High school fishing tournaments are getting more popular, and tournaments are only going to get larger in numbers. The recent B.A.S.S. High School regional on Lake Chickamauga had more than 340 boats. That’s almost 700 anglers and another 340 boat captains. High school fishing has arrived. If you’re a high school angler you need to be mentally prepared to fish in tournaments with a large number of boats.
First and foremost, don’t get psyched out about there being a large number of anglers. Anglers can be intimidated by a large number of boats, but if you’ll keep these concepts in mind you will be ready to compete. And let’s face it, it is pretty fulfilling to do well in a big event and say you’ve beaten a hundred, two hundred, or three hundred-plus teams
- Get an early start on the day. Get there early and launch. If you are allowed to put in at another ramp and drive over by boat that can ease the stress of a busy launch ramp, too. Avoiding the rush can keep you in a sound mental state of mind.
- Preparation is critical. Any time that you can save by having an extra rod rigged up or know exactly where all your baits are stored can mean extra time fishing and extra weight at the end of the day.
- Do a lot of research on what weights usually win tournaments on the fishery. Regardless of the lake conditions on tournament day, with a large number of boats someone is probably going to catch that much weight.
- During practice look for some off-the-wall techniques and honey holes to win the tournament but only after you’ve established what the majority of the fish are doing. The prevailing pattern is most likely going to be what wins the day, but there are exceptions.
- Always fish what you and your partner have confidence in, either from past history or developed during practice. Make sure and communicate with your boat captain so they know what you’re comfortable fishing. Your boat captain may think the fish could be caught skipping jigs under docks, but if you’ve never done that then during a tournament is a tough time to start. There can be lots of highs and lows mentally throughout the day so confidence is a big help.
- Don’t mess around after takeoff fishing your way to your best spot. Go directly to your best spot. This is called the “juice.” Going to the most-likely spot to catch fish will start the day off right and will also clue you in on what the fish are doing. It’s possible they’ve changed since practice and might be willing to bite another bait instead of what you caught them on earlier. If you stop short of the “juice” and another boat beats you to it then you’ll be kicking yourself for a long time.
- Assume the other guys in the event have found the same fish you have. I know on the Bassmaster Elite Series that principle never fails. Don’t be disappointed to have to share an area.
And finally, just remember that except for a little more boat traffic the fish will still be hanging around their normal areas and don’t know if there are 25 boats or 200 in your tournament – they’re still doing what they normally do. The growth of high school fishing is awesome and makes me very happy to be a part of it.
From a personal note, I host an annual tournament for Kentucky anglers and this year’s date is Sept. 27. It has grown each year, and we might crack 100 anglers this year. Also, one of my sponsors, Mud Hole Custom Tackle, and I have put together a program where I team rod-building classes. It is a great way to equip your team with quality products, and it also has potential for helping you raise money. Visit my website, www.bradleyroy.com, for more information.