As I got ready for the Bass Pro Shops Eastern Open at the Kissimmee Chain, and my competition against fellow co-anglers, I continued to check the weather forecast for packing purposes. I decided on a little of everything, just like I’ll prepare my tackle. All three jerseys get packed, hoodie, long sleeve and short sleeve. Shorts and pants … who really knows, it’s Florida in February.
As for the gear, well, as a co, I’m not dragging a 20-foot tackle box behind me loaded with 30 rods and dozens of boxes. In fact, when I leave the truck, I will be limited to six rods and one decent sized tackle bag … one that will hold about five 3700 series boxes and a couple of fist-fulls of soft plastics in pouches.
The back of the truck will have eight to 10 rods ready, and more tackle than I can take on the boat, but what choice do I have? Are we fishing bedding fish? Grass? An open water hump? Toho? East Toho? A canal? Kissimmee? That’s all up to my pro … my job is to be ready to react. About the only thing I think I’m certain of is that we won’t be hitting any 25-foot deep ledges, so the Big Lips will stay home.
Another thing I consider is the three fish strategy versus the five fish the guys on the bow are trying to boat. It may not seem like that big a deal, but that’s a creel limit 40 percent less than the pros. One serious anchor fish on Thursday and Friday can go a long way towards messing up my Saturday travel plans … a problem I hope to have. Instead of needing two big 'uns, two good ones and one to fill the limit, now it’s one of each. You see what I’m saying.
It’s also critical to understand the difference from fishing as a partner from the back versus a co from the back. Even though I’m not competing with my pro in the standings, I can’t expect him to invite me to the front and target the best areas with him, like my team partner would. So I need to be prepared to use the water I have, in many cases used water, to my advantage. Show ‘em something different, in a different way. And don’t be afraid to hit that same spot, once the captain has moved on. So I’ll have some different colors ready, some shaky heads – big shaky heads in this case – and maybe a few jerkbaits ready.
What is most important, though, will be that meeting with the pro the night before each competition day. First, I have to earn the confidence of my guy, so he feels comfortable sharing what our strategy for the day will be. Then, I need to pack properly, leaving myself as many options as possible. That means mixing some of those boxes. I don’t need every bladed jig I have and every jerkbait or topwater … just a good, healthy mix.
Finally, make sure you have some cash ready, $40 or $60 for gas. Be honest with your pro and offer to help cover that cost. And most of all, enjoy yourself.
Thom Abraham is the host of Bassmaster Radio. He is fishing the Eastern Opens as a co-angler in 2018.