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2008….the year of improving
By:  Glenn Walker

Whether an angler is fishing for fun, fishing a small club tournament or fishing for big time money, they always are looking for that competitive advantage over other anglers.  That competitive advantage could be a lot of things.  In 2008, I have suggested five things that you as an angler can improve upon to help give you that competitive advantage.

Have a Plan:  Whether you are fishing for fun, pre-fishing or in a tournament, try to always have a plan in mind.  This plan should be based around a goal that you want to achieve by the end of your day on the water.  If you are just out on your local lake or river for a couple hours wetting a line, make your goal to fish with only one lure or technique that you feel uncomfortable with.  This way, when tournament time comes around you will feel more comfortable and be more proficient when the fish and present conditions require you to use that lure or technique.

If you have one day, or several days to pre-fish for an upcoming tournament it is crucial to have a plan.  This plan should encompass the ideas of what and how much water you want to cover during practice.  Over the past two tournament seasons when I have been fortunate enough to have two to three days to prepare for a weekend tournament, I would designate a section or pool of the Mississippi River to fish each day of practice.  This way, I spend less time running around and more time fishing.  This has also allowed me to fully develop a pattern and get more in tuned to what the bass are doing.

Obviously once tournament day rolls around a plan is crucial to cashing a check at the end of the day.  From your pre-fishing you should have an idea of how your tournament day will go, but as we all know it is a rare occasion that everything works out on tournament day.  But if you begin the day with a tentative plan of how you want things work out and have ideas of what to do if a wrench is thrown into your plan, then your tournament day will be more successful.

Fish to Your Strengths:  All anglers get caught up in the hype of a new lure or hot new technique that is sweeping the tournament trails or catching fish on your body of water and this may cloud your mind.  That is why it is important to always remember to fish to your strengths anytime it is possible.  This could mean fishing a specific kind of cover or a particular pattern that you feel most comfortable with.  I am not saying that you can be successful by only fishing one kind of pattern all summer long, because that winning sack of bass will not be there all season long.  What I am saying is that if you can fish to your strengths, including using lures and techniques that you consistently catch bass with, then you will be more likely to have a successful fishing season. 

On the Mississippi River, largemouth and smallmouth bass can be caught all year round on different kinds of lures and will be located in endless locations.  If I spent all my time worrying about if the fishing was better on this kind of cover or the bass were hitting this lure better, I would be blinding myself to the phenomenal fishing that is present right in front of me.  So by fishing patterns and techniques that you are comfortable with you will be not only increase the odds of catching more bass, you will also have more fun!

Control what you can Control:  For me this is something that I am always trying to improve on.  When preparing for a tournament I would get caught up in worrying about the upcoming weather and if the river would rise or drop too much.  Both of these are important things to take note of and look into, but that is where they should be left, as footnotes.  By just spending time on the water and fishing you will be getting in tune with the bass and how different things affect them.  This way when something does happen that you have no control over, the bass will obviously react to it and now you will be able to just respond to it.

Another area that this idea can be applied is to your equipment.  You are not able to control if your boat; motor and other equipment will work flawlessly throughout the day.  This is why first off use equipment that you are comfortable with, everyone has their own preference so do not get caught up in the always ongoing battles between brand X and Y.  Use what you feel will allow you to perform the best on the water. 

Next make sure to keep all your equipment maintained properly.  If you take care of your stuff, it will perform for you when you need it most.  Make sure after you are done pre-fishing you have everything taken care of that could possible effect your tournament day.  If a piece of equipment has been prone to problems, then leave it at home or in the truck.  At the same time pack items in the boat that may be needed during the day.  Extra reels, rods, line, tools, etc. will all give you the peace of mind needed to only leave you to worry about fishing.

Listen to Your Gut Instincts:  Countless tour pros say that the proclaimed best bass fisherman in the world Kevin Van Dam has a “sixth sense” when he is on the water.  We all have this “sixth sense,” it may just not be as strong as KVD’s or we may not be listening to it as much as we should be.  This “sixth sense” comes down to listening to and acting on a gut feeling.  Spending time on the water will help you to develop more knowledge that will allow you to act on your gut feeling more often.  If tournament morning comes and you have a white spinnerbait tied on to your rod, but you just have a feeling that a chartreuse one will work well, then don’t be afraid to tie it on and give it a try. 

Many times an angler will debate in his mind for a long time whether to change locations during a tournament.  If something tells you to move or to start at a certain spot on the shoreline then don’t be afraid to act on it.  I can recall my last tournament this past summer, it was mid-August and the Mississippi River valley had just been saturated with a significant amount of rain.  As my brother and I made the run of upriver to our starting location, I made a decision to start at a different spot in this area we were going to fish.  I made this decision based off the fact I had an idea of how the recent rain and runoff would affect the water and bass.  I did this even though I knew the bass would be where we had planned on starting.  The end result was a 5th place finish on a day that many teams were frustrated with the rising, muddy Mississippi River water.

Have Fun:  To me this something that is obvious, but yet I see countless anglers on the water, myself included that are not having fun on the water.  This could be because of not catching fish, the weather, an equipment problem, etc., but the point is that you are on the water fishing and have the opportunity to win money fishing.  We all should feel very fortunate that this opportunity exists and that we can par take in it.  As the saying goes “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” is very true here, take advantage of time you are on the water.  At this time I would also like to encourage everyone to take someone that has never been fishing, fishing.  The feeling of passing the immense amount of knowledge you have on to another individual is incomparable.

Good luck to everyone in their 2008 fishing tournaments and trips.  I look forward to seeing many of you on the water and at various tournaments.