Ben Hudson – “Blue Collar Bassin’” 11/14/16
The art of pre-fishing, how much is too much??
A Tournament anglers guide to preparing for “game day”
It’s been an age old debate with tournament anglers, especially in local tournaments between fishing partners. How much practice is too much?? And is it even necessary at times. Did I not catch that bass on tournament day because it got hooked in practice? Did I hook too many bass in practice? Did I spook them by showing them my favorite baits in practice? All are very good questions, and questions that are asked around the nation and even worldwide in the wild world of competitive bass fishing.
The truth is, just like in football or basketball; too much practice can hurt you on game day when it all counts. If a football player wears himself out in practice, he will not perform at 100% when the real game starts. The same applies to bass fishing, if you “wear your fish out” and “condition” them to your favorite lures and techniques in the days before a tournament, it will no doubt make tournament day much more difficult for you. It is a struggle of balance that all anglers fight and one that will never go away as it is the nature of the sport.
Perhaps one of the first and biggest factors to consider when it comes to practice is fairly simple; how well do you know the body of water? If this tournament is on your home lake and you are a weekend warrior on this lake, then you will need to take a different approach to practicing for tournament day. Being you’re fishing your home body of water, you most likely don’t have to worry about having spots or areas to fish because of knowledge of the water. Instead, I would choose to focus on what type of pattern the bass are on based on time of the year and what area of the lake they are in. Think back to where you have seen fish previously in that time of year and on what baits. What area of the lake were these fish in? What were the conditions at the time? Fishing history can be dangerous, but sometimes it is necessary. You should be able to put together a successful pattern if you can read the conditions of the water and the weather correctly. This will help create minimal fish catches in practice, just based on knowledge of the water, knowledge of how to fish under certain conditions, and locations of structure.
So to answer the original question, perhaps the best way to prevent “over practicing” on your home body of water is to not fish it at all!
When I am preparing to start a season and feeling a little rusty on my home lake, I prefer to take a different approach to practicing for tournament day than most people. Instead of searching for bass or a pattern on the lake the tournament will be held on, I prefer to fish a different body of water, preferably one I know where bass are fairly easy to catch, and practice there. I prefer to just get the feel for my baits to get my rhythm back at the beginning of a season where I can catch multiple fish and feel confident in setting the hook versus worrying about hooking a fish I might need a few days later. I also prefer this type of pre-fishing because it keeps me from fishing “history”. The hard truth about bass fishing is just because the bass were there in practice or in the same spot previously, does not mean they will be there on tournament day. This is why when practicing for a tournament on my home lake I prefer to just go to game day feeling confident in feeling bites, but no fear of the fish in my spots being hooked or seeing my baits. I also feel it gives me the benefit of not fishing based on what I saw in practice, since the water could change in a matter of hours based on any number of factors.
However, it is a different story if you’re in a traveling event such as a FLW BFL on a body of water you have never fished or even seen before. It forces you to have to go catch more fish to find the pattern and which areas hold bass. After doing general research on the body of water you will be fishing, the most popular way of practicing is to “shake fish off”. What this means is to get strikes, but never actually hook the fish. So if you’re fishing a jig, bend the hook in so you can feel the strike and knows there’s fish in the area, but never hook the bass to keep it from biting on tournament day. The same goes for treble hook baits, bend the hooks in or remove them completely and just search for bites, not fish catches.
A good angler will adjust to most any condition even if it isn’t ideal to their style or strengths, but it is still hard to force yourself to not practice too much if you are fishing your home lake and have easy access to it. It is sometimes good to catch a few fish just to locate them, just don’t locate them and then hook every single one of them on a hot bank you found 2 days before the tournament!
Practicing for bass fishing is definitely as complicated, if not more, than preparing for any other sport where “game day” is all that counts. It is a subject many fishing partners have disagreed on over the years and one we may never have a true answer to. The best way to practice for a tournament is just to do what you feel is your best course of action. Whether that be searching and fishing hard for bass on your home lake before the tournament, fishing another lake for a warm up and just fishing based on the tournament day weather, or just riding around searching on a lake you’ve never fished before. Either way, you have to figure out what works for you and find a balance of how much practice, is truly too much.
Ben Hudson, Pro Staff Angler
“ Blue Collar Bassin’ ”