Planning for success

Compared to my rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series last year, I’m way ahead of schedule with my tournament preparation for 2019. I used to be a terrible planner, but my lack of preparation undermined my success as an Elite rookie. I’ve learned that planning is an essential part of being a professional bass angler.

Nobody can prepare you for what it takes to compete on the Elite Series. There’s much more to it than fishing nine or 10 events. Last year I was running around the country helter-skelter. When I got home after a tournament, there were so many things to catch up on I didn’t have time to fish until I left for the next event.

Just like any other sport, you can’t just show up on game day and expect to be at your best. It’s important to get on the water between tournaments to stay sharp and work on your weak points. By planning ahead this year, I have free fishing days marked on my calendar.

For example, I’ve scheduled time to fish Lake Kissimmee this year prior to the Elite tournament on the St. Johns River. That should give me a good tune-up for catching Florida bass.

The time crunch is tougher for just about any angler in his rookie Elite season. Most of us need substantial sponsor support to help with entry fees and traveling expenses. It takes months to build those essential relationships. Some contracts don’t come through until the last minute. The stress can be overwhelming.

There is much less stress this year because I’ve mainly had to firm up the sponsors I had last season. There are some new ones, too, but getting them wasn’t life or death.

I can look at my calendar now and have a pretty good idea of where I will be and what I will be doing on almost any given day next year. From now until the St. Johns tournament, every single day on my calendar is accounted for. I’ve already made reservations at campgrounds or motels for every 2019 Elite tournament.

I prefer to stay in my pickup camper whenever I can. It gives me a familiar home away from home, and I know exactly where everything is. Planning ahead has become a lifestyle. Being efficient helps me maximize my efforts and make more time for fishing throughout the year.

I’ve also done a much better job of tackle preparation. The main thing is that I started on it soon after the last Elite tournament I fished in 2018 on the St. Lawrence River. I went through every tacklebox I took with me last year and spent a week evaluating which baits to bring this year.

Most bass anglers are like pack rats. We always bring more baits than we need. But with me camping, I don’t have room for 200 pounds of soft plastics. If I didn’t use a bait last year and it’s not likely to be a player this year, it’s not going with me. I’ve reorganized the keepers and put them in new tackle boxes.

I’ve also ordered all the new baits I think I’ll need for the entire season. If I wait to order a bait just before a particular tournament, it might not be in stock.

I know pros who order their boat for the next season a year ahead of time. I ordered my new Phoenix 21 PHX two months ago. My calendar tells me I’m picking it up the first week in January. The calendar also says I’m getting it wrapped the following week by Wrapabull in Columbia, S.C. I’ve penciled in practice time for the third week in January before I leave for Florida.

Last year my rookie season wasn’t what I hoped it would be. By planning ahead and being better prepared this year, I’m confident that I’m going to make a splash this time around.