5 Ways to Practice for a Tournament When Time is Short

Practice is a critical component of any tournament angler’s success, but sometimes, schedules are tight, and time is limited. If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, there are still ways that you can get in some quality practice. This blog post will discuss five ways to practice for tournaments when time is short.

1. Research, but do it the RIGHT way.

Research should be at the top of every tournament fisherman’s list before practice begins. It is vital to understand the body of water you will be fishing. Knowing things like depth, structure, common vegetation, likely spawning areas, and forage are critical in formulating a game plan. Once you have done your research, you can start to narrow down areas on the lake that will be productive and focus your practice time in those areas.

Make sure you have a good understanding of recent and expected weather patterns so you can factor any weather-related issues into your plan. Spend time on your favorite mapping app (google earth pro, Navionics, etc.) to identify things like main lake points, spawning bays, channel bends, and other relevant structures. Using smartphone apps is a great way to make the most of your time. Check them out when you have any spare moments throughout your day. Most are very user-friendly and provide excellent information. Check out this great resource that lists 21 of the best bass apps that will instantly improve your fishing.

2. Community holes … yes, community holes.

At the first mention of community fishing holes, you may be tempted to shy away from the thought of being surrounded by other competitors grouped up on a spot. Not so fast.
Certain areas of most bodies of water hold fish for a reason. For example, fish may group up on a large plot of offshore grass, a lily pad flat, a main-lake point, or other prevalent structure that always seems to have fish.

Finding these spots isn’t very hard. Ask at the local tackle store, use google, watch youtube, or simply run the lake and observe. After a few minutes of cruising time, you’ll soon be able to identify where these spots are because boats will load up in certain sections of the lake.

Once you find them, go to work by using the tried and true methods you’ve uncovered from your research to put a few fish in the boat using the usual and popular tactics for that spot. This technique will probably be the one that every other angler is using to catch fish in the community hole.

But, here’s the TRICK. After you’ve established a known pattern that you think you can rely on for a limit, start experimenting with different tactics. Think outside the box. You may be able to compete doing what everyone else is doing. However, to WIN, you’ll need to key in on something unique. Try different baits, vary your retrieval speed or do something else that sets you apart from the rest that may provide you with an edge. Subtle differences matter to separate your results from the rest of the field.

3. Search with the right baits.

In practice mode, you’ll want to cover as much water as possible in the time that you have. Try using baits that will allow you to do this quickly and efficiently, like spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, bladed jigs, or crankbaits.

These baits can be worked rapidly through an area and will often elicit strikes from fish that may not respond to other baits. Once you find an area holding fish, you can mark it to slow down and fish it more thoroughly later on.
Remember, the goal is to search for areas that hold fish so you can zero in on them during tournament time. Using search baits is a great way to cover a lot of water quickly and efficiently.

4. Understand Where and Why Bass Move.

Understanding seasonal fish movement is essential to your success.
Bass typically hang out in deeper water during cold winter months. They congregate on deepwater structures, searching for a more stable environment. Main lake points, humps, channel swings, ledges, and other forms of structure are great spots to check during the wintertime.

In the late spring and early summer, fish will move into shallow water. As the water warms, they will begin to move from deep water structures, searching for a place to spawn. Most spawning activities occur in wind-protected areas of a water system with a hard bottom. Check out tips eleven through fourteen in this article for more details on finding bass related to the spawn.

During the post-spawn, fish will travel along corridors to leave spawning areas and transition to their eventual summer homes. Identifying underwater “highways” that bass use to travel along can help uncover groups of bass that are actively moving. Creekbeds, submerged roads, and grass lines (identified with your graphs) are prime examples of exodus routes. By targeting these areas, you can often locate and catch fish relating to structure on their way to their summer homes.

In the summer months, fish will usually return to deeper, stable water similar to places they are found during colder months. They will often congregate around structures like ledges, humps, and points.

Many fish move to areas where bait is readily available during the fall. Find the bait = find the bass. Channel swings and creek mouths are both excellent areas to check for congregations of bait (and bass) during the fall.
By understanding the seasonal movement of bass, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by targeting the right areas at the right time.

5. STOP exploring the lake.

When time is short, the last thing you can afford to do is explore the entire lake. So forget running all over in an attempt to understand the entire body of water. It’s not only too “expansive,” but it’s expensive too. The fact of the matter is that you simply can’t afford to waste time or money to figure out the entire lake.

Instead, hunker down on one section of the lake and dig in. If you focus on one area of the lake, you’ll eventually figure out where the fish are. The trick is to stop second-guessing your area. Lock in the mentality that there are fish in your chosen section of the lake and that you will find them. You don’t need to run and gun. Save yourself the time, effort, and worry and commit to finding fish in your area.

Final Word

If you’re looking to up your game before a bass fishing tournament, use these tips to be more efficient in practice. Time is always tight before these events, but following these simple guidelines can help you focus on the most important things and make the most of your limited time on the water.
Tight lines and fish on!