How To Have The BEST Bass Tournament of Your Life!

How-To Fishing Videos
Here’s how to prepare for a bass tournament. Includes how to practice for a bass tournament, tournament organization, pre-fishing research and much more.

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Keri: I have a fish.

Glenn: See, you got a good guide.

Keri: I have a very feisty fish. At least he feels feisty on this rod and reel combo. There we go. Let's go take a picture. Long cast in the middle of nowhere. And point blank, there he was. All right, you. Come hither. You ate it, don't be mad at me. If I ate it, you would be laughing at me.

Glenn: Trying to keep him out of reach from yourself. Playing keep away.

Keri: That was funny. Not a bad fish.

Glenn: Hey, folks. Glenn May here with And today I want to talk to you about tournament preparation and the steps that I go through to help me be more successful on the water. And hopefully, you can pick up a few tips or two that'll help you as well. So let's get into it.

There's really three main categories here when it comes to a successful tournament. The first one is at-home research and preparation, the second one is organizing your tackle, and then the third one is on the water observations and research during your practice day. So let's get into those three.

The first one is at-home research and that actually breaks down into three main categories. You're looking for historical information, you're doing map research, and then you're researching your current conditions. So let's get into the first one, which is your historical information. You want to do a lot of research when it comes to this.

Now there's a little bit of a misnomer. People think when you're talking about history, they're thinking about fishing history and that's not what I'm talking about. Fishing history is when you've done well on a lake, you've done maybe in a particular area of the lake and you've done really well on a particular lure and so you want to go back to that area with that same lure and try to replicate that and try to see if you can catch more fish that way. That's fishing history. You don't want to do that.

Too many conditions change, too many variables are out there that it's unlikely that you're going to be able to replicate something exactly the way you did it a month ago or a year ago, or even a week ago.

What I'm talking about here with doing your historical information research is you want to look at lake reports and tournament reports that go back, that spans many, many years. You're looking here for commonalities and trends.

Here what are you looking for are say, for example, you're looking at tournament results this same time of year, and year after year after year, the top 5 baits, 10 baits that you keep seeing coming up, within those, there might be three main baits that are constantly being mentioned. It could be a jig, crankbait and a drop shot, just as an example. I'm making this up. But if you see this continually come up over and over again, it's like, aha. All right, well, these seem to be very productive lures and techniques during this time of year, I might want to consider trying these out during this time of year, when I'm on the lake.

Something else you might want to look at is say, for example, a lot of fish are caught on outside weed edges all the time, that keeps coming up over and over again, the fish on outside weed edges. All right, well, you don't have to tell me anymore. That seems to be a commonality that you see year after year after year. Then okay, that's probably consistent so might be something to look into. Maybe they're holding on docks, maybe they're always holding on humps maybe they're always on secondary point. Whatever it is, you're looking for those commonalities.

One of the things to look at is how the fish might react to changing conditions. Say for example, this lake before a front comes through during this time of year, the topwater bite just takes off and it can be really, really good this time of year. So something to keep in mind, if conditions are gonna change while you're on the water, maybe a front's coming through, then maybe you might want to have a topwater tied on.

Those types of things are what you're looking for. That's what I mean by historical information, you're looking for the commonalities and trends that you can apply to your next tournament.

Now, the next phase of it is your map study. Map study obviously it involves getting an idea of the lay of the lake and getting an idea of where the major structure features are and the major areas of the lake. Where are the tributaries? Where are the flats? What areas are with the steeper banks versus the slow tapering areas? What are the main lake points? What are the secondary points? Humps? Where are the docks?

And you want to look at that but what I start to do is categorize these things. So for example, points. Yeah, you can obviously say main lake points and secondary points, but now what I start to do is I break them down even further. Which ones have a steeper drop and a quicker drop versus the long tapering points? Which ones are more of a North-South orientation, than the East-West orientation?

Okay. This is important. Same thing with humps, where are they in relation to flats? Where are they in relation to, you know, the shoreline? Is it in deeper waters? In shallower water? Are they bigger humps, smaller humps, the multiple humps in an area? Just stuff like that. You want to categorize those however it makes sense to you. And you're going to use that later on. I'll get to that in a second.

But also while you're doing this, and you're looking for these particular areas, look at the surrounding areas. Please do that. Look at those areas because you might think by based on your historical research, that all these fish are gonna be on or near secondary points. Things don't always work out that way. The fish don't read the same books we do. So where are they gonna go in case they're not there? What's nearby? The fish aren't going to go far. So they're going to be somewhere nearby, so what areas might hold them if they're not in the primary areas you think they're going to be? Make sure you scout that out while you're doing your map research so you've got an idea of all this.

You got to be kidding me.

Keri: See, random.

Glenn: Look at that.

Keri: I told you.

Glenn: That's a good fish.

Keri: That's a nice fish.

Glenn: That's a really nice fish.

Keri: Get out of the bushes. It's a nice fish. That's what you're looking for right there.

Glenn: That works. There we go

With all that in mind, now, your next piece is your current conditions. You want to research current conditions. And that obviously starts with weather, your weather patterns. Look at the last 20 days, 30 days or so, and again, look at trends. Not major weather events, but trends. Is it a gradual warming trend? Is it that gradually the temperatures are slowly dropping? Maybe it's been steady for a while.

And then look at, as you get closer to your tournament day, like is there going to be a dramatic change in temperatures? Is it suddenly going to rise really quick? Is it going to drop really quick? Is there a front coming through? Is it gonna be stable weather? So on and so forth. Those are gonna affect where the fish are positioned and their disposition. So you want to take that in consideration.

Solunar times are another thing to look at. Some people put more weight in solunar times than others. I get it, but at the very least, get an idea of what they're gonna be so that when you're out fishing, you make sure that you're on your key spots that you want to be during the peak feeding time for example. Even if you don't totally believe in solunar times, it's a good idea to at least take them into consideration so you can plan out your day of fishing.

There we go.

Keri: That's a better fish.

Glenn: There you go.

Keri: Yes, way to go. Give a little tail walk, dig, dig, dig, dig. That's a mad fish. I saw her come out and eat it. She was definitely hungry. She came slowly sauntering out and grab it.

Glenn: That's a good fish. Nice.

Keri: Nice.

Glenn: That's a really nice fish.

Keri: Yes. I saw her come out and eat it. Look at that.

Glenn: That works.

Keri: Thank you, little girl. Nice fish.

Glenn: Now, the next piece when you're done with all that, it goes to your tackle organization. Now you want to start applying what you do in your research phase to your tackle. Take all your rods and reels and line them all out. How many they are.

The first thing you want to do is think about, okay, what's the main thing that you've learned? What do you think the fish are going to be doing? Where are you going to start fishing and how do you think those fish are gonna going be?

Are they going to be deep, shallow, are they going to be active, are they going to be lethargic? Whatever it's going to be, and look at your primary rods that you're gonna rig. Do you have the lures tied on that you're going to use right out of the gate? Cool if you do. If you do, cut them off, re-tie, and if you don't, start re-rigging.

What you're doing here is you're getting rid of any nicks, any phrase, any problems with your line, making sure you're not so fresh. Checking your hooks, making sure they're good and sharp. You want to be everything ready to go when you pick up that rod and reel and throw that lure, everything's like it's brand new. You're set. So rig your first couple of rods that way. So you've got your game plan. This is your A-game, right? This is what you're gonna have ready to throw, right when you start.

Now, start to think, all right, what if the day doesn't go the way I think it's gonna go? Where are the fish gonna be? Where are they gonna go? Where might I try if my primary areas don't produce and do I need different lures and rigs for that?

Okay. Now rig for that. Whatever rods you have leftover, rig for that so you have game plan B now set. And go down your checklist, go-to game plan C, game plan D, you know, it just depends on how many rods and reels you have.

If you're a boater, obviously you have more than if you're a backseater, but you want to have that. Even if you're a backseater and you only have three to five rods, think about versatility, what rods that you may need. If you need to change up to go to game plan C, do you have the rods there with you that are adaptable and flexible enough that you'll be able to switch up and change? So just go through all that.

Now, what this does is it gets you mentally prepared for your day of fishing. Now you've kind of gone through and you know how that day is going to be, but also you're ready if things don't work out the way you want to. You've got a game plan in mind, you are set.

And that's what happens. A lot of times the guys, they get so focused on what they think it's going to be, that if it doesn't work out their way, then they're thinking on the water "Oh, what do I do now? Like, where should I go?" And they start talking to their partner, "Where do you think we should go? What do you think we should do?" And that whittles away your confidence.

But if you've got a game plan already figured out, you know what plan B is, you've already got your rods and reels ready to go. It's just a matter of switching locations, grabbing a different rod and you're off and going again without missing a heartbeat.

So that is such a confidence builder right there. That's a big deal, guys. That is a big deal to have those game plans, B, C, D all that figured out in your mind. So that's a matter of just going down your checklist until you start connecting with fish. You don't have to sit there and ponder and think about what's going on and be lost. So that's a big deal.

Also, when you're going through your tackle, organize your tackle in a way that, at least I do. I organize it per those game plans. So all the tackle that I'm going to need, for sure, right out of the gate, I've got that ready to go. It's front and center, easy, it's accessible. Game plan B. I've got that ready to go C, D all that.

And you also go through your inventory. A lot of people do this in tournaments, guys. You get your favorite plastic baits that you use and midway through your first day, you burn through those plastics. You don't have any more left over. You go to the tackle store after day one, and guess what? They're out of stock. Now you're screwed. That's a real blow to your confidence.

So as you're going through your tackle, take a look at your inventory levels and see if you need to replenish anything. Now's the time to do it so you don't have that "oh, oh" moment while you're on the water.

And what I like to do is I take it when I put it back in the boat, or when I'm in the backseat and want to put things back together, I like, you know, when I get in the boat even as a backseater, I like to layer things, the things that are on the bottom are the stuff that I'm likely not gonna need. That's my game plan D or E. The stuff that's at the very top, that's what I'm going to use right out of the gate. That's ready to go.

I've got that set so I can just reach for it and go, it's all set. And now all my other tackle is organized in a way that I know where it's at. I've gone through it all, I've mentally prepared, I know what stuff I have, and I know how to get to it, it's easily accessible.

So many guys on the legs you know. I've seen this happen, especially with boaters, they got so much stuff on board, and if they haven't gone through it all recently, they find themselves going, you know, "I know I've got a rod that's rigged with this. I know my rod's ready to go, I just got to find it." Or a lure, "I know I got that lure here somewhere. I put it in here, you know, a month ago, it's in here."

Next thing you know, they got every compartment open. They got their head buried in their compartments and they're digging through everything. They get really flustered, they get frustrated. And this eats away your confidence while you're on the water. It eats away at your game plan. And what if you don't have what you think you need, now, you have to find your second choice, your third choice. You may not have as much confidence in that. So there's a lot of benefit to organizing it this way.

The other key factor is that it makes you far more efficient on the water. If you need something, you know where it is, you go right to it. You can get it and keep fishing. You're not digging through all your tackle like I just mentioned. So now you're game plan ready. That's so much confidence going into the first day of tournament. I can't tell you how important that is.

Keri: There we go.

Glenn. I just caught that little one to get these other ones out of the, so you can get the bigger ones for you.

Keri: Got that one right in the face. Come, hither. I want to see you. Come hither. No, no fighting. No, no. I said, no. Turn around, give me your face. Thank you. I threw it behind the boat. I didn't think anything was back there. Look at that.

Glenn: The next phase we want to talk about is practice or pre-fishing time. Now you've taken everything you've gained with your research, you've got your gear ready to go. Now, go out on the water during your pre-fishing or practice day and now you're gonna use your powers of observation to gather more data and stuff you couldn't get to, get until now.

You're looking at, first of all, use your eyes. Look above the water. Look at the topography of the land and look at what type of vegetation is on the land. If you're fishing a reservoir, imagine the land's going to go right the same way under water and it may even have those bushes or shrubs, maybe and the trees that you see on the land. Even if you're fishing a regular lake, the topography will continue underneath the water. If you're fishing on a rocky bank, it's probably rocky below the water too. Start to put that stuff together and understand what kind of cover and structure is available for those fish.

Look at the water clarity. Has it been raining heavily for a while and now the water is all dirtied up, it's muddy, or maybe it's a lot clearer than normal. That may change some of the lures you pick, maybe the colors that you use. Look at vegetation, both emergent and submergent and how much vegetation is there. How thick is it? Are there any weed lines? What kind of vegetation is there? So on and so forth.

Also, use your underwater eyes. Now you're looking at all the structure and stuff you looked at your map, and now you want to see if there's things available there that weren't, don't show up on the map.

So for example, you're looking at maybe a hump or a point, you're looking to see if there's any big boulders or rock pile. Maybe there's some stumps or some laydowns or some logs down there, maybe some other sunken items, maybe who knows what kind of trash people throw away, but there might be some things down there that will hold fish. Get an idea of what that is. How deep are the weed lines, where does the weed peter out, for example. You don't have any more weeds. These are really important.

And do a lot of searching right now. You want to tie on baits that help you locate fish. So I'm using crankbaits, spinnerbaits, you're looking at drop or split shot, Carolina rigs. Those are the things and jigs, you're covering a lot of water looking for key bites, and this is where your powers of observation kick into gear.

When you catch a fish, pay attention to everything you can, that fish is talking to you. So pay attention to, you know, was he on the windy side of the structure? Was he on the lee side? Was he on the weed line or was he buried in the weeds? How deep was he? How aggressive did he hit? It can go on and on and on how many things you look at. And it was he on the shady side, the sunny side?

What's important to know say, for example, now you remember when I told you to categorize everything in the maps, say, for example, you're catching fish on steep points on the shady side of steep points. Well, since you've categorized everything now, you know, hey, there's four or five other points that are just like this, and I can go to those and replicate it. So it helps you narrow down a large impoundment with say, 18 different points. Now you've narrowed it down to four or five.

But here's the thing, when it comes to practice, guys, you're looking for data. You're doing research. You're not there to catch a bunch of fish. So if you get one bite or two bites that affirm whatever your game plan A is, stop catching fish. Okay? You've proven that game plan A is working. Now, look is there a game plan B? Is there a game plan C? Start checking those areas out, start checking those patterns.

Also, look at the size of the fish that you're catching. Are these fish that you're catching, are they big enough to win the tournament? The other thing you want to look at is start searching, you caught one fish at this point, maybe two fish, stop fishing, get on your trolling or look around, check out the surrounding areas. Where might those fish go if conditions change?

There's so many guys when pre-fishing, man, they go out there, they focus on their game plan A, they confirm it's working and then they just go to town, catching fish to keep confirming it so they have confidence in that pattern.

The problem is they don't learn anything. Now they go the next day and guess what, conditions changed,, the fish moved and now what? They haven't checked out game plan B, game plan C. They haven't checked surrounding areas to see where the fish might go. So they don't know what to do, they're kind of lost.

So use this time on the water to gather more research and more data. Look at the surrounding areas, where might those fish go? What will you do if the fish aren't there on day one, day two or however long your tournament is. It's all about gathering data, not catching fish. Keep that in your mind. You just want to catch a couple of fish here and there to confirm everything you've put together, but not catch a bunch of fish. Catching fish is for game day.

All right. So now with that armed, you come back that evening and now look at your tackle again and go through that process again that I just mentioned. You should only be making refinements at this point so you don't have to tear everything apart, but make any adjustments you feel is necessary. Now you're set. Now, you've got all the confidence in the world, you know what you're going to do, you know how you're going to adapt to changing conditions. You've got yourself a really good solid plan to have a successful day on the water. I hope those tips help, for more tips and tricks like this, visit