found more feeding bass, I’ll look for something else they might strike that moves faster. How many times have you sat on schools of fish and did not get a bite, either because they were not feeding or maybe not even the correct species? I’ll use the bait I know bass will strike to prove my pattern, prove the species, and finally sample the size. Then I’ll try something different once I know I have found what I’m looking for. This is not saying that you should keep catching bass out of the same location. Once you’ve proved the area is a worthy location, move to find more locations. Don’t sit on it trying to find out just how many different types of bait you can get them to eat.
Pre fish is the time I want to try different areas to verify a pattern. If I have time, I’ll cover as much water as I can so that I don’t second guess myself when the clock is ticking. There is nothing worse than the “could have, should have, and would have”. Before the tournament starts I have several areas that are producing bass, not just areas that should produce bass because they are similar to what’s worked elsewhere on the lake. Finding similar areas (structure, cover, and geographical locations) is vital to a pattern and these are areas that should be inspected in pre fish not during the tournament.
My goal in pre fishing is to find as many actively feeding bass that I can. The more bass I have found in pre fish, the better my chances to fill the livewell and cull to the biggest stringer I can. More important to me than the bait I’m going to use is the location of the most bass. Depth is a vital key to me, but it’s only part of the puzzle. If my pre fishing was successful, during the tournament, I only need to adjust to current conditions to continue catching bass.
Just some food for thought while you’re on the water pre fishing for your next tournament.
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