Well, as most of you have heard, I’ve pulled a “Tom Brady.” After announcing my retirement last year, I had a change of heart and will fish the Bass Pro Tour in 2023. I’m just not ready to watch MLF NOW! from my house while these guys fish Lake Guntersville in May.
So here I am, preparing for my 22nd year to compete in tournament fishing. There have been many changes in the sport of fishing in those 22 years – the engines, boats, electronics and gear have all changed – but a few key points to tournament fishing have not. Here are some of my tried-and-true preseason routines.
Look ahead at your year. Sit down with your schedule of tournaments, fun fishing trips, etc., and make lists of possible patterns for that time of year. Decide which lures you will need and check your inventory. The last thing you want is to be in upstate New York in August and realize you’re out of Bray Z jerkbaits.
Consider inventory long before crunch time. Also use a cotton swab to check the guides on your rods for cracks or abrasions, which could cut your line (usually at the most inopportune time).
January is a great time to back the boat in the garage and have a deep clean and re-organization in your boat. Bass Mafia tackle boxes are by far my favorite way to organize – they’re incredibly tough, sturdy, and customized specifically for each type of crankbait. The Money Bags by Bass Mafia are clear and tough, and hold all my plastics, keeping them pliable and looking great all season.
But, don’t just organize tackle. Make sure the rod locker is neat and tidy, as well as your other storage areas. Take the time to organize your filming gear. If you like to run a GoPro while you fish, having your filming gear in its own small bag you can grab at the end of the day is very helpful. That allows you to take it home or to the hotel, download/view footage, recharge your batteries, then grab the bag as you head back out.
Before you ever set out on the lake this year, make sure you have your personal flotation devices on board. If you have an inflatable PFD, check the expiration date.
Now is also a good time to check that all your batteries are in working order, as well as checking your fire extinguisher and its expiration date. Check your lights, foghorn and whistle, and replace anything that’s showing wear. Pull out your first aid kit and replace any needed supplies like Band-Aids, sunscreen, or antibiotic ointment.
Another tip that some people may forget: pack an extra set of clothes (I keep an extra set in the boat at all times). If it’s wet, rainy and cold, a warm, dry set of clothes can make all the difference.
Make sure all your maintenance is up-to-date on your truck and trailer. Check the lubrication on bearings on your trailer wheels. Assure that you have proper tire inflation on the trailer tires as well as the tow vehicle.
Also make sure that your trailer brakes are working properly. If you have a vehicle with an automatic setup for trailering/pulling, become familiar with it so you aren’t figuring it out while pulling your boat down the road. If you’re running one of the new Mercury 4-stroke engines, be sure to change and/or check the oil before starting the season.
Look at your overall schedule for the year with work and family, as well as fishing. Find times to take your family along for a fishing trip just for fun.
Hotels book up near key areas around popular lakes at certain times of the year, so plan ahead. Also, don’t count out some smaller lakes along the way to your major fishing destinations. I’ve happened upon some excellent days of fishing on small lakes I had never heard of, just by taking a chance and an extra day on the way home.
Whether you’re fishing tournaments, planning a couple of destination fishing trips with friends, or just excited for warmer days ahead and hitting your local lake on the weekends, I hope my tips on getting ready for the season are helpful for you.
Stay safe, friends, and maybe I will see you on the water in 2023