Editor’s Note: This blog was reprinted with permission from Mark Menendez
I have enjoyed my fatherly duties while at home from the last event. Getting kids to school, yard work, and playing with our dogs have been a great flip from the tournament grind. My mind is beginning to get back to the fishing mode. The next PAA Event is coming up.
One of our Largemouth Mafia family members sent me a message the other day. Chuck asked if I would write something about preparation for events. How do I prepare for a lake that I have never seen?
Getting ready for a tournament is a process. It will take me several days of short work periods to be ready. I will start here on the computer. Researching past tournament results will give me the first idea of what it will take to do well in the event. One must take an average of the results as the spring results will always be higher than the fall events. If the lake shows a twenty pound average, then I know that a spinning rod with 8-pound line won’t get much attention.
This immediately points me towards power fishing. I will pack all of my flipping gear, Strike King Redeye Shads, and crankbaits in the boat. I always carry a spinning rod or two even on the best big bass lakes. If the research shows that 10-pounds per day will be strong, like at Lake Norman, then the extra spinning rods will be packed with fresh line.
It is extremely important to know what it will take to do well in the event you are fishing.
I will always remember a BASS Event at Santee Cooper in South Carolina. This was a fall event. My research had showed me that it would be a tough event. I found a pattern that would produce a small limit each day. I was fishing my area while another competitor fished through the area. He recognized me and asked, “Why would an Elite Series Pro be fishing for such small fish?”
He was talking to his co-angler after he thought he was out of an ear shot from me and said, “I thought that pros only fished for big fish.”
I checked the standings that night and it showed that the other angler was on his way home and I had made the cut with my little fish. The power of knowing what it would take to make a check paid off. I had spent most of my practice looking for big fish. However, I will always take a check anytime it is available.
The second key is to factor in the seasonal pattern. This will allow me to cut the lake up in sections to place me around the most catchable bass. My advice to anglers is to learn as much as possible about seasonal patterns. Learning the seasonal behavior of bass, will allow an angler to be successful on any body of water they fish. Old Bassmaster Magazines are a wonderful source of information on seasonal patterns. Learning the seasonal pattern will never sell one short when it comes to catching a bass.
I will also spend time looking at the lake I am going to fish on the computer. Google Earth will give me a view from space of the lake we are going to fish. The detail is amazing. I have actually found winning areas by looking at the lake from this website. Topographical map study is a second form of preparation. A third form is to utilize a Navionics Hot Maps Explorer or NavPlanner2 DVD. These computer discs are loaded with more than 10,000 lake maps. Now that is a true resource!
Lake information is a must to compete. Anglers are very savvy with their homework. Some anglers will make contact with local area anglers to get help. This is a double edge sword. I have always felt that it is very hard to catch another angler’s fish. To speak with a local angler, I am looking for oddball things about lure selection rather than actual location. On certain lakes, a specific bait will be needed. This bait may travel thousands of miles in my tackle box and only be used on this specific lake.
Many anglers will fall into the trap of GPS waypoints. This information will rob the angler of the ability to make decisions on the fly. It will give an angler a bad case of tunnel vision. Conditions will change and the angler that has GPS waypoints from others will depend on this information and not their own instincts. This type of information must be gathered according to the tournament trail rules and off limits periods. I have done well with local information in tournaments. On the other hand, it has resulted in some of the worse events I have ever fished! It is a hard call.
The Lake Norman PAA Event I had no information except from my roommate. I trust him to share current information. I don’t want to know the location of his best spot. Pattern and depth are key variables I will share with him as well. During this event, I found an area of the lake to concentrate my efforts. I spent more time fishing than running the outboard. I was around the top 10 throughout the event. I eventually finished a respectable 14th place. I used less than six gallons of gas per day!
It is overall much more important to develop your own style of preparation. The most important thing is to devote as much energy as possible to “grow” your instincts as an angler. In the long run, it will make you a better fisherman with more confidence. I can’t catch a fish without a good measure of confidence. This has carried me into my 20th year as a professional angler! It will also carry you to your next successful fishing trip.