Talk with your Co-Angler

Mike Cork in the Hot Seat at ABA Nationals

Tournament bass fishing presents the opportunity to fish with many different co-anglers from all walks of life. Most of these anglers will have different views, opinions, and abilities. While this can be challenging at times, under the right perspective it can also be rewarding. You’ll meet people that may be a fantastic connection later in life, learn a new technique, or make a lifelong friend. There are a few things I’ve learned that help ensure you have a great day on the water with the angler you were just paired up with in the 200 angler draw, and I’ll cover a couple of them. My last blog was about things you need to cover with your partner at the pairing meeting. I’m going to talk more about things you can or need to discuss between the time you meet up in the morning and the time your boat number is called for morning blast off. These items can help you be a better boater or a better co angler.

The first thing I like to do is layout the boat. I like to explain, where their bass go when caught, where the cooler is for drinks and lunch, and how to store their equipment (rods and tackle) safely. Remember it’s your boat, and you know where things will present a problem when running down the lake or while fishing. Take a few minutes and explain where you keep your equipment and how you utilize it. Take me, for example, one of my storage boxes requires me to stand on the lower deck of the boat to utilize it. If a co angler continually puts his equipment in this small section of the floor, not only will I not be able to easily access my equipment but over time, it will change the attitude of the whole day. Taking a few minutes to describe these type of things can really help. At first it may seem like your being obsessive, but believe me knowing each other’s needs and building a working relationship up front will make a huge difference. As a Co Angler, if the boater doesn’t cover these things it is always good to ask questions. Having something blow out of the boat on morning blast off will make for a bad start to what is expected to be a fun day.

Next is backing the boat into the water. As a boater, backing up a trailer is second nature, we never give any thought as to whether anyone else can do it. Be sure to ask your co angler if he/she knows how to back up a trailer. In the dark, with 100 other boats using the ramp; is the worst time to learn for anyone. If need be, as a boater, back the boat to the water’s edge and make sure it’s straight. Your co angler will have a better than average chance of being able to handle it from there.

Next I like to go over rules of the boat. Again, this may seem obsessive, however, if you’re constantly seeing your partner do things in or to your boat that you don’t like it’s going to wear on you. Explain your expectations or rules up front, so your co angler knows what to or not to do and this doesn’t eat at you throughout the day. Most anglers treat their boat as a tool; it’s part of what they need to fish bass tournaments. Mine is much more than that to me; it’s a source of income. I sell my boat each year and purchase a new one. Any profit between the two is mine to keep. Keeping my boat in perfect, or as near perfect, condition as I can means money in my pocket. I ask my partners to respect that by not standing on the gunnels or the seats. I tell them, “once you find the motor with your bait, please remember where it is and don’t repeatedly hit it”. I’ll discuss how I’m not the most organized angler, but I do try. If you need to be on the front deck, please be cautious of my rods and not step on them. These are all little things that a co angler may not know or understand unless told. Save yourself some heart ache and explain these things up front, so your position is clear. If these things aren’t as important to you, then don’t stress on them. I have had co anglers give my boat a whip lashing, step on and break rods, hook seats and pull the stuffing out while trying to hide it from me. I even had one break a windshield while trying to heave a Carolina rig with a 1.5 ounce weight.

Now to the really important discussions. “Can you net a bass?” Talk with your partner and find out what their netting abilities are. Find out how they like to have their bass netted and this will tell you if you’ll want them to net your bass for you. This is my example. If my partner tells me to net his fish as soon as it gets near the boat, I more than likely won’t have them net my bass. If he/she tells me that I like to play it out some and when the bass is wore out I’d like you to scoop it up, well then we are in line with each other and I could probably have them net my bass. I tell my partners to be ready with the net, and when I say go, then net the bass. This does two things. First I’m ready for when the net will be coming and can adjust to a bass that makes a last minute dive because I know the net is coming. Second, if the bass gets knocked off with the net and I told them to go for it, it’s no one’s fault but my own. More often than not I put the net between us and I land all my own fish. In a recent event, the angler I was fishing with had trouble getting from the back deck to the front deck to help net my bass. In this case, I left the net on the front deck with me. I netted my own and his fish. This is just something you want to have decided before that 5 pound bass is jumping and splashing at the side of the boat.

After I’ve covered all this with my partner, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty. I’ll describe what I’m going to be doing for the day. In my last blog, I talked about how you didn’t want to disclose too much information at the pre tournament meeting but now it’s time to lay it out. My last event is a perfect example of why. I had a run and gun pattern. I was hitting as many docks as possible with a specific presentation. I moved quite often, and time moving is lost fishing time, so I would finish a dock and dart to the next one. With an angler that was slow to get packed up, he needed lead time to be ready to move when I was. We discussed what I was doing, and he decided he would leave his life jacket on, and if I would let him know 3 to 4 casts before I was ready to move he would get packed up and be ready. This worked out great, and I greatly appreciate his efforts. Had we not discussed this I may have lost valuable time waiting for him to get ready when traveling between docks. Most co anglers want to catch bass as well, they trust that you have found a pattern that will work and that you’ll do your best to keep the boat on fish. This translates into co anglers honestly wanting to be involved and do what they can to make for a productive day. However, if they don’t understand what’s going on, then there is no way they can do their part. It only helps you as the boater to let them in on the game plan for the day.

While I have written this from a boaters perspective it’s great information for a Co Angler as well. If your boater doesn’t cover some of these items with you, ask! All they can do is decline to answer. Very seldom will that happen though. Remember everyone is pumped and ready to catch the winning stringer. Our minds are focused on that little green fish we affectionately chase called the bass. Asking questions back and forth between a boater and co angler will only make the experience better.

Get the Net it’s a Hawg
Mike Cork
Ultimate Bass
Legend Boats
Mercury Marine
Dobyn’s Rods
Power Pole
Elite Tungsten

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