Spring Tournament Tips
By Bill Wilcox
The largest weights of the season are likely to be brought to the scales right now, but what can plague you most at this time of the year, is that you either catch them or you don't.
If you look at the weights of past tournaments held on the lake where your upcoming event is being held, you will notice a clear difference between first place weight and last place in-the-money weight. There can be a tremendous difference in these weights. There can be as much as 20 pounds between first and 20th place.
Now let's look how you approach your tournament. I believe the first key is how you pre-fish, or practice. The biggest mistake I feel that I used to make was to pre-fish far away from the actual tournament.
Over the years I learned that conditions and weather are very volatile in the spring. To pre-fish more than a week prior to your event will hinder, more than help, you. The only time I will pre-fish sooner than a week before an event is when I'm fishing a lake I'm unfamiliar with. On a lake I don't know well, I'm not just looking for fish. I'm seeking potential areas that might hold fish, or at least trying to establish any kind of pattern that I can then go to other, similar, areas and duplicate. This keeps me from wasting time looking for areas to fish during the event or even pre-fish time.
By now everyone who has been suffering from cabin fever and anxious for tournament season to get underway has started getting out on the lake and found that water conditions have changed dramatically. In Texas, we can have big spring storms that really make the upper ends of our lakes muddy or bad cold fronts that blow in and scatter bass everywhere, especially back off from the shallows. And just the opposite can happen if we have a week of sunny, hot weather.
If you'll approach your tournament with an open mind and no preconceived ideas of where the bass are, you won't be wasting valuable practice time looking for them in places where they were two weeks ago. You have to remember the fish will change from day to day and even sometimes hour by hour. By not pre-fishing too early you won't have any preconceived notions about where they are. If you're looking for them where they were two weeks before you can lose precious practice time that would be better spent actually finding fish.
Don't get into a rut either. Don't go to the same old spots you've fished year after year. I remember a pro draw tournament I fished 10 years ago on Table Rock Lake. I had never been on the lake before, but I managed to find some really nice bass on deep-diving crankbaits. On one point in particular I could catch a limit in less than 10 casts. After the first day I was in second place and ended up fourth overall. In the last five years fishing the central BASS Invitationals, I have gone to Table Rock every year. It's the same time of the year as the one in which I found fish so easily, but water level and temperature has been different. And I have yet to get another bite on that same spot. I've gotten to where I only check the spot if I am in the area fishing already.
Practice time is too valuable to waste on last year, or years before bass. Sometimes the old holes will work, but many times they can't be counted on to hold fish. You'll have a better chance of getting into the winner's circle if you don't chase past glories.
The important thing to remember when you're competing in spring is that you must consider all the conditions that relate to fishing right now, not the least of which is water temperature. The second consideration will be water level. If the lake is rising or falling, bass will hesitate to move shallow regardless of the temperature of the water or air for the two weeks prior to your event. Cold nights or cloudy days will also make a difference in where bass are staged. When all these things are considered on practice days, your success should show up in the final weigh-in and the standings.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.