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Pre-Fish
By
Andy Sommerfelt

 

Ask any 10 people the same question in any subject and at best you will get 7 different answers. Ask 10 tournament anglers the question “Can you Pre-Fish to much?” and chances are you will get 12 different answers since most of the anglers I know, myself included, change there minds more often than the fish do.

In the process of writing this I was pre-fishing and fishing the Iowa Federation Nation tournament on the Mississippi River pool 10 and asked myself this question before the tournament and then again afterward and gave myself different answers. On my way to the tournament I was wishing that I could have taken the entire week off from my 9 to 5 instead of just two days but on the way home I realized that one day would have been enough. So is the answer that simple, that yes you can pre fish to much, WRONG! This was water that I am very familiar with and it ended up that there were fish in areas that I had caught them in previous springs. As we all know this is not the norm, we also know that things change, fish move and not all tournaments are on our home waters.

Through the years I have developed a pre-fishing process that has definitely helped my tournament income. Again like most of us I work a regular job which often limits my time on the water, so my pre-fishing starts at home. If the upcoming event is on familiar water then a few days before I leave I pull out my maps and notes from previous trips. If the event is on an unfamiliar body of water then I like to start gathering information as soon as I can. There has been different events in the past that I have started collecting info on as much as a year before the tournament! Hopefully I get to start by contacting someone that I know in the area were the tournament will be or at least someone who has fished it before. I ask them general questions about the body of water like who makes the best map, water clarity, types of bait fish, most abundant cover and structure. I will also ask them what there favorite pattern is for the time of my tournament, what I don't ask is where there favorite spot is. I will make notes from this personal contact, order a map and put them in big envelope for future reference.

Once I have made personal contacts I then switch to the internet for my fact finding. A google search will come up with an unbelievable amount of web sites regardless of where the tournament is. Many web sites have fishing reports which is great but the best ones archive all of the past reports, I will scan, notice I said scan not read, all of the reports and if one looks like it has some good info I will print it out and put it in my big envelope. A good report is one that is from the same time frame in which my tournament is scheduled, even if it is ten years old it is often still good information. Several days before I leave for the tournament or before I make an extra pre-fish trip I will open the envelope and read the information that I have compiled, look over the map and start to put together an on the water pre-fish strategy.

Depending on how many days I have to pre-fish I break the tournament water up into sections. If I have three days before the tournament, which I think is the minimum for unfamiliar water, then I use my map to section the lake into three parts, two large sections and one small section. The two larger sections are the first two days of pre-fish, with the small section being the final day before the tournament. Not that I pull off the water much if any earlier, I will use a good portion of this day idling and running, finding the fastest most direct route to each of the spots I plan on fishing or might fish during the tournament. Finding a path that I can run through a shallow area, finding how close I can cut a point, finding which islands that I can run on the inside of or anything else I can do to straighten out the path to my tournament waters. Having this trail on my G.P.S. is one less thing that I have to remember on tournament day. Tournament hours go fast enough as it is I want to spend as little time as possible getting to and from different spots, this is a very important part of pre-fishing to me. All of this idling and running can also be a big help if it is a draw tournament and your partner asks you to go somewhere, you may already be familiar with the area and know the fastest route.

Now for the fun part I have the lake sectioned off and it is time to fish. I am not going to get into what baits to throw because everyone has their favorites. I prefer to pre-fish with someone else in the boat with me, it can be done by yourself but goes faster and is more efficient with two people, that way we can both be throwing a different style of bait. I am stunned at the amount of other tournament fishermen I see during practice and both people in the boat are throwing the same baits. The setup that works best for this is the person in the front of the boat throws a faster moving bait like a spinnerbait, crankbait, buzzbait, ect, and the person in the back is flipping, pitching or throwing a carolina rig. I can cover a lot of water and narrow my pattern down faster with this technique.

Now back to the question can you pre-fish to much? No I don’t believe you can, but you can catch to many fish during the practice period just before the event. If I pull up to a point and one of us catches a decent fish then I will set a way point on my G.P.S. and leave, I do not like to shake fish off or bend my hooks over and see how many bites I can get, I feel doing this a day or two before a tournament hurts my catch numbers on tournament day. This method of only catching one fish per spot is not set in stone, if it is a large area, then I will catch a keeper move the boat a 100 yards or so and start fishing again. Separating the tournament water into sections and using a variety of baits is a great way to eliminate unproductive water and an even better way to establish a pattern. By the time I am done with the first section I should at least have the beginning of a pattern which I can refine during the rest of my pre-fish time. Until next time keep your lure wet.