Packing up to head south

Happy New Year to all of you! The start of the new tournament season is right around the corner, and I’ve been spending most of my spare time prepping for what lies ahead. In addition to the Bassmaster Elite Series this year, I’m going to fish the Bassmaster Eastern Opens as well, same as I have for the past several years.

That means the first two tournaments I fish this year will take place in Florida, first on the Harris Chain for the Open and then on the St. John’s River for the first Elite event. With the first two tournaments being so close together, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how I prepare for a tournament in the weeks leading up to it. 

The first thing I keep an eye on leading up to a tournament is the weather. Obviously Florida is a lot warmer than most of the country in January, and there’s a good chance there could be some fish spawning already if the weather is right when we arrive.

I watch the low temperatures just as closely as the highs because it sometimes takes a cool snap followed by a few warm days consecutively to trigger a spawn down there. Another very important thing to watch is moon phase. Say what you want, and I’m no biologist, but there will be some fish spawn on the full moon in late January in Florida. It’s just a fact. 

Another thing I keep an eye on is water levels. We’ve had record amounts of rain around my house in Tennessee this winter, and it’s relevant to know if they’ve had that same thing going on in Florida. Both the Harris Chain and the St John’s River are fisheries that I’ve been to before, but with different water levels they would both be like competing on a brand new body of water. Places I have caught fish in the past may or may not help me this time around. If the water is higher or lower, I need to keep that in mind during my research. 

Another thing I will do is spend time looking at Google Earth images of the bodies of water. I’ll look at places I’ve fished in the past and also look for new places I’ve never been before or I may have overlooked the last time I was there. It’s rare that you can go back and fish the same places year after year and do well. Typically, at least in my experience, you have to find something new. 

Tackle and gear prep is, of course, always important and with this being the first couple events in my new Phoenix boat it takes quite a bit of extra time. Of course I’ve got some new MHX rods I built ready to go, and I can hardly wait to put them to work in the Sunshine state.  

I really look forward to this part of the year every season. It’s like starting all over with a clean slate. I’m more excited about this season than I have ever been about one. Coming off a good season last year I hope to just keep building on those good finishes.

I couldn’t think of a better place to kick it all off than with back-to-back tournaments in the great state of Florida. After all, who doesn’t like wearing flip flops and shorts in January?