Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lessons from My Rookie Year of Illinois Tournament Bass Fishing

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, posts are popping up already about tournament fishing for the 2018 Illinois Tournament Season.  It's hunting season and ice fishing is right around the corner and people are already talking tournaments in 2018.  That's cool though, I have too!  It inspired me to drop a few lines about my rookie year of fishing tournaments and what I learned along the way.

Jim Edgar Panther Creek
Mike Iaconelli would tell you "never give up"!  This is a picture from the Lincoln Bass Club's two day tournament out at Jim Edgar Panther Creek.  Two days  and we only weighed in one fish. Within the final hour of the tournament I reeled in my biggest tournament fish at 5 pounds 13 ounces.  Never overlook a small victory.


After fishing my whole life, it was time to up my game. I decided to join a club (Lincoln Bass Club) and start fishing some tournaments.  I am, by no means, a pro or even a semi pro, regardless this list may benefit you in the long run. 
  • CCR - 
    • I've learned that staying calm in the heat when everything is going wrong is key.  Trust me, I have had a few interesting moments this year on the water where I wasn't the coolest head out there.  I've learned that Circumstance, Choice and Response  (CCR) have helped in many cases.  We all have our 'IKE moments' and I'm sure there will be more in my future.  You have to be able to focus and for long periods of time and not let a moment earlier in the day define your success.  I've read a lot of Facebook posts where anglers had a bad day, I am talking about the ones where some major equipment broke.  However, they overcome this and managed to win their tournament.    Wanna be more calm, cool and collected on the water? Learn more about CCR and check out this video from BassResource.com
  • Research, Pre-fish and Plan- 
    • As a new tournament angler, if you think you're going to go out and win a tournament without any research or pre-fishing, you're crazy.  Can it be done?  Sure, but, not likely!  Anglers you're fishing against have pre-fished, spent countless hours researching and chatting with other anglers to get that competitive edge.  You're new to the game so maybe you're network isn't as extensive as others, however, websites like Wired 2 Fish, Bass ResourceBassmaster and Youtube are all great resources, with articles and videos on techniques and how-tos.  However, other online resources like Fishidy can take your research to the next level all from comfort of your home.  After some research, take all that information out on the water and do some pre-fishing.  Prefishing for a tournament is not about catching that five-pounder.  It's about taking all that information and developing a PLAN for tournament day.  Researching and pre-fishing are vital to a successful day on the water. And on the flip side, you have to be able to take all of that knowledge you gathered from hours of research and pre-fishing and throw it away.  Things change and you have to be able to adapt to that change.  This has been one of the hardest things for me.  Several times, I wouldn't move or change baits because I was fishing memories and not the current conditions.  I was being stubborn. 

Capitol Outdoors
The old man picked up the slack at this tournament
All I'll say is I had some major equipment issues.
  • Equipment - 
    • We all have a budget so don't feel like you have to buy all the top brand stuff.  There are some really great companies out there that produce equipment that fish really well.  A good way to look at it is if you're a crankbait kind of angler, maybe you should focus on building this area of your arsenal first.  Focus on you're strengths and work your way down.  And if you want, empty your savings and buy the best of the best, but remember having the best of the best doesn't make you a better angler.  Just get the best equipment you can afford and work on your technique with said equipment. 
  • Practice Makes Perfect-
    • There is a difference between tournament fishing and hitting the lake with your buddy on a Saturday afternoon.  There's no pressure.  In tournament fishing there's money on the line, granted I'm not in it for the money, but I'm not there to pay someone else to catch bigger fish than me. I just like to win.   Earlier this year, I had the chance to chat quickly with some top Elite Series Pros, and they gave so many tips and tactics that it's ridiculous.  Even your semi-pro or tournament veterans have the same advice.  If you're going to fish tournaments then there's one thing that stands true.  That's time on the water!  This is the only way you'll be able to apply all you've learned.

Jim Edgar Panther Creek
Don't just go out in good weather conditions.
Tournaments take place in all kinds of weather
& on different bodies of water.  That's why
time on the water is so critical.
Again I'm no pro.  I love to fish and felt like tournament fishing would improve my skills and I would get to meet some good people along the way.  You don't need fancy gear or a fancy boat, just the eagerness to catch fish and the ability to learn.  As anglers we never stop learning and there's always going to be someone that catches the biggest fish each time out and I pray that I am that guy.   

What are some tips you have for the new or even veteran tournament angler?



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