The Dos and Don’ts of Competing as a Co-Angler: 33 Tips to Help You Succeed

-Jason Bradstreet
Editor-In-Chief of Bassfishinginsider.com

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Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to bass tournament fishing, co-angling can be a great way to compete in a tournament without shouldering the entire cost and responsibility of boat ownership and the stresses of tournament management. However, competing as a co-angler comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

Choosing the right tactics and strategies is critical to co-angler success. Read on for 33 tips to help you make the right decisions and avoid the wrong moves on tournament day.

Do:

1. Start the very first conversation with your boater by expressing your gratitude.

3. Get to know your boater before the tournament so you can understand their fishing style and what they expect from their co-angler.

4. Plan a meeting spot for the morning of the event. Offer to help the boater launch if you feel comfortable and are proficient at doing so.

5. Show respect when entering the boat. Make sure your shoes are clean, and be mindful of where you step and sit. Bring a rag to wipe off your shoes before stepping on the boat. Avoid stepping on the boat seats.

6. Be prepared to fish from anywhere in the boat. The co-angler typically fishes from the back of the boat, but be prepared to move to the front if necessary.
Be flexible with your fishing tactics. You may need to adjust your presentation based on the boater’s preferences or the fishing conditions.

7. Bring everything you need for a full day of fishing, including food, water, and sunscreen. Bring extra snacks. Your boater may appreciate it.

8. Bring your own life jacket, cull clips, rain gear, fizzing needles, and fin clips, where applicable.

9. Pay attention to what the boater is doing. If they are slaying the fish, you may want to mirror their tactics by doing something similar. However, doing the same thing will only work if they are missing or skipping areas to fish.

10. Do something different. More often than not, the boater will thoroughly cover water ahead of you, so you MUST prepare to employ a different approach to catch fish which usually means using a completely different bait or lure. You can also try utilizing a tactic similar to your boater while altering the retrieve or cadence.

11. Look for follow-up bite opportunities. If you notice the boater getting bites, but missing fish, follow up to the same spot with a slower presentation, like a stick worm or finesse worm. Only follow up once the boater has moved on from that target.

12. Pay attention to the patterns they are fishing. For example, If they are fishing shallow and hitting small indentations in a lily pad field, try hitting groups of pads that form a point instead. In other words, look for any subtle misses in their fishing strategy that you might be able to take advantage of.

13. Net the boater’s fish without being asked.

14. Speak up when there is a safety concern. You have the right to feel safe, so don’t hesitate to vocalize any concerns. Don’t assume that they see all boats on the water. If you see something that causes alarm, notify the boater right away.

15. Bring cash for gas. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning. There are a ton of expenses involved for the boater. Be sure you take care of them and take care of them well.

16. Stay positive. Sometimes, co-anglers are put into tough spots. The day will come when you’ll find yourself in a situation where the boater is bed fishing all day. When that time comes, fish as much as possible, be patient and accept the fact that it’s part of the game.

17. Keep your line wet. Keep fishing, even if it looks like you have nowhere to cast. Hit the middle of the lake if you have to. Fish with the right attitude knowing that you can’t catch fish if your line isn’t in the water.

18. Accept the fact that you may lose lures. Asking the boater to return once or twice for a snagged lure is ok, but after that, forget it.

19. Be ready to move without much notice. If you see your boater putting rods away, get going fast. Be in your seat with a life jacket on before they even start the motor.

20. When you arrive at a new spot, let the boater get out of their seat before you get out of yours.

21. Clean up throughout the day. Don’t leave junk everywhere. Clutter is the enemy of many boaters so leave it cleaner than you found it.

22. Be willing to slow down. Carry lots of slow presentations with you. Some of the best presentations include shaky heads, wacky rigs, stick worms, drop shots, and other finesse-style baits.

23. Use logic in your fishing strategy, but consider the fact that the boater is one step ahead, so be smart and employ tactics that are a little different than the guy on the trolling motor who has the most control of the action. For some great tips and many different tactics and strategies, check out 49 Bass Fishing Tips that Always Seem to Work.

Dont’s

24. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques or presentations. You never know what might work.

25. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes the only way to catch fish is to try something new.

26. Steer clear of the front deck without asking.

27. Stay away from their tackle and gear unless it’s offered.

28. Avoid criticizing or offering suggestions unless asked. There’s nothing worse than giving an earful, especially if you’re fishing as a co-angler with someone you don’t know. However, if you’re with a friend, open lines of communication may be in order, so speak up using discretion.

29. Don’t be late to meet them in the morning.

30. Don’t use dyes in the boat. Bring a dye pen instead. Also, refrain from smoking or using tobacco in the boat unless you’ve cleared it ahead of time (ask before you get on the boat).

31. Don’t bring too much tackle and gear. Remember that space is limited, so don’t overdo it.

32. Avoid checking on fish in the livewell without being asked.

33. Don’t cast over the boater ever. Instead, stick to your own areas and avoid their targets at all costs.

Final Word

Fishing as a co-angler can be a fun way to fish tournaments without the responsibilities of boat ownership. Co-anglers have the unique opportunity to compete while learning more about the sport and honing their skills.

Be respectful, prepared, and ready to have a good time. With the tips above in mind, co-anglers can be on their way to a successful tournament experience.

Good luck and tight lines!