11 Steps to Prepare for Your Next Bass Fishing Tournament

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Fishing tournaments can be a lot of fun but can also come with some degree of stress. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure you’re prepared before hitting the water. Whether it’s your first time competing or you’re a seasoned pro, there are some things you can do to alleviate some of the stress of fishing in a tournament.

Check out these 11 steps to prepare for your next bass fishing tournament. These tips will help you get ready mentally and physically for the challenge ahead.

1. Consider the tournament format. Most bass tournaments are five-fish limit tournaments. However, some tournaments opt for smaller three-fish limit tournaments because of time constraints or exceptional weather conditions like summertime heat that affects fish survival rates in livewells. Additionally, co-anglers usually have to fill a three-fish limit. There are even tournaments that are “big fish by the hour formats” or big bass-only events.

Knowing your fish quantity goal affects your strategy. Smaller limits may mean that you specifically target bigger fish with larger profile baits, for example. In sum, your strategy should reflect the tournament format.

2. Practice your casting. Casting practice may sound a little crazy, but hear me out.

Many anglers don’t have the luxury of being on the water as much as others. If you haven’t picked up a rod and reel in a while, grab one at home and start practicing days before the event.

By sharpening your casting skills, you’ll set yourself up for more efficiency on the water, which is key when time is short during a tournament. Accuracy is key when fishing in a tournament. You’ll want to be able to place your bait in the right spot every time.

3. Get organized. Being organized seems like a basic premise, but there’s more to the story. Make sure you have all of the necessary gear packed and ready to go before leaving for the tournament. That way, you won’t be scrambling to find something at the last minute.

Time is of the essence during a tournament. You simply can’t afford to be hunting every nook and cranny of your tackle box or boat for what you need. Rig EVERYTHING up in advance of the big day. Before the tournament, you’ll likely have a good idea of what lures and baits will work best for the given day.

4. Check your gear and tackle.

A. Line. Never underestimate the value of having fresh line on your reel. Nicks and abrasions in your line can wreak havoc on your fishing day. Although you don’t need new line for every tournament, checking your line to make sure it’s fresh and “vibrant” is essential to your success. Losing a fish as a result of line breakage can be devastating.

B. Tackle. Take a little time to sharpen or replace hooks. Hard plastics are particularly susceptible to dulling or aging. Replacing treble hooks can boost hook-up ratios immensely.

C. Line guides. Be sure to examine your rod’s line guides for nicks or dings. Little abnormalities can cause line abrasion, which can mean BIG problems.

Paying close attention to gear and tackle details can pay off in big ways.

5. Study the water conditions and locate good spots ahead of time. Practice and research will give you an advantage over your competitors, who may not take the time to plan accordingly.

Practice is key. If you can get on the water, do it. There is no substitute for time on the water. If you don’t have much time on your hands, check out this article, 5 Ways to Practice for a Tournament When Time is Short.

Take some time to learn about the area you’ll be fishing in. Understanding the types of prevalent bait, dominant cover, structure, and the overall lay of the fishery is vital to your success. The more you know about the area, the better your chances of success. If you’re fishing a new body of water, review How Do You Find Bass in a New Lake: 9 Proven Tips for some excellent insight from bassfishinginsider.com.

6. Be prepared physically. Fishing can be physically demanding, so it’s important to be in good shape for game day. By staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest, you’ll set yourself up for a better day of fishing.

Physical preparation starts DAYS BEFORE the actual tournament. Physical stamina and mental clarity can be two huge assets if you plan correctly. Hydrate a ton the day before the event. Stay away from sugar, including white bread, pasta, etc. Try to keep the blood sugar stable and steady. Balancing your diet can alleviate brain fog.

7. Set realistic goals. It’s important to set realistic goals for yourself before the tournament so you’re not disappointed if you don’t win first place. Instead, focus on enjoying the experience and doing your best.

Set your own goals that you can control. Outcome goals are dangerous in fishing since you can’t control other anglers and what they catch. You can only measure things in your control like being prepared, adapting to conditions, and other relevant factors.

8. Boat and trailer prep: often overlooked. If you are fishing out of your own boat, it is CRUCIAL that you conduct basic checks on your boat and trailer well ahead of a tournament.

Establish a pre-tournament routine to check oil, tire pressure, hydraulic fluids, batteries, and other relevant mechanical concerns. I’ve been the victim of mechanical failure due to improper planning and have learned valuable lessons along the way. Take care of your stuff. Mechanical issues are no fun during a tournament.

9. Relax already. Relaxing may seem counterintuitive, but relaxing before the tournament is essential. Getting too worked up can hinder your performance by clouding your thinking and judgment. Plan on doing something relaxing the night before the event. Rest your mind because an intense focus on game day is your best ally.

10. Shut your eyes. Getting enough sleep seems like common sense. However, I’ve personally put myself through the wringer and “overfished” the day before a tournament, only to find that I’m completely worn out at take-off time on the first day of an event.

Getting a good night’s sleep before the tournament is crucial so you can be well-rested and ready to take on the challenges ahead.

11. Be the early bird. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the tournament site, so you don’t feel rushed or stressed when it’s time to start fishing.

Showing up just in time is a recipe for disaster. Cutting it close puts too much stress on the start of the day. Instead, build a cushion in case you need to take care of any last-minute issues.

Bonus Step

Remember to have fun. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself.

Be competitive but keep things in perspective.

We are all incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to be on the water for a fishing tournament. Approaching fishing and tournament with an “attitude of gratitude” can take you a long way in your journey to stay mentally tough.

You’ll perform better if you keep things in perspective and release the pressure from yourself.

Final Word

Fishing is a metaphor for life. You do your research, make your best presentation, and fish with confidence, knowing that you’ve prepared for the occasion to the best of your ability.