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Tournament Fishing: A Way of Life!

Well we have been having a lot of success on the Crappie Masters Tournament Trail. As of this writing my partner, Craig Nichols, and I have fished 2 tournaments and have finished 1st and 2nd.  There are a lot of theories about our success, but I have been asked to share a bit about our accomplishments.

Let me start by saying the #1 secret to our success is hard work and time on the water. Not just before the tournament, but in years past.  I was privileged enough to get to spend over 200 days on the water last year, that’s an average of 4 days a week on the water.  Some were daylight to dark and some were a few hours after work, but it takes dedication to accomplish your dreams.  Continuing that statement of hard work, I spend on average 20-30 hours of time studying maps of all kinds before I ever set foot on a lake.  Once I arrive at a lake, I typically drive to most of the boat ramps and make it a point to network with the locals as there is no better source of information. I then spend the rest of the day going to local bait/tackle stores doing the same. I try to buy something at everyone of them because I appreciate them being open and being willing to share information.  On a side note, it is extremely important that we support (spend money at) our local shops, without them we are left to Amazon and eBay and I would hate to have to wait a couple days just to get some hooks.

So, day one is over, and I may not even have made it to the water, but I have a plan already developed for tomorrow. I will have located 20-30 spots on the lake that I will be checking in the daylight to dark day on the water. Hopefully by the end of day 2 I am well on my way to discovering a pattern. This process continues up until tournament day. Sometimes, as in the case of Darbone in Louisiana, this occurs over the course of multiple weekends and usually and extended stay just before the tournament. Many times, before the tournament starts, I may have well over 100 hours of physical time on the water and another 50-75 hours spent studying maps and networking.

I can’t stress it enough, hard work is the key to success. This is true in everything we do in life. I have a great respect for Olympian and Author Lanny Basham and he puts it this way “The more we think about, talk about and write about something happening, we improve the probability of they happening.”

Every lake is different, but every lake is the same, and you need to identify and capitalize on this.  Every lake has a main channel, secondary channels, points and flats.  You have to understand where you are at in the seasonal cycle to understand how to utilize that information. And understand that all fish don’t do the same thing at the same time.

A perfect example is at Grenada Mississippi a couple weeks ago, with water conditions 25ft above normal pool for the year and the lake almost 3x its normal surface area as it spread out into the shallows. I struggled all week as I was trying to form a pattern. Some anglers were having success in the flats/shallows, but I was finding my bigger fish in the deep water. I had caught my 1st 3# fish in 32 FOW and suspended at 3 ft.  So as the week went on, I decided that no matter what we were going to follow the deep-water plan.  We fished both days in the exact 2 mile stretch and never saw another tournament angler.  We finished 2nd place in that tournament and to my knowledge were the 1st team in history to place while fishing using a single pole method. After weight in we were able to hear how the tournament was won.  Paul Turner said that he found his fish in a flooded field in 3 foot of water, where the grass was so thick that he couldn’t even move the boat around. He basically sat in 1 place for 8 hours each day.

This is what is so crazy about our sport, there are multiple ways to be successful.  The key is to figure out a plan, and then follow that plan, remembering why it is that you chose that plan in the first place.  You won’t win every tournament, but over time you will be consistent, and that is far more important. Hope this helps a few who are feeling the tournament itch.

Robert Carlile
Tournament Angler

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