Pro angler Ott DeFoe fished the FLW Tour prior to coming to the Elite Series and has experienced the back seat himself. He has some great tips for the backseater that may be common sense to some but others may not have thought about thoroughly.
Here is his breakdown of things a co-angler can do to improve the odds in the back of the boat:
Watch the guy in the front like a hawk.
Look for tendancies on his approach and casts. Does he always cover one side of the target? Does he hit all sides of it? Could there be other submerged objects around his target? What type of bait is he using? Knowing the routine of the front seater can be an advantage to the back seater. Keep your eyes peeled for shad activity or bluegills popping pads. That can key you into color or type of bait and may clue you in to what the bass may be looking for. It the pro is fishing a jig on a point pick up a crankbait or a topwater
Look for new angles.
Determine what angle the cast is made by the pro and look for other angles that may work. Mix up your casts. Sometimes wait for the boat to move a bit before you cast. That could create a new cast angle that he may have missed. Also be aware from where the fish came in the water column. For example, if he is fishing a hollow bodied frog over slop, use a spoon with pork trailer or a plastic frog like a Horny Toad. Small subtleties in bait selection can be huge. If he is throwing something quiet, throw something that makes noise and vice versa.
Change retrieve types and speeds
What part of the water column is he fishing? He may be ptiching to a target and fishing the bottom. Choose a different retrieve and speed in your cast. Mix it up and don’t be afraid to do something diffferent like shaking a spinnerbait or swimming a jig. Observation of the front seater again plays a significant role. Don’t do exactly what he does, especially on tough bite days.
Use different baits.
Do not throw the same bait as the pro. Again, mix it up. If he is power fishing a jig, go subtle with a Senko or cast a squarebill in and around the cover. Let the fish tell you what they want. Mix up your colors too. A small color change can be huge.
Watch where and how the fish bite.
Watch the small things. Is it a subtle bite or are the fish agressive and reacting to the bait. Don’t be afraid to crash your bait into the object you are fishing and don’t be afraid to get hung up. Use baits that are weedless when possible to avoid confrontation, but hit the spots he missed. Hitting the same hole in the grass or the same side of the brushpile usually doesn’t pay dividends. Don’t be afraid to experiment and watch for what he misses.
The bottom line for the backseater is dedicated observation and mixing it up. Small changes can make for big results.