Keys to Success in Tournament Fishing
It's All About Preparation

Tournament fishing is a great way to see how your fishing skills stack up against others’. Many anglers find that tournament fishing is a great way to feed their competitive nature and enjoy the added pressure of trying to catch fish when time is running out. It’s also a great way to learn new things and meet new friends along the way. Whether you are a beginner or experienced angler, there are several things you can do to increase your chances at having a successful tournament.

Fishing Maps by Season - Keys to Success in Tournament Fishing

Research

One of the most important things to do for tournament fishing is developing a plan for tournament day. For most, this includes research on the body of water you will be fishing and time spent practicing or pre-fishing.

While doing research on a body of water, it is vital to view maps and tools like Google Earth to find promising locations. This will allow you to develop a list of areas that could produce when the tournament comes around.

Practice Strategy

In addition to finding fishing locations, research should be done on past tournament results and winning techniques. This can be done by asking friends and local tackle stores, as well as by searching for the information online. While fishing techniques may be important, a better indication of what to expect will come from the average total weight it takes to win or place well in a tournament. This will help your practice strategy as it will allow you to understand if the fish you are catching are big enough.

While pre-fishing for an event, it is important to try several areas and not catch too many fish in one area, as these fish most likely will not bite again a short time later. A fish or two, or even just getting bites from fish, will help you get an idea for an area’s potential. Having multiple spots that are producing fish will help your tournament strategy and many experienced tournament anglers rate them based on their potential and return to them in order during the tournament.

It is also important to plan for different weather scenarios. While the extended weather forecast may or may not be accurate, having different areas that are protected from the wind or right in the wind will ensure that you have a plan for any weather that may come during the tournament.

Organization and Rod Selection - Keys to Success in Tournament Fishing

Organization

Once you have found out what the fish are biting, a good way to keep organized is to keep the tackle you plan to use most in the most accessible area. This will allow you to quickly get a replacement lure or terminal tackle item if they break off.

It is also important not to bring every single piece of equipment you own during the tournament. If you have had a successful practice and have some knowledge of the body of water and seasonal techniques, many items can be left at home and will not add to the clutter.

When entering an event as a non-boater, space will be limited and your tackle should be reduced to a small bag with tackle that you believe will work in that body of water. Your rod and reel selection should also be downsized and bringing setups that can be used for multiple techniques will help reduce what you bring.

Culling and Weighing - Keys to Success in Tournament Fishing

Culling

The goal of every tournament, obviously, is to catch the biggest fish. If things go well, you will constantly be upgrading your catch by culling – the process of replacing smaller fish with bigger ones.

This is one of the things that can lead to mistakes and potentially cost you the win if you are not careful. Tools such as a scale, balance beam, and culling rings are must-haves for any tournament angler. A good scale will allow you to weigh each fish as you catch it and make sure you are culling the right fish when the time comes. Culling rings attached to each fish will allow you to easily find fish in your livewell based on the color or number attached to the tags. A balance beam will allow you to double-check two fish with similar weights and eliminates uncertainty from scales that may occur due to weighing fish on a rocking boat, scale irregularities, or other issues.

A good practice is to tag and weigh each fish as it is caught. This will save fishing time later as you catch more and reach your limit. Many scales are equipped with storage for weights of all of your fish and will also tell you your total weight. It can also be done with pen and paper.

Time Management

Tournament fishing is competing against the fish, the other anglers, and also against the clock. Time can quickly run out if you are not prepared. One of the best ways to avoid this is to have a plan.

After a practice period, you should have a good idea of what areas will most likely be your best. Things change often in fishing and there are no guarantees, but a rough outline in your mind of how much time to spend at each location will go a long way in making sure you do not run out of time.

One of the cardinal rules of tournament fishing is to “not leave fish to find fish.” If you are in a good area that is producing, staying in that area until the fishing dies down is your best option.

Tournament fishing is about the decisions you make, and knowing when to leave or when to change techniques is what leads to success. By having a plan before the event, staying organized, and managing your time, you will have more success. Tournament fishing is a way to test your skills against other anglers, and there is nothing like the excitement of having all of your preparations come together in the form of success in a tournament.

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