By Trevor Knight – Fishidy Pro Angler

With increased sponsor support this year, I decided at the last minute I would fish the FLW Tour as a co-angler. While I definitely prefer fishing from the front of the boat, competing as a co-angler has a few advantages to it as well. There are several lakes on the tour schedule this year I have never been to or only have limited experience fishing. Fishing as a co-angler on tour will allow me to learn some of the patterns and areas on these unfamiliar bodies of water by fishing with other anglers who have that experience. When I come back to fish these places in the future I’ll have a greater understanding of them and will be able to practice more efficiently.

Another benefit of fishing as a co-angler are the new tricks I’ll learn along with some of the finer points and techniques, that I haven’t mastered, from other professional anglers. You should always be learning something new as an angler, and fishing as a co-angler can help with that process.

Of course, there are also downsides to fishing as a co-angler on the tour. The biggest is that you have no control over where you’ll be fishing throughout the tournament. On tour, the boater has complete control over the areas to be fished, and the co-angler cannot inform the boater of any fishing locations or patterns that they know about. This can be a disadvantage if the boater you draw for the day is fishing an area that doesn’t fit well with the way you like to fish or if the boater just hasn’t found a good concentration of fish. The other big disadvantage is the co-angler is fishing used water throughout the day. The boater will have first cast at any spot, which means a co-angler is left with fishing for the scraps.

As a co-angler, you just have to make the best of the situation. I’m going to go into some detail about how I’ll handle fishing as a co-angler to give myself the best chance of doing well this year. Some co-anglers like to go to each tournament and practice by themselves or with a boater in order to get an idea of some patterns and lures that are working. I’ll actually do the exact opposite this year. As mentioned earlier, I’ll have no control over where I’ll be fishing each day. Therefore, I don’t want to go to these tournaments and develop some patterns as to what I think the fish will be doing and then go with a boater who’s fishing completely different patterns. As a co-angler I want to fish the moment — with no preconceived notions as to how I have to catch fish. In this situation, it’s the boater’s job to find the fish. My job is to catch fish with the scenario presented to me.

Since I need to fish the moment, I have to be prepared to change on the fly. I need to make sure I bring a diverse set of tackle with me so I can capitalize on the opportunities that present themselves to me while on the water.  As a co-angler, I’ll be limited on the amount of tackle I can bring with me. Therefore, I cannot get too specific with my selections. Instead of bringing 10 different colors of finesse worms I may only bring four, i.e green pumpkin, watermelon candy, junebug and smoke with purple flake. By bringing four of the most effective colors available, I can catch bass no matter what the water clarity is.

I may not have the absolute best color for the situation, but I’ll have a color that will catch me some fish and I won’t need a fork lift to carry it with me for the day. The same thing goes for hard baits. I might bring a select few shad patterns, bluegill patterns, craw patterns and chartreuse patterns.

As for rods and reels, I’ll bring three casting outfits, with a flipping stick, cranking rod and all-purpose medium heavy action rod. I’ll bring three spinning outfits, with a shaky head / dropshot rod, jerkbait rod and an all purpose medium action rod. I‘ll then bring one final rod that will be determined by the fishery I’m going to. If it’s Kentucky Lake, I’ll bring an umbrella rig rod. If it’s the Potomac River, that rod will be a frog rod. Hopefully you see I’m trying to cover all my options so I’ll be prepared for anything, while being limited in what I can bring.

When I am actually out on the water on tournament day, I need to keep in mind that I’m not fishing against the angler in the front of the boat. I’m fishing against the other co-anglers.  The boater is more than likely going to position the boat so I don’t get a good angle at casting to high percentage targets. I won’t throw over the boaters I go with, mainly because it’s not the right thing to do, and I don’t like when a co-angler does that to me. I’m going to fish the water that I’m given. I’ll try to fish my strengths if the situation allows for it. If not, I want to make sure I’m not fishing the same exact bait and presentation as my boater. At the very least I want to try a different color or action. More than likely though, I’ll try something entirely different.

If the boater is targeting docks with a shaky head, I might throw a jerkbait along the deeper drop-off from the docks. If my boater is pitching a jig to laydowns, I might bump a chatterbait or crankbait off the wood instead. If my boater is fishing the shady side of stumps, I might try and fish the sunny side. The whole idea is to present the fish with a different look than the boater did a few seconds ago. The odds are that if the fish didn’t hit his bait presented the way he presented it, that same fish isn’t going to hit my bait if I do the exact same thing. Makes sense, right?

I also want to pay attention to what the boater neglects. If the boater is catching bass by fishing rocky points with boulders on them, but isn’t fishing the shallow stumps in cuts along the shoreline, I might target those overlooked stumps, even though he’s catching fish off the boulders. The stumps might provide me with a big bite he neglected.

There’s definitely more luck involved with fishing as a co-angler, simply due to the fact that you have no control over where you fish and who you fish with. With that being said, I still plan to maximize my opportunities while fishing from the back deck by utilizing the strategy I just outlined. Hopefully, this will also help any of you readers that plan to fish a few tournaments as a co-angler this year too. Now don’t forget to mark your catches on too! It’s a great way to keep an online record of your strategies, success and not so great days on the water.

Go Get Fishidy!