One thing that I’ve done over the years that I think has helped me in tournaments is to fish in practice like a maniac. When I go down a bank or a structure line of some sort, I fish everything I can, from every angle I can and with darn near everything in my boat.
I fish fast. I don’t stop to admire my fish and I don’t waste time congratulating myself for catching one that big. I do, however, take the time to note every detail of my catch. What lure, what color, exactly where I threw it and how I worked it are things I want to remember. That’s because they’ll make the difference when the tournament starts.
Conditions change during a tournament. Sometimes it’s obvious stuff like rain, snow, wind and storms. But other times it’s something less obvious. How long has it been warm? How long has it been cold? What’s the barometer doing, and for how long has it been doing it? Regardless of whether those things are obvious or not, they can move the fish around and have an effect on the bite. You have to deal with that if you expect to win.
The way you deal with it is by not forming a fixed pattern in your mind. It’s much better to form a loose pattern that you can adjust as the tournament goes along. When I say that I’m not contradicting my prior columns when I wrote about having multiple patterns in place before the competition starts. Multiple patterns simply means you have a place to start. It’s something better than wandering around aimlessly looking for something to fish.
If the better fish are on the inside edge of the stumps in fairly shallow water, you need to know that. But you also need to know something about what else is around so that if they move you’ll know where to start looking for them. And, you need to have an idea of what they might be biting.
That’s why I say it’s so important to fish like a maniac. Keep going. Do not try to refine and learn every detail of everything. Let those things unfold later. Right now your job is to locate fish and analyze the surrounding area. Have a general idea of where to go and a general idea of what the fish will be doing when you get there.
This is really an important thing for us to keep in mind. One of the reasons for my poor start this year is that I got out of the habit of fishing that way in practice. I honestly think I tried to learn too much. I haven’t done that in the past and the past was much better.
Sometimes it’s good to review the fundamentals and take stock of what has worked for us in the past. No one — not me, not you, not your partner — is immune from paying the price for forgetting about the basics of this sport and how to compete in it.