The makings of a good pre-fish

As we start pre-fishing for the Bassmaster Classic, I think it's a good time to discuss the key things I'm looking for during any given pre-fish. There really is a lot more to it than catching fish or getting bites. When I pre fish I'm trying to do a number of things that will help me put a tournament game plan together or give me alternative options during the event.

The first thing I want to do is understand what stage the fish are in. I want to know if the fish are going to be staying deep or shallow or in the process of moving from deep to shallow or shallow to deep. This is especially important at this time of year.

I want to know more than where the fish are right now. I want to know what they are about to do, if anything. During a good pre-fish I can usually predict within a few days of what stage the fish are in. It's important to remember that fish are animals and are very predictable.

Two years ago in New Orleans, on the final day of practice, I got just a few bites in an area —far less than other areas I practiced in —but I knew with the weather pattern and the way the fish were acting that a few days later that spot was going to be good.

Predicting the stage the fish are in is just the beginning. From there, I try to narrow down my bait selections. I'll start with 12 to 14 baits, and if I can narrow that down to five or less, that's a good thing. If I can narrow it down to one or two, that's a great thing.

Lastly, I want to know what the water conditions are in every area of the lake. I need to know water clarity, water temperature and grass availability.

For lakes I don't know much about I want to know what options there are, like docks, rocky banks or rock jetties. Plus, I want to know if there are submerged brush or rock piles, and where they are.

By knowing the water conditions and what is available during the tournament, I can make better decisions. If I get a pattern going, I'll know where to find new water similar to what's working. If things go south, I'll have options for a change to the game plan. Having options in the game plan is especially important when fronts are coming or going.

With regard to Grand Lake, I'm excited about it. Grand Lake is a mix between a western lake and an eastern lake. It's a lot like a giant Lake Castaic, but it has elements that remind me of lakes back east as well.

I'll be trying to get a quick blog in each day next week, starting on Monday.