Practice Makes Perfect

I'm on my way to fish Lake Murray after a short break with my family. We — my wife Sherry, the kids and I — went to New York and visited the Natural History Museum and Ground Zero. We also saw a Broadway show. It was a much needed break after several tournaments.

I thought with this post we might review some of my tournament preparations and schedule. Hopefully, what I do will help you develop the habits that'll help you catch more bass.

I should arrive at the tournament site late this evening (Sunday) and be in bed by 10 p.m. I'll get up tomorrow morning about 5 a.m. That'll give me about an hour before first light to get a little breakfast and head to the ramp. I'll follow that schedule every day.

My roommate, Scott Rook, has been to the grocery store, so we're in good shape there. I think nutrition is very important on the water. You've got to feed your body and your mind if you expect to be competitive. I can't understand how anyone fishes hard all day without eating. Your body and mind needs fuel just like your boat. If either one runs dry, you're in trouble.

We'll make at least two sandwiches for each day we fish. That's per angler. And, when I talk sandwiches, I mean the real thing. Good meat piled three inches high, with fresh cheese and fresh, nutritious bread. We don't mess around when it comes to food.

Along with the sandwiches I'll carry several granola bars and a couple of energy bars along with water — vitamin water — Gatorade and diet drinks. Like I said, we don't mess around with food. It's as important as anything I carry in the boat. Without it, I can't fish properly.

I'll spend most of Monday — the first day of official practice — riding around the lake taking everything in. I've fished Murray several times before at this time of the year, but that was a long time ago. I understand there's been a lot of development on the lake recently. There'll be lots of new houses and docks.

And, there's not as much grass as before. With all the rain they've had over the last few days — I've been watching The Weather Channel — that may affect the water clarity. I don't really care if it's clear or muddy, but I want to know before the tournament.

That's one thing I always do — watch the weather. I check it for at least two weeks before a tournament and every day during the tournament. Weather is one of the most important things to consider when developing a pattern. You have to know what it was and, as best you can, what it will be.

On Tuesday, I'll fish hard and try to develop my primary pattern for the tournament. If everything goes right, I'll know what I'm going to do when I return to the dock that evening.

I'll carry 25 rods and fish with every lure imaginable. I'll fish topwater with all sorts of lures, toss crankbaits and jerkbaits — hard and soft — and fish with a variety of bottom bouncers — my Red Eye Shads, jigs, worms and other lures.

I want to cover a lot of water and every depth available. The idea is to find something that suits my style of fishing. You have to find an area and a pattern that suits you and fish it thoroughly. I'd rather run and gun, but you fish where the tournament is.

On Wednesday, I'll develop patterns I don't expect to use. I call them patterns B, C, D and E. I want something to fall back on if the weather takes an unexpected turn or something else changes.

That's more important than many anglers realize. You've got to expect the unexpected and be prepared for it. This is a tough business. There are 107 Elite Series anglers out there who can fish and beat you on any given day. The only way to stay on top is to be prepared.

After I register on Wednesday afternoon, I'll open my FedEx package of lucky cookies from Sherry, take a hot shower, get something to eat and go to bed.

All of this is subject to change, of course.

The schedule I've mapped out works in a perfect world. But, the world isn't always perfect. If conditions are right, I might fish more on Monday and ride more on Tuesday. Or, if Tuesday doesn't produce a pattern I'm satisfied with, I might be forced to continue working on it on Wednesday.

We'll know Wednesday night, won't we?