Back of the Boat: Gearing Up Part 3 of 3

Nearly every serious bass angler on the planet can open their own tackle shop. If we catch a fish or two on a bait we buy a dozen of them in colors like peanut butter and jelly, caramel sundae or electric chicken. But, do we need all this stuff? Does it really help us catch fish?

California co-angler, Tom Frink, winner of over $120,000 in 16 events, answers those questions with a yes … and a no.

"Before the tournament starts, I pack just about everything I own. That way I'll have what I need during practice and when the actual tournament starts," he says. "But once I'm on the water with my pro, I cut it down and only carry what I know I'm going to need — and that's not very much."

Everything he owns may be an exaggeration, but he does carry a lot of tackle. He'll typically pack a dozen casting rods and reels ranging from medium-light to heavy along with an equal number of spinning outfits. With them he'll include scores of hard baits, hundreds of plastics and a bunch of terminal tackle.

When he leaves home he's ready to catch fish from top to bottom and anywhere in between on any bait the bass find palatable.

During practice Frink tries to learn what patterns the pros are developing and then starts to whittle down his tackle inventory. "I try to catch a few fish with the things they'll be using," he says.

"These guys all find fish, and most of the time there's only a couple of patterns the pros are going to use. That's the way it is — at least in the Elite Series. But I still check with my pro the evening before we go out to get a good idea of what we'll be doing."

Once he has the general pattern down and has talked to his pro, Frink starts packing for competition. His typical selection begins with four rods and reels. He wants three that'll handle his bait selection with one reserved exclusively for drop shot rigs. That's it, no more.

He spools his reels with light line if the water's clear or the fish are finicky. If the water's dark or the bass are aggressive he spools heavy. He does not carry both.

Frink's lure selection is equally sparse. Everything he needs for the day is carried in a small tackle bag, just big enough to hold four Plano 3600 plastic boxes. He claims half the compartments will be empty.

"I only carry what I know I'll need and what I know I can catch fish with. You only have a few hours and you only need a few bites. Go with what you know," he says. "Most of the time I'll fish with something a little different than the pro — maybe smaller, maybe bigger or maybe at a different depth.

"But I don't believe in picking a different lure just because it's the thing to do. I know that's what a lot of guys say, but I think it depends upon the circumstances. If the fish are everywhere around us on a flat and Zell (Rowland) is using a popper and catching them, why would I throw a worm? That'd be stupid. I'm going to throw a popper behind the boat and catch them, too."

He does make one concession to experience, however. It's a rare day when he doesn't tote along a tiny plastic bait tied on a drop shot rig.

"Day in and day out it's the best rig to use behind a top pro angler. They don't miss many but the ones they do will usually bite a little plastic on a drop shot. It's good almost anywhere."