Off Season Tasks of the Pros

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story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos courtesy Facebook of Dave Lefebre, Gerald Swindle, Brent Chapman and Ish Monroe

Now that the Holiday Season is past; the Christmas gifts are opened, the New Year’s Ball has dropped and deer season is just about complete everywhere, bass anglers are turning their attention back to their jobs. That’s not to say that they have not been thinking about fishing, but it can become quite difficult to focus on everything work when there are so many distractions.

ProsOffSeasonIshRiggingNow that the year has turned, the focus turns to fishing. For the FLW Tour pros, thoughts of Okeechobee loom, and for those anglers fortunate enough to make it, the Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa is the elephant in the room.

So, now that the professional focus is back on fishing, what are tour anglers doing to prepare themselves for the season ahead? While we talk to many of them frequently, we also raid their Facebook and Twitter pages to get a sense of what they are up to.

Let me tell you, preparation is at the forefront.

Boats, Boats, Boats
For those of you who don’t know, a professional fisherman has to sell his boat each year in order to stay current. for the most part, anglers basically are assigned a hull and trailer from their boat company, an outboard from their motor company, a trolling motor, electronics and the rest of the items that go in the boat. They are entitled to use that boat for the season, then must sell it and pay the sponsors the amount agreed upon at the beginning of the year.

This is a little bit of an overgeneralization as there are nearly as many different types of programs as there are anglers out there. But, the truth of the matter is that the pros are playing the boat a year game; they must turn it to order the new one. This is the time of the year that the rigging of these boats takes place.

Anglers are installing batteries, electronics, sound systems, Power Poles and anything and everything that needs to be rigged on the boat to be ready for the season. Some rig them by themselves at home, with only the outboard engine being installed at the factory, some allow the factory to rig the boats and others work with local dealers to have them rigged to their own personal needs. The individual manufacturers will also have different requirements for those procedures

After that, the boats are then sent to the graphics companies that each angler hires to install ProsOffSeasonSwindleRiggingtheir wrap for the year. Most anglers on the Elite Series have individual deals and are responsible for the wrap themselves, while some of the pros on the FLW Tour – those with team deals – the wraps are often taken care of for them prior to the boat being delivered.

Tackle and Gear
This is also the time of the year that anglers will sort through the tackle that was used throughout the previous season. All of the lures are inspected for rust, bent hooks and cracks. In the case of wire baits, like spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, they must look at each hook and see if they are still sharp, and that the blades are still in good shape and that skirts are still solidly affixed; the same for jigs. In the case of hardbaits, treble hooks are examined and changed and the baits are re-sorted into their tackle trays if the lures are still good.

Soft plastic baits are inventoried and re-organized, usually by style and color and where there are holes in the supply, replacements are ordered. Hooks, weights and other terminal tackle are all sorted, reorganized or replaced.
Rods and reels are also examined. A touring pro can put as much abuse on a reel in one season that the average angler will put on in three to four years of fishing. The amount of casts and retrieves an angler makes, along with the brutality of long jarring boat rides and even towing across the road for thousands of miles can wear out rods and reels.

ProsOffSeasonLefebreTackleAll rods are inspected for integrity, guides are checked and for those that are found deficient, replacements are ordered, or the rods are repaired. The same is said for reels, inspect, repair and replace. There is no place for not being prepared with your equipment.

Fitness
There is more wear and tear on the body of a professional angler than a casual fan may believe. Many of the anglers work with a sports nutritionist and fitness consultant by the name of Ken Hoover on tour. According to his statements in a Bassmaster.com article several years ago, Hoover has found that the average pro angler burns an average of 3,600 calories per day on the water. One angler, Aaron Martens, has burned as much as 6,000 in one day. Couple that level of activity with hard boat rides, repetitive casting and slamming hooksets, and an angler needs to be fit.

Many pros have incorporated weight training or some sort of cross training program into their off season routines, some go to the gym, and others hike dozens of miles each day while pursuing their passion of deer hunting in the fall and winter.

Appearances
This is one of the periods of the year that anglers make the bulk of their appearances throughout the year. From the fall through the early spring, many of these anglers can be seen at boat shows, dealer open houses and tackle dealers across the country.

ProsOffSeasonChapmanSeminarPete Gluszek and Mike Iaconelli have been building their business, The Bass University, a seminar circuit that brings top name pros into the classroom as instructors and participants come and listen to them share how to catch more fish, then they get to interact with the pros in breakout sessions. Those events are held across the country, and having started in 2010, the events are building quite a reputation for being excellent places to improve fishing skills and knowledge.

Family Time
Of course, there is something to be said about connecting with your loved ones after a long season, and many of the pros use this time of the year to get away from home and the rigors of business with their families and spend some time together.

But, it all begins to culminate with thoughts focused on their first FLW Tour event, the Bassmaster Classic or the Elite Series opener a couple of weeks after the Classic, and it all starts here.