Fishin’ from the Back
Over the past few years I have been pretty fortunate to have fished on the back deck of some incredible anglers. Whether it was B.A.S.S. & FLW pros, local legends, peers, family, or weekend warriors, I try to keep a few things in mind while basking in the glory of not having to deal with a trolling motor for a few hours! Regardless of who was at the helm, I made sure to pick up one or two lessons from my “guide” for the day.
1. Keep your emotions in check
It can get to be a long day when you are on the water, especially if it’s just not going your way. Sometimes it seems like the guy in the front replaced his fishing rod with a fish vacuum! He connects on every cast while you are struggling to get a bite. Trust me, it is downright agonizing, but you have to press on. Know that at any point 1 of the 5 bites you need is going to occur. Remember, you are not fishing against your pro, and he has put in the time and effort to find those high percentage spots in practice.
2. Be courteous
After all, he is taking you to his best spots, in his boat, on his gas money! Picture the pro as your guide for the day. The pros in these tournaments don’t want to have the hassle of competition and dealing with an ornery co-angler! Offer them gas money, bring ice, consolidate your tackle, and for goodness sake, don’t expect to have cleared out compartments in their boat. That being said, most will allow you to toss your lunch/drinks in their cooler, but don’t take advantage of the situation. Help them with netting fish if they ask you to!
3. Keep your cool if you draw your favorite angler
If you draw Mike Iaconelli, don’t freak out! Keep your questions at 100 or less. Enough said.
4. Watch the boater
Hit spots they miss, but don’t cast in front of the boat. There will be enough productive water to cast at throughout the day (even if you draw Ike) that you shouldn’t feel the need to impede on your pro’s casts. Remember, they are pros and there will be fish around you! That being said, leave obvious spots alone if the pro has expressed that he will be coming back through the area. Try to fish where they are not fishing! Attempting to fish shallower or deeper than what the pro is targeting can help both you and the pro to find new patterns. If all else fails, do what he is doing. As I mentioned earlier, learn from these pros! Some of these boaters are the best of the best on their respective waters. If you can walk away from the tournament with one tip or technique that you didn’t know before, your time was worth every penny of the entry fee.
5. Lure selection
I think it is crucial to keep the “similar but different” approach in mind. Whether it is different colors, actions, or a different bait style, you can cash in big dividends by varying the overall approach of the boat. Examples of that would be throwing a spinner bait while the they are using a buzzbait, or dragging a jig while they are deep cranking.
6. Be versatile
Have the ability to use a plethora of different baits. Practice with styles you feel are weaknesses of your own! Being able to crank, flip/pitch, drop shot, fish ledges or deepwater structures, throw a frog, Carolina rig… or whatever you may end up doing in a tournament can help you maximize your time with any person running the boat. Another area that I feel is important is the ability to cast. Being able to cast with both hands, off either side of the boat, or just being accurate can boost productivity from the back of the boat ten fold. In fact, I believe casting accuracy may be the most important trait of any co-angler!
7. Have fun!
After all, you are out to become as good as the guy in the front of the boat! Keeping morale high can push both you and the pro to have that much better of a day on the water. Frankly, if you’re not having fun, why even be out there?