There are more and more tournaments that are instituting off limits periods prior to their events. This is true for professional events, but more and more year-end classics are instituting this rule as well. You are dying to get on the water and may have the available time and resources to go early, but the off limits rule restricts you from being there. An old trick I have used for years is to do an area search for a lake near the tournament waters that meets tournament directors guidelines for the off limits period and can be fished. Dialing in a pattern or where the fish are positioned on the alternate body of water can clue you in to what will happen when practice begins and off limits is lifted.
Some considerations for comparison includes:
1. Find a similar size lake if one is available. If one is not available look for one that has similar characteristics. Creeks, points, bottom structure, flooded timber or rock. This can give you a clue where to start on the tournament lake.
2. Check main lake water temps– this is a good indicator of water temps on the tournament lake if the lake is smaller than the tournament destination.
3. Depending on time of year and weather check water clarity. This can help narrow down bait selection and areas of the lake bass are likely to congregate.
4. Check for current-this is easy to accomplish by looking at day marks or fixed objects. Typically if one lake is pulling both may be.
5. The chosen lake should be in the same geographic area.
By fishing an adjacent or regionally alike lake, you can cut down your practice time on the tournament waters and pinpoint fish holding areas more quickly.
Make sure you check with your respective tournament director before fishing. He/She needs to know what you are doing so no rules are compromised.