Sometimes you aren’t able to practice or “prefish” at all.  Sometimes you can practice the day before a tournament.  Without looking at how misguided either rule is, lets look at the later situation…your last practice day is the day before the tournament.

Seasonal Considerations

During the summer and fall, the day before prefish can be pulled off easier with less impact on the fishing.

Unfortunately during this time of year (early spring or “prespawn”) things are in a great deal of flux (no, I didn’t misspell anything).  Things are a’changing.  That means a couple of things:

  1. Your earlier prefish the week or weekend before will be quite different than your current day on the water.  Period.
  2. Your final tuneup, the day before the tournament, will still be different than what you find on tournament day – even though it’s the next day.

The unfortunate part is that many of us will make decisions based on how our prefish goes good or bad.  Often in the early spring, prefishing can be volatile, hit and miss or just flat out bad.  Weather is unsettled, we are rusty, things are different from last year, etc.  If we have a chance to get in one last practice the day before the derby, it often puts a lot of importance/pressure to catch fish on that day.

If we don’t catch them on that day, we often write off those areas as no good.  If we do catch them, it is easy to give those catches more significance than they deserve because, well…our other outings (earlier practice days) either didn’t happen or didn’t go very well.

Plus, let’s look at a bass’s needs this time of year (prespawn)…

In order of importance:

  1.  Movements toward spawning (what “prespawn” really is all about)
  2. Security (mostly from overhead threats as they put themselves at risk around shallower water)
  3. Feeding

The two things we have to offer as anglers are the two things the fish are least looking for (food, and a threat from above)

So…the worst thing you can do the day before is to go out and try and catch them, especially on anything you are planning on fishing the next day.

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t make a cast or attempt to catch any the day before.  The negatives far outweigh the positives here.  The only exception to this might be when fishing an area you are totally unfamiliar with.  But definitely, you should NOT be trying to catch any fish on a location you know you are likely to fish the next day.
  • See how many you can catch in a new area.  Many of us try to see how many baits might work or how wide of an area they can catch them from.  These are both mistakes and should be left to tournament day.  If you have to fish a new area, then quit as soon as you get any kind of feedback.  That doesn’t have to be an actual catch.  You might miss one, lose one or see one.  Remember – you don’t care how good that location is this day, but tomorrow on the day of the actual tournament.

What to DO:

  • Gage the popularity of areas.  Know where you would want to start based on a good draw vs bad draw.  Get a feel for the general popularity of places and how negative or put off the bass are likely to be.
  • Find more areas that represent the structure/cover you will be wanting to fish.  Try to get a feel for “life” in that area…other fish, insects, birds, etc.
  • Check all of your gear – rods, reels, line, trolling motor, big motor, livewells, etc.  Many a morning gets off to a bad start due to equipment issues.
  • Run through “if-then” scenarios:
    • If the wind is blowing from this direction then…
    • If a boat is already here then…
    • If we don’t get a bite here then…
    • If we catch 20lbs here in the first hour then…

The final practice day should be more of a mental walk-through than anything else, especially when it falls on the day before the event.

As you fish more and more different kinds of circuits you are likely to come across a scenario where you can practice the day before.  What you do physically to alter the very places you want to fish and how you handle (mentally) the feedback you do or don’t get from that last practice day will become a big part of how your tournament day goes.

Also, the more we can educate others on how to practice, the better off the fisheries will be, especially for those places that seem especially sensitive to lots of boats on the water on consecutive days.  When practice is the day before, how anglers conduct themselves will play an important roll in how the tournament day plays out for everyone.

What are your opinions on how to handle practice the day before a derby?  Let’s hear from you!

 

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