Getting Ready to Go

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story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos by James Niggemeyer, B.A.S.S. and Dan O’Sullivan

It’s that time of year when bass fishing pros fancies turn to tournament fishing. Well, not exactly immediately, but with the first B.A.S.S. Southern Open being a couple weeks away on The Harris Chain in Florida; and Everstart Series event on Okeechobee that same week and the first FLW Tour Open on Okeechobee a couple of weeks later, now is the time for preparation.

In the past we’ve shown you the prep work in our videos with Ish Monroe and John Murray as they get their boats ready for the season. Monroe showed us how he rigged his Ranger / Yamaha and Murray took us with him as he went out for his 2011 Ranger / Mercury’s maiden voyage.

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Some anglers have a whole offseason of work to do because the deer hunting season collides with tackle time. Others have been steadily working on gear and maintenance all fall and winter and are now into their physical fishing training.

There are different schools of thought for how to organize, how to prepare, how to train and prioritize preparation with family schedules and business obligations. The fact remains that the modern day bass pro as a whole is operating a full time business, and working tackle time into the schedule is an important consideration.

We hadn’t planned on doing this article, but each time we talk to pros throughout the offseason, we get struck with how much time they spend preparing for the upcoming season. Depending on sponsor agreements and where they are in that process, some are still trying to figure out what their title sponsor will be for the year, while others are done with their wraps already installed.

Others are onto the task of getting themselves into fishing shape, while others still are on the road already traveling to one of the three events we mentioned above. One thing for certain; they all have their own way of keeping sharp, or getting that edge back for the season, and we can learn something from all of them that can help us get ready for fishing season, or for our first tournaments.

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Packing Tackle
Obviously, no professional angler is worth his weight in plastic if his gear is not ready to go when the bell rings. With an abundance of personalities on tour, there is a plethora of ways to prepare and organize tackle.

Mile McClelland begins by organizing his tackle into Hefty Sportsman Bags to keep them in order. He keeps backup bags of his Zoom soft plastics in his truck, and moves enough into the boat for a day on the water; depending upon the bite he is on.

Leaving his baits in their original Zoom packaging, he separates his Brush Hogs, Speed Craws, Fat Albert Grubs and Chunks into one gallon bags by color, then puts all of the one gallon bags into a two and a half gallon Hefty Sportsman One Zip to keep them tidy. Once he narrows down the color and baits he needs for a tournament day, he puts three or four bags of the main color and a couple of other colors into a one gallon bag for that bait style, and goes fishing. This helps him keep his boat light, but provides enough for a full day; he replenishes when he returns that night.

Boyd Duckett has discovered that he had allowed his tackle room, truck and boat to become more than slightly disorganized. That’s not hard to believe with the amount of business ventures the 2007 Bassmaster Classic Champion has between his Southern Tank Leasing, Duckett Fishing and Major League Fishing projects going. However, as he has expressed in his “Duckett Perspective” blog right here on Advanced Angler, Duckett found himself losing focus last year.

Duckett said he has set out to change that this year. He has been organizing himself for the upcoming season by spending time after work each day, and most weekend days for the past month. “I don’t necessarily believe that I need to have perfect organization to be competitive; it has to be comfortable for me,” he said recently. “But, what I have found is that by handling all of my lures and thinking about where to use them, I’m getting myself in fishing mode mentally, and that feels pretty good.”

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Physical Training
The training efforts of the pros have been covered at lengths on many of the sport’s popular websites, but working on physical fitness is a benefit to those who make their living by pushing their bodies and minds to the limit. Not everyone likes the standard, go to the gym routine, and several have found ways to integrate having fun into their offseason regimens.

Skeet Reese is dedicated to keeping himself in shape. In the past, Reese has put himself through the P90X workouts and completely redefined his body, and then to keep things interesting and stay in shape, he has chosen training for a triathlon and has even taken up mountain biking and running with his wife Kim when the kids are at school –they do physical activities as a family on weekends.

John Crews is one of the more surprising physical individuals on the Elite Series. Despite his small stature, Crews’ is remarkably fit and athletic; his sports background is evident in his muscular arms and legs. But, even Crews is not necessarily only a weight room devotee. Rather than churn away at the treadmill, Crews plays in some rather hardcore pickup basketball games near his Salem, Va. home. He says that he enjoys the competitive nature of basketball games for cardio.

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Dave Wolak is also a fitness fanatic, and he has been the guy that the other tour pros turn to for fitness advice over the years. Wolak and his wife have trained for marathons together, and he even teamed with some Marines to do the Memorial Bataan death March Walk for Wounded Warriors in March.

The Fun Stuff!
We all love to fish. The feeling of that thump on a jig or the dead stop of a reaction bait as we retrieve it through the water is addictive to bass anglers. Tour anglers are no different, and they find a way to get on the water to get themselves into fishing shape in the offseason.

Many of the anglers around the central area of the country head to the Lone Star State to get in shape. Denny Brauer and his wife Shirley spend their winters at Amistad Lake in a home they’ve recently completed in a development there. Of course, Brauer and his son Chad spend much of the offseason filming their television show, Brauer’s Bass Battles, so they are all over the country, but Texas is the winter home for the Snowbird Missourians.

Falcon Lake has become a popular destination for tour pros to push themselves and their gear to the limit and even earn a little income while they’re at it by guiding. Alton Jones doesn’t guide, but he spends a lot of his offseason hosting sponsors and fishing with his son Alton Jr. at Falcon.

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Fellow Elite Series pros James Niggemeyer has also spent some time at Falcon, but he has incorporated guiding into his routine. The Van, Tex. pro, who operates a guiding service on Lake Fork near his home, has taken some clients on Falcon Lake this offseason as well.

Perhaps the most unique offseason fishing routine belongs to Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla. Kriet; like so many of his fellow fishing pros, loves to chase and catch bunches of big bass whenever the opportunity presents itself. However, rather than get himself conditioned to catching dozens of fish an hour, Kriet picks the toughest lake he can near home to get himself used to getting two to four bites a day. That way, when he heads to the Classic, he will feel like caching ten bass is a lot, and he has prepared himself for a grinder if he needs to.

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We don’t know if any of these things will help any of you plan for your upcoming season, but if it works for the best in the business, it might help you too.