Title: Basic Principals of Tournament Fishing
It all starts that memorable day when each and everyone of us catch our first ever largemouth bass. It’s just the American way. Americans love to challenge themselves and the moment you catch your first ever largemouth bass the first thought in your mind is how can I go about catching more? It’s just the American way I guess. I found out very quickly that the best way to improve as a bass angler was to get around people that could beat me. People that were better fisherman than myself. Even when I was in my early teens when I first joined my first ever bass club I was mesmerized by the gentleman in the club that were better fisherman than myself. And the more you get around good fisherman the more you want to find others that can teach you more about the sport. That was always my attraction to contest fishing, the ability to compete in an event and leave that tournament and know a lot more about the sport than I did before I went. Really that’s what drove me from starting out in a small bass club in the mid-70s to spending nearly 20 years fishing with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society in televised bass fishing tournaments. The thing I miss most now that I’m basically retired from fishing professional bass tournaments other than our U.S. Open each year is how much I miss being around the top fishermen in the world and learning from them on a daily basis. That’s why I’ve always recommended fisherman of all levels to pursue some type of competitive environment that will stretch their minds so they can improve their angling skills. Without question contest fishing is the best way to improve your skills as an angler so today I’m going to go over the basic principles that are necessary for consistent contest bass fishing.
Let me say the basic mental approach that I’m about to explain works whether you’re fishing in a small bass fishing club tournament or fishing with the Bass Masters on ESPN in a televised fishing tournament. The approach is exactly the same every single time. There are no changes. There are the obvious preparations that all of you are aware of. If you’re using your own boat in the fishing event you of course want to make sure that your boat is in good running order and you have all the precautionary parts and pieces on board so that you can eliminate that controllable variable. Having your boat running and in good shape eliminates that issue. You of course want to practice on the lake or reservoir that you’re fishing as much as you possibly can prior to the fishing event. You obviously want to take a look at the weather and try to prepare so that you can control that variable and be dressed properly so that you can focus on what you’re doing during the contest day. These are all pretty much basic things that most everyone of us do to compete in a fishing tournament. The part that throws so many bass anglers for a loop is the mental side of the sport of contest fishing or tournament fishing. This is the part that most every tournament angler overlooks and it’s without question the most important part of the entire process. I really want to focus on this mental preparation as this will be the key to you having consistent contest performances throughout your fishing career.
First don’t get too wound up about the competition that you’re involved with too far ahead of the actual competition time. Slowly build your mind as you work your way towards getting ready to make your final decisions the night before you’re about to compete in a contest. It’s great to have theories and ideas for weeks or months prior to a fishing tournament. But don’t let them overwhelm your mind and clutter your thinking. What I mean by this is anglers will go practice for a tournament two weeks before the event and get so set in their ways that they have it all figured out and that’s exactly the way that they’re going to go about fishing the tournament not taking into consideration how much the conditions will change in those two weeks until the event actually starts. When you’re mentally getting ready take everything in stride. Take it for what it’s worth. And don’t make any decisions or determinations as to how you’re going to go about competing until the actual day prior to the event. This is the same thing that we use during multiple day tournaments. What I mean is each and every day of a 3 to 4 day tournament we set down at night let’s say after the second day of competition and decide at that point what we will do on the next day of competition. After the third day of competition we set down that night and then think about what we will do on the fourth and final day of competition. Once again everything must stay consistent. Too many fishermen come to me and tell me exactly what they plan on doing three weeks before a fishing tournament. You just can’t have any consistency operating in this fashion. Calmly consider all the conditions and the day before the tournament you will make up your mind as to how you’re going to progress with your day. What I mean by this is you are going to take an allotted amount of time and tell yourself that you were going to spend a certain amount of time on the first day of the tournament in a certain area. You fish calmly and with confidence in that area and don’t rush the process. Panic and fear are the two largest enemies of any contest fisherman. Anglers that have premeditated that I believe in an area and I’m going to go to that area and I’m going to give it time and work it thoroughly have always been the most successful. The night before your fishing tournament you’re already have made preparations in your mind that if your area does not work and believe me most of the time it won’t. That you already have premeditated another area that you’re going to go to and fish for the second part of the day. Maybe the remainder of the day. But based on the number of fishing locations that you have a premeditated plan or schedule set up in your mind as to how long you will spend in each area. A small hypothetical example of this would be I say to myself prior to the US open. I’m going to spend the first four hours of the U.S. Open fishing in the Virgin Basin. If that does not work,,and there’s a good chance it won’t I will then run to the Echo Bay area and spend the remainder of my day. I’ve taken into consideration that Lake Mead is a large body of water and I know that I can only possibly fish two basic areas based on the size of the lake during an eight hour day. Regardless of what happens during the first day of competition I don’t stray off of this premeditated plan. What I’m getting at is when you set up your fishing day make sure that you look at the lake that you’re fishing and set a plan of exactly how much time you want to spend in each particular area of the lake or river that you’re fishing. No matter what happens you stick to your plan and you follow it through. Remember you don’t have to be right. What I mean by this is you fish with confidence knowing that there’s a chance that your decision was wrong. There’s a chance that you won’t do well in the tournament. But one things for sure you’re going to fish with confidence and you’re going to fish calmly and you’re going to believe in your plan. If you get to the weigh-in and you happen to not do well it’s okay. You came up with a theory you came up with a plan and you followed through. This is how you improve as a contest angler. Now I’m not telling you that while you’re on the water in your contest at 10 o’clock in the morning and you happen to see some fish breaking in some obscure place as you’re moving to one of your next fishing spots of course you modify your plan and go over there and catch em. What I’m basically trying to say is too many anglers get on the water and when their very first spot doesn’t work there absolutely lost from that point on. They are looking at their partners for help and scratching their head and not really sure exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Professionals do not do this. They live with their mistakes. It’s okay. You come up with a theory, a plan and you follow through on it. If it’s a two day tournament you’ll have the opportunity that evening to reassess your plan and set up another game plan for day two of the contest. If it’s just a one-day tournament you’ll leave and be able to hold your head high knowing that you came up with a plan and you follow through and it just did not work this time. You make your choice on what lures and techniques you believe will be best for the competition you’re involved in and you move accordingly. I am not telling you at all to be stubborn and go out and just fish one place with one technique and if it doesn’t work just go up in flames in the fishing tournament. No I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that you come up with a solid game plan that shows some versatility in fishing techniques and areas that you’re fishing. Take the two or three best areas that you have in your mind and the two or three best fishing techniques that you believe will work and utilize those in strategic periods of time throughout that day of competition. Believe me the tournaments I feel worse about in my career where tournaments where I strayed off of my original game plan and found myself confused and lost as I was competing. It happens to the very best of all fisherman. But if you make a conscious decision the day before your competition as to exactly what you’re going to do believe me you’ll sleep much better at night.
Many people have come up to me over the years and say I remember Rich seeing you at a seminar many years ago. You told me that “No fish has ever talked so therefore the entire sport must be based on the theory”. And you know that’s probably one of the greatest quotes I ever came up with. But it’s so true. No fish has ever talked so this entire sport is based on a theory and that’s something you must always keep in mind. Go out there and utilize the theory that you believe in. Sure there are anglers that will stand around the award ceremony and complain about a fish that they lost, boat troubles during the day, mechanical issues, but without question the most common mistake and the most frustrating element of contest bass fishing are the mental mistakes that we anglers do to ourselves during the tournament. Mental breakdowns by anglers and competitors are without question the most common mistake made by contest fisherman today. Yes get your boat ready for competition, put the best fishing line you can purchase on those quality rods and reels that you’ll be using during competition. Make sure that you’re trolling motor is running well and your big engine is tuned up and ready to go. These are all controllable variables for any contest fisherman. The most important tuneup is with your mind the night before. The basic principles. Relax. Start out in the morning with a calm approach as to what you are about to embark on. Put your boat in the water and calmly set yourself up for your game plan. Follow your game plan to a T and fish with confidence and your head high. Give the fish a chance to come to you. I can remember very few tournaments where I started out in a nervous condition and started to fish in some type of a panic state that anything good ever came of it. If you’ll calmly move yourself into the very first spot you want to fish in the morning and fish calmly and confidently that’s how tournaments are won. That’s where the term letting the fish come to you got started. Anglers calmly go about their day and find themselves in good situations that produce winning stringers.
Last but not least try to make sure that when the competition is over that you do you spend time with fellow competitors talking about the fishing day. There’s so much that can be learned from a successful day and also a very unsuccessful day on the water. Sometimes they’re so much more that can be learned from an unsuccessful day if you’ll just take the time to speak with some of the anglers you know that found their way to the winner circle. Taking that time after the event to set down and even if you only get a small amount of information it can be so helpful in making better decisions at your next event. Learn from every victory and every defeat. All the best and good luck in your next competitive event.
Rich Tauber Fishing
Cell (call or text): 818.439.1154