Most of the pros talk about studying lake maps, calling local tackle shops and doing internet research to prepare for their upcoming season. That's fine because they fish many different lakes all over the country. However, to me this information is kind of useless because I only fish 3 or 4 lakes a year. As a matter of fact, most of the anglers I know only fish a few lakes a year. More... We have become familiar enough with these lakes to eliminate map study and such. If you are fishing a lake for the first time, by all means, get a map and use it for as long as you feel you need it. I used maps of the lakes I fish for a couple years until I felt comfortable without them. Having said that, I would like to talk about some things to prepare you for the tournament season that would apply to both amateur and professional anglers.
The most important thing in preparing for tournaments is making sure your gear is in good shape, especially your boat, rods and reels. Following is a list of things I do to make sure they are in good working condition. I continue to do this several times a year due to the frequency of use.
- Check for any hairline fractures. A broken rod is a useless one.
- Make sure your cork is in good shape.
- Check all guides and tip. Run a cotton ball through them and if it snags, you need to sand down or replace the guide. Snags lead to broken line.
- Clean rod and eyes to remove any dirt.
- Remove all old line.
- Clean exterior with a good product designed for reels. I like Ardent products.
- Take apart and completely clean insides.
- Grease the gears lightly, don't gum them up.
- Lightly oil any moving parts such as handles, spools, roller balls.
- On baitcasters, make sure the line guide is smooth and clean any dirt out of it.
- Put new line on all reels. Write down what line you have on each reel so if you don't like the setup, you'll know not to use it again.
The other equipment you need to prepare is your lures. Here are some of the things I do.
- Touch up any paint you feel is necessary. I do this on some baits, but mostly I like them beat up and rough looking.
- On heavily used baits, change the hooks. I prefer Owners on lipped crankbaits, and Mustad Triple Grip on lipless. I change factory hooks on everything except Lucky Craft.
- Make sure the split rings aren't bent.
- Sand the diving lip if it's beat up. This will help it dive.
Spinnerbaits, Buzzbaits and Jigs:
- Sort by size
- Sort by color
- Sharpen hooks
- This may sound silly, but make sure they haven't melted in storage before you throw them in your bag.
- Arrange them so they are easy for you to find. A previous article recommends using a cake pan that you can get at WalMart or Target and it works great. I carry about 50 plastic bait bags in one of these.
- If you have several bags of particular bait, consolidate them into one to save space.
I used to be a lure fanatic. I would buy everything just to try it. Those days are gone! I try new lures occassionaly, but I mostly know what works well where I fish and what I am comfortable with. Here is what I carry for lure storage in my boat to tournaments.
- A Shimano bag that holds four boxes in it and has a front pocket, 2 side pockets, and a zipper pocket in back. In the boxes I have one for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, one for flipping jigs, one for football jigs, and one for smaller buzzbaits, inline spinners, hair jigs and bucktails. The side pockets hold extra blades, trailer hooks, sharpie markers and scent. The front pocket holds plastic trailers and pork trailers. Tha back zipper holds my caplight, scissors and pliers.
- Two Falcon hook utility boxes. One holds shakey heads, drop shots, and other finesse type hooks and sinkers. The other holds heavy hooks and sinkers for Carolina and Texas rigging.
- 2 Plano utility boxes. I like to make these season specific as far as colors and types of lures, but generally it is this. One for deep diving crankbaits. One for other crankbaits, topwaters, lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits.
- 1 cake pan for all my plastics.
So, to sum it up, I carry one bag, 4 utility boxes, and 1 cake pan. This really helps me decide what to use on the water by limiting my choices to only the lures I am comfortable with and I know work.
Last but not least, you need to make sure your boat, trolling motor, and electronics are in goodworking condition. I change my lower unit oil, start the boat in the driveway and let it idle for a few minutes. I also put it in and out of forward and reverse gear. Be sure to keep up with regular maintenance on your boat. I just turn my electronics and trolling motor on to make sure they're working after being stored for a couple months.
Everyone has their own preseason rituals which may or may not include things in this post. These are some of my practices, but I am a firm believer in doing whatever works best for you. Have a happy and safe tournament season!