When it comes to tournament fishing, whether you're competing in a club against your buddies or casting for the big cash on the Elite Series, off-season preparation is a big deal and vitally important to your success. You know what they say: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
One successful Elite pro who's always looking to improve his performance on the water is 11-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Brent Chapman. After back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the last two Classics, Chapman is ready to move up four spots and then have a big year in the Elites. To do that, he knows he needs to prepare, and his three-step system works for him. It could work for you, too, and part of it will definitely surprise you.
You may be shocked to learn that Chapman hasn't done much of any bass fishing since the last Elite event of the 2011 season. That was back in June! For the affable Kansas pro, getting away from things for a while is an important aspect of getting ready.
"Once the season's over, I put my stuff away," says Chapman, who only takes his boat and tackle out again when sponsor commitments or other obligations require. "It keeps me from getting burned out and gets me fired up before the new season comes around."
Chapman's interests turn to family time and deer hunting when the Elite season ends. He always enjoys time with family, but he uses deer season (and especially bow season) to keep himself mentally sharp for bass tournaments.
"For me, bow hunting is a lot like tournament fishing," he says. "There's scouting, time preparing gear and lots of time outdoors. In fact, all the time I spend outside for deer season helps to prepare my body for the early tournaments when it's cold. I feel like it gives me an edge over some of the other competitors who have been inside all winter."
For the first time in his life, Chapman (who turns 40 in 2012) is working with a professional trainer in the off-season. But it's not just any trainer. This one is also a tournament angler, so he has great insight into the rigors of competitive fishing and the demands placed on an angler's body.
"I plan to be in the best shape of my life when the 2012 season rolls around," Chapman says. "I've always worked out and been active, but a trainer will help me to be more disciplined and to get more out of my workouts. As you get older, that's important."
In addition to the scheduled and demanding workouts with his trainer, Chapman spends time on his deer hunting property, getting it into shape for the winter. Hours lugging around a chainsaw will make hefting a rod and reel seem easy. He'll also get out on the water and do some fishing as the Classic approaches.
"It usually just takes a few days of fishing for me to get my muscle memory and hand-eye coordination ready for competition," Chapman says, acknowledging that other anglers may require more time to prepare adequately.
The third aspect of Chapman's preparation triangle is organization. The off-season is when he places orders for new gear and makes sure the tackle he already has is in peak shape and properly stored in his boat.
"The more organized you are, the more efficient you are," he says. " You save time, and that means more casts."
Chapman's organization doesn't just apply to rods, reels, lines and lures, but to tools and spare parts as well. He knows that time spent looking for a screwdriver is time he could be catching a kicker bass that will make a difference at the weigh-in.
Ultimately, Chapman realizes that his preparation methods aren't for everyone. They work for him. Something else may be better for you, and it's up to you to find it.