It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that fishing really became one of my passions in life. Don’t get me wrong, I always looked forward to spending time with my family out on the water and dropping a line whenever possible, but at that time fishing was more of a hobby. When my Dad asked me to be his partner in the Shoal Lake Last Chance Bass Tournament about eight years ago, that was the turning point for me. Never having fished a bass tournament before I was excited, nervous, anxious and wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. More than anything it was an eye-opener, a huge learning experience and I loved every minute of it.
In the morning my brother Darrell would back our truck down and launch us, and at the end of the day he helped us load the boat up all while doing the same for his partner. I could see the added pressure it put on everyone, you should try to be very fast and efficient when there is only one boat ramp and thirty boats are trying to launch in a timely manner. It was then and there I realized I needed to practice launching the boat.
On day two of the tournament I remember the weather turned on us and it became very windy. When I landed a nice fish there was a constant learning process and Dad would be teaching me how to weigh and cull the fish while he was operating the boat and trying to stay on the spot. I noticed it took quite a bit of our actual fishing time away. I kept thinking; if only I knew how to operate the boat I could keep us on the spot while he weighed our fish so I could continue fishing. In a tournament time is always limited so every second counts. When we are on the water fun-fishing there’s no pressure and I never would have imagined that tournament fishing would be so different. I learned more about fishing and boat control in those two days than I learned that entire year and I fished quite a bit that year!
After the tournament was over, I took the initiative to learn as much as I could, so I could better help my partners in tournaments and I also believed it would improve our fun-fishing days on the water, and it has. For a few months while I was at home each evening I sat at the basement table with a big spool of 12lb fluorocarbon and 10lb braided line. Before bed I would tie five leader knots and five jig knots. I use the Albright knot for leaders to tie braid to fluorocarbon and for regular jig knots with fluorocarbon I use the improved clinch knot. There are so many different knots that you can learn online now, experiment and find the best ones for you and then practice at home.
In the springtime I made my family go to the launch early before anyone else so I could try backing the truck down. I was not great at it. We quickly went to Plan B: Darrell launched us again so my Dad could teach me how to trim the motor, take the clips off, unlock the tiller handle and show me everything I needed to know to operate the boat safely. At the end of the day he walked me through driving the boat on the trailer and loading up. To my surprise this was much easier than backing down the truck. All year, every time we went, I would be the one in the boat getting in as much practice as I could.
Now, last year when my Dad and I fished together in the Shoal Lake Tournament I controlled the boat and kept fishing if he had to weigh one. It was funny actually, as soon as he finished I caught one and flipped it in for him to weigh, followed by another one, and another! He looked at me and jokingly said, “Okay, really…I’d like to catch some today too you know.” We both had a good laugh, it`s always a great day fishing with him he can be pretty funny. Well, he caught on fast because on day two he kept fishing while I weighed the fish! Either way, if I have to tie on a new lure, drive the boat, net, weigh fish, it doesn’t matter because I have practiced everything enough that I can do it all now. It really increased our success and we can spend more time with our lines in the water.
One other thing that I do from home is put soft plastics on jigs. If we have a used pack of plastics I take them home, find a few jigs and practice. When you are finished, hold it up and inspect it, there should be no kinks and it should be as straight and natural-looking as possible. If you put a plastic on crooked when you go to cast it, it may not retrieve properly. If it doesn’t look right to you, it’s not going to look right to the fish either. Also remember to check your line often for frays or abrasions and quickly retie if necessary.
Always keep an open mind while fishing, be able to adapt to the conditions and experiment with different lures, colors, sizes and retrieval speed every day you are out on the water. Making a few small adjustments and taking the time to practice and learn as much as you can will really increase your success and make for a more enjoyable day out on the water. Hope everyone has a great spring! n