Improving Your Tournament Process

With the conclusion of the College Football Season comes the realization that some teams just seem to have it figured out.  For Nick Saban at Alabama, winning is about “process”.  Which ironically enough, is not about winning.

Want to be a better tournament angler?  Start with your process.  If your focus is on how you will finish, you are taking away from your process.  The process is all about…

preparation and hard work over worrying about outcomes or results

The Nature of the Game

Let’s start with what tournament bass fishing is all about.  Catching the 5 biggest bass you can within the allotted time limit.  That may happen over a 1 day period or multiple days and that does change the process somewhat, but it doesn’t change the essence of the game.  Catch the biggest bass you can during the time available.

So it really breaks down into a two-part process:

  1.  Size matters.  Understanding the behaviors and habits of differing size bass is important.  An understanding of those things leads to an ability to be able to do something about it.  A great deal of your preparation should be geared towards this idea.  If you believe that sizing of bass is all chance and luck then that will impact all of your other decisions and sabotage the whole process.
  2. Efficiency matters.  The more time you spend making the right casts the to right locations, the better off you are.  But efficiency is not just about going fast, it is also about the quality of your time.  That’s why there is little correlation between the speed of your boat and your tournament success.  Staying too long or leaving too soon all goes back to efficiency.
The best don’t just accidentally find success. They work out a process that is successful for them and tend to focus on HOW they go about their business instead of worrying about where they will finish.

Process Outline

  • Planning/Preparation
    • This first phase is often done off the water and involves a whole range of steps:
      • Equipment Organization
      • Map Study
      • Past Tournament history of that body of water
      • Study of what is “normal” for that body of water
        • Weather
        • Water Clarity
        • Water Levels
  • Prefishing
    • Practice time on the water before the event
      • As much about ruling things out as finding things
      • Practice navigation and timing instead of just how many/how big are the ones you catch
      • Many tournaments are lost during this phase
        • Anglers think it’s about what they catch
        • Anglers misinterpret fish catches to mean that is what they should do during the event.
  • Game Planning
    • The time between practice and the actual event.
    • The most critical phase, time to dial in plans
    • How will you interpret what happened during “prefish”?
  • Game Day Execution
    • If no planning or prefish, then all of the phases happen during game day.
    • Some anglers are good with this, others struggle in this environment.
    • There are common mistakes we all make on “game day”, but most of the mistakes happen due to poor preparation
  • Post Game Analysis/Review
    • Complaining and excuse making vs a real analysis of what went down.
Some appear to have “natural” talents, but the real skills lie in their mental abilities to process information and focus on what matters. Details matter, but not all details do.


Part of developing a process is understanding the format that you are participating in.  The structure of the event will play a role in your planning and tournament day decision making so make sure you are aware of those issues while you are preparing.


In an individual format, you are on your own.  There is not another competitor in the boat with you.  There could be some sort of judge or tournament official on board with you, but you get to make all the decisions and handle all of the boat operation.

Some anglers thrive in this format, while others struggle.  if things are not clicking for you during an individual event, you won’t be able to feed off of the other angler in the boat.

Pro/Am (Draw)

Pro/Am formats are based on the idea that one angler controls the boat and the decision making about when to move and when to stay.  Usually, the “non-boater” or “amateur” is competing against other non-boaters so while not directly competing with the boater, they are still competing for the groups of bass they are fishing for.  Some events are “shared weight” events where the weight caught by the boat that day is credited to both anglers.  The next day, everyone will have different “partners.  Partners are most often determined by a draw.


Team derbies or tournaments are just what they imply.  You and a partner compete in the event or circuit as a team.  It doesn’t matter who catches what.  The team will bring in their best five at the end of the day and will rank against other teams.

Working well with a “teammate” up on the front deck with you is not something that comes naturally to many and becomes an important part of the process.

Some anglers are able to allow the team process to enhance their fishing, others have difficulty working with instead of against the other angler on their team.  Team events are most prevalent here in the Northwest.  Being successful in an individual format is not always the same as being successful in a team event.  Team events require a recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of both members of the team and a plan on how to leverage that.

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  1. Great Article! Last year GOA helped me on my path to developing a process/system for my tournament fishing. The GOA systems have been a game changer. There is so much great content in the courses and articles. Thank you guys for all that you share.