Most casual fans of the Bass Pro Tour (or even those who fish competitive tournaments) think of “pre-season preparation” starting after the current season is done. Well, not MLF pro James Elam.
While Elam certainly fishes in the moment throughout the season, he’s also always planning for the next season. Always moving forward, analyzing the positives and negatives, and working on simplifying and streamlining his approach to fishing the Bass Pro Tour in an effort to maximize his success.
“I started my 2021 prep back in September or late August,” Elam admitted. “It was so hot outside at home (in Oklahoma) that I really didn’t go fishing a lot. So, I had some time before the last events of the year to start to get rid of some things, identify weaknesses in my skills, and start to work on improving them. Planning for the next season.”
Elam’s approach is not dissimilar to one of those house organizing shows on HGTV: “Declutter and keep only what you need” could easily be his motto.
“For the 2021 season, I’ve really cleaned out a bunch of stuff I don’t use,” Elam said. “I had stuff I’ve not used in eight years of pro fishing. It’s gone now, I’ve moved on and gotten rid of a lot of stuff. By removing tackle I don’t use, I minimize distractions. I don’t need distractions. It’s necessary to simplify the approach when you fish professionally. You can’t get dialed in on bodies of water in a day and a half of practice like you do at your home lake. So I bring what I’ve found to work for me.
“I also clean out my electronics. I go through all the maps and waypoints from the past and clean out some stuff. I remove the clutter and prepare to be more efficient at my job.”
Elam isn’t all about removing distractions for success, he also adds as much as he feels is necessary.
“I’ve ordered a bunch of specialized items you can’t run down to a Walmart and buy,” he sais. “Stocked up on things like those Berkley Flatworms. When we’re up north in tournaments, it’ll be hard to find things like that in the stores, so I stock up when I can find things I know I’ll need now.
“I check in with my sponsors and make sure I have plenty of Seaguar line and Shimano rods and reels. I make sure I have my main rigs and backups. I also take my existing rods and reels and clean everything. I may have simplified my tackle selections to increase efficiency, but I have plenty of what I need to be successful.”
It’s not all about gear for Elam during pre-season prep.
“When I get the schedule, I look at every single lake and go through my mental plan,” Elam said. “I need to understand the curveballs that can happen and what the difficulties may be. For example, Sam Rayburn Lake, I look at where we take out, then I decide where I’m going to practice, where I may fish the event.
“I try to figure out a scheme or game plan, all the tools I need for the event, and what I’ll be doing during the event. I analyze stuff a lot, the things that are worth analyzing. I don’t get off in left field, but I will analyze things I feel are necessary.”
With game plans and tackle in order, Elam does find time to get into the best physical shape he can be to endure the tough Bass Pro Tour season.
“I run to get into good cardiovascular shape,” Elam said. “I like to be in the best shape I can be to compete. I’m also rehabbing tennis elbow, so I need to make sure my body is ready to go. I also change my sleep patterns well ahead of the season. I may sleep in now, and only get up early to fish. But as the season approaches I get up really early every day so my body adjusts to being awake and ready during tournament hours.
“Just like tackle prep, getting my body ready is something I can control. There are a lot of things I can’t control, but the things I can control, I will.”