Prepare to win

We're a quarter of the way through the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season, and I'm in 53rd place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. As you might guess, that's not where I want to be, but it's still early. I'm not discouraged, and I'm finding it easy to stay motivated and focused. Things could be a lot worse, and I know I'll post stronger finishes in the upcoming events.

Right now, I'm at home preparing for our next tournament, the Ramada Quest at Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas. I finished sixth there last year after a really slow start. It was the beginning of my turning the 2012 season around after finishing 90th and 63rd in two Florida tournaments. So, as you can imagine, I'm really looking forward to Bull Shoals.

I'm also looking forward to changing gears with my column. I want "Maintaining the Pace" to be more than just about me and what's going on in my life and my fishing. I want it to benefit you as a bass angler.

And since preparation is very much on my mind right now, I'm going to start with that. I think most anglers probably don't spend enough time on preparation, and sometimes that's not their fault. If you've got a job or a family or both, you may not have the time or energy to put in as much time on preparation as you'd like to or need to in order to be more successful.

The irony is that the less time you have to prepare and fish, the more you need to prepare so you can make the most of your fishing time. Preparation for a Bassmaster Classic or Elite Series event is different than preparing for a club event or a Saturday of fun fishing, but preparation is very important anytime at all.

For me, preparation is at least as mental as it is physical. I like spending time in my boat even if it's sitting on the trailer. It's a great place to think about my next day on the water or my next tournament. For an Elite event, I probably spend a full day or two just working on my gear and boat.

Part of that time is spent undoing whatever I was doing at the last event. I usually have to swap out a lot of tackle between one tournament and the next, and that will be especially true as I transition between Falcon Lake and Bull Shoals. From the perspective of a tournament angler, those two waters have very little in common.

One of the first things I'll do is change out line, taking off the heavy braid from Falcon and getting the rods and reels I plan to use set up with 8- to 15-pound-test fluorocarbon for Bull Shoals. I'll also update my electronics to make sure I have the right maps and software ready to go.

Of course, there's always basic maintenance for my boat and motors. I have a checklist that I run through with all that, and I do all I can to make sure everything is in peak working order before I ever pull out of my driveway. I need to be able to concentrate on my fishing rather than on whether or not my equipment is going to work.

That kind of preparation is very basic, but vital. Next time, I want to cover my way of preparing tackle — especially rods, reels, lines and lures — for a practice day, tournament or even a fun day on the water. It's a system I think will work for you, too.

Cliff's notes:

When you think about it, who really needs to be better prepared, the guy who gets to go fishing 300 days per year or the guy who fishes three days per year?