Proper Co-Angler Etiquette
What Not to bring
One of the most important aspects of fishing a tournament as a co-angler is knowing what to bring and what not to bring. Later, I am going to break down exactly what gear you should be prepared with, but even more important than this is knowing what to leave at home, especially when fishing your first tournament. (Check out our bass fishing for beginners guide! )
First and foremost, do not bring any type of dipping dye or scents into your boaters boat. Although, both of these items could play a big role in putting more fish in the boat, it is better to just leave them back. The reason I consider this the most important thing to leave at home is because I have heard way too many horror stories from my boaters. Stained carpets, stained compartments, and stained seats.
Try and keep in mind that these boats are usually really expensive, so try and treat it as if it’s your own boat. The way I get around not bringing these things in the boat with me, is by dying and scenting my baits the night before. You should have some basic knowledge of the lake and have talked to your boater by this point so you know if you’re going to need baits with dyed tails. With this info I will spray my baits and bag them or dye them the night before so this way I am not even running a slight risk into damaging my boaters boat.
The other aspect of what not to bring to your first tournament is just all of the common sense stuff that I feel should be stated. For instance, wear the proper attire. Don’t show up the morning of the tournament in your work boots or any dirty shoes for that matter. Don’t bring drinks that cannot be closed easily or put away without spilling. Also, messy foods is a no, bring a sandwich or protein bar with you not a buffalo hoagie with extra sauce.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you want to leave the boat looking the same exact way it was when you got into it. The boaters are not your maids, it should be taken as a privilege to be fishing out of their boat so respect it and them as much as humanly possible.
How Not to Get Back Boated
One thing that you are going to hear a lot upon entering the co-angling world is the horror stories of drawing a bad boater who back boats you the whole day. For those that don’t know, back boating means that they face the boat in a way that makes it difficult for you to cast to an area that could hold fish. Although, there are some guys on every trail that do this, most of the time it happens because of something the co-angler did or is doing.
To reduce the chances of being back boated, there are a couple of things that you should avoid doing. The first thing, no matter what the circumstances are, do NOT cast towards the front of the boat. The best rule for a co-angler is to keep the casts straight off the side of the boat or off the back. This will earn you more respect from your boater and will hopefully result in more opportunities for you to catch fish.
The other thing you should avoid is constantly asking your boater to get you unstuck. You’re going to get stuck and there’s nothing you can do about it, but as a co-angler if it isn’t expensive, it’s better to just break it off or only ask every once in awhile. The boater does not have to go back for your baits, so always come prepared with extra stuff in case of a lot of break offs.
How To Prepare for Your First Bass Fishing Tournament
Success on the water always comes with time spent on the water but it also has a lot to do with how much time you spend researching while you are off the water. The biggest form of this is online research about the body of water you are fishing. Most tournaments that are on popular bodies of water, should have a lot of information about them online.
My suggestion is to check out recent tournaments or tournaments that happened in the same time of year over the last couple of years. Record weights that it took to win for co-anglers, what they were throwing, what kind of water they were fishing are a few important pieces of information.
Also, note if the lake is known for specific things like getting windy out of nowhere. All of this information will help you understand what you will need to bring and will give you an idea of how you might be fishing and what you need to catch to cash a check.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The best way that you can plan for success is to get out and fish as much as possible. I know for co-anglers, the biggest reason they are fishing in the back of the boat is because they cannot afford a boat at this point. This may make it hard to get out onto the water and practice, but the best thing to do would be to make friends that could take you out and also find local fisheries that you can fish from the bank.
As a co-angler your biggest goal here is to go into a tournament being able to know the difference from a bite and structures in the lake. You may not have many opportunities to put fish in the boat, so when you do get a bite, you want to make sure that you can put that fish in the boat. Try to find somewhere with grass, wood, and rock… The best way to practice is to try and fish as many diverse fisheries as possible so that when you get in the back of the boat, you are ready for anything.
Gear To Bring
Rods and Reels
One thing that I have noticed through my experiences with co-anglers and being a co-angler is that there is a very fine line between bringing too much and not bringing enough. The best way to handle this situation is to talk to your boater the night before and ask them what they plan on doing during the tournament. This way you know what to expect and can rig up accordingly.
My advice would be to bring two to three rods rigged with what the boater plans to throw and then bring two to three universal rods. What I mean by universal is a seven foot medium heavy, a seven foot medium in both baitcasting and spinning rods. This will allow you to cover just about anything that is thrown at you if the boaters first plan does not go right.
Overall, I would say that six rods is a good number to bring. Always have a drop shot rod and a rod you can throw a ned rig on. The best way to catch fish in the back of the boat is to throw something more finesse than what your boater is throwing, giving you more of a chance of catching a finicky fish even if your boater just casted there.
Lures And Other
Lures are going to be along the same line as rods, there’s a fine line between too much and not enough. Always bring your hook and weight box, that is the most important thing. In terms of soft plastics, this is where your research should come into play. Find out what colors work on that body of water and bring a backpack with different styles of soft plastics in that color. Bring dark colors in case it is supposed to be cloudy, and natural colors if it’s going to be clear skies. Fill the bag up but don’t over do it.
Most boaters give you one box in their boat to put your stuff and you should always be able to fit your stuff in this box. If you boater says you’re going to be throwing topwater or deep crankbaits all day, don’t bring every topwater and crankbait you own. My favorite thing to do is make a plano box with multiple hard baits in it, a couple deep crankbaits, a couple shallow running, and a topwater or two. This way you’re prepared for any scenario, they might not be the right color but I’m convinced that color does not matter as much if that’s the technique they are biting on.
Can a specific color catch you more fish? Yes, definitely, but I strongly believe you can still catch a couple on any color. Finally, bring a life jacket and a set of cull tags. Boaters are not required to supply you with these and more than likely will not have an extra set. It’s almost impossible to cull fish without tags, so make sure that you have them.
Just Have Fun With It
Lastly, my number one tip is to just have fun. The whole point of being a co-angler is to learn as much as possible from as many different anglers as possible. The goal should be as much about winning as it should be about learning.
I say this, is because it is easy to get discouraged and have a couple bad tournaments as a co but what you need to understand is that almost anyone can catch fish if they are put on the fish. Focus more on what and how guys do things, don’t get me wrong, definitely try to win but go into it serious about winning but even more serious about learning and having a good time on the water!