Today I am beginning my preparations for my first tournament of the summer, the FLW National Guard College Fishing northern qualifier on Kerr Lake in Henderson, North Carolina. When preparing for tournaments I like to focus on the two most important tools you have as an angler, your boat and your game plan; I like to begin with my boat. I start by checking my trailer, making sure the tires are properly inflated, all the lights are functioning, and the hubs are properly greased; then I move to the boat itself and check all of my switches and electronics to make sure they are functioning properly as well. Once all of the electronics are checked and the batteries are charged I focus on my engine, the life blood of your rig. This is one of the most important aspects of the preparation process because a little negligence can end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs, and for college anglers like myself who are on a budget it could put an early end to your season. I check the oil reserve in the back of the boat and top it off if necessary, then I remove the cowling of the engine and check all of my spark plugs and wires and change them if I notice any signs of extreme wear or if I experience ignition issues when running the engine. After checking those components I move to one of the single most important parts of your engine, the water pump, without a properly functioning water pump your engine can overheat and blow sky high so it never hurts to take a few minutes and examine the condition of your pump to make sure it won’t let you down. Now that I have checked all of the electric and mechanical aspects of the boat I make sure that I have the proper safety equipment and it meets the rules and requirements for the state I am in, this includes life jackets, throw cushion, fire extinguisher, and most important of all a valid fishing license.
Once I know that my X18 is ready to hit the water I begin getting my game plan for the tournament together, this includes preliminary research and pre-fishing. It is very important to research a body of water before you ever go there and one of the biggest aspects of research is map study. By studying a map of the lake or river you can get a feel for how the lake is going to be when you get there, that way you aren’t practicing blind and you can already have areas in your head that you want to scout out. Pre-fishing is the last stage of preparation and is one of the most important because you can talk to as many people as you want and do as much research as possible but there is no substitute for on-the- water experience. Some things to remember while pre-fishing is to not get bogged down in trying to catch fish all day, hit a lot of areas and cover water and when find some spots that hold fish, go somewhere else because you don’t want to catch all your fish before the tournament even starts. Also, if you get there and it’s really tough, stay positive because there is no such thing as a bad practice. Even if you couldn’t locate any fish then at least you have eliminated water and you know what not to do come blastoff time.