Preparation never really leaves the mind of a professional fisherman. But the preparation I’ve been doing lately has little to do with figuring out exact fishing patterns or thinking about the lakes we’re going to fish next year.
Rather, I’ve been busy getting my new Skeeter boat ready for the 2018 season. After several years of running the FX20, I moved up to the FX21 with a Yamaha SHO for next year. The tradeoff will be a little more stability in rough waters with about a mile per hour less speed.
I think this was a good move, but regardless, the process of prepping a new boat remains a significant part of my offseason. Some guys sell their boats as soon as the season’s over, but I opt for keeping mine until I have my new one fully rigged so I’m never unable to go test a new bait or go fun fishing with friends.
That probably slows the process a little, and I’m sure I could have been farther along in my rigging process if I didn’t have the option to go fishing whenever I want. But I’m staying on top of the rigging process with at least an hour a day of solid work time.
As for the preparation process, most recently, I’ve been installing mounts for my electronics. That’s something that requires special mounts because I run double large Garmin units at my console and up front. Those big units won’t fit in any bass boat with standard equipment, so I have to order mounts from Precision Sonar.
Elsewhere, I’m ordering accessories like a locker bar and a T-H Marine Troll Tamer, which is a really important item for me. After doing this for so many years, I’ve developed a checklist of what’s important for me, so I spend the offseason making sure I’m properly outfitted for the following season.
For all my rigging, I guess you can say that I’m Mr. Overkill because I believe in through-bolting anything I can, as opposed to using a screw into fiberglass. On the Bassmaster Elite Series, we frequently find ourselves in big waters, and we don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’m just going to stay inshore today.”
These conditions can be very hard on your equipment, so the more you can through bolt things the better. My electronics mounts are a good example; they’re not just screwed into the fiberglass, they’re through bolted for ultimate stability.
Another example: I add extra bolts to my trolling motor mount. The standard setup is four, and they are through bolted, but I add two holes and put bolt number 5 and bolt number 6 in there.
Now, as many years as I’ve been with Skeeter, I’ve come to appreciate what a solidly built boat this is. For the majority of anglers, these boats leave the factory ready to hit the lake. I’m just extra careful because of the atypical demands I’ll put on my boat during an average tournament season.
I can’t afford to break down or lose any element of my equipment due to the pounding of rough water or the extreme wear and tear of fishing all over the country. So I’m trying to pre-empt any possible mishap that can cost me fishing time.
I guess, for me, the offseason rigging process is all about taking a great boat and making it Elite Series ready. When the 2018 season begins, you can bet that I’ll be ready to compete at the highest level. I expect the same from my boat.