Prefishing and Planning
Prefishing is a pretty important part of any tournament plan. We don't always have time to prefish as much as we like so we need to make the best of each time we go out and what we find when we do. There are a lot of different thoughts about the best ways to go about this process so I am going to give you the process I go through and hopefully you can take something from it that makes you a better fisherman and improves your success.
Catching fish and refining patterns is important but I honestly think the more fish you catch prefishing sometimes you are really hurting yourself. You hear from guys at every tournament that they killed'em for the last two days prefishing then come weigh in the are middle of the pack or less in the standings, so you automatically assume they were lying. I would contend they educated the school of fish or stuck the easiest to catch making them more wary of baits or didn't adjust and change the bait up to give them something different than what they were educated to. If I catch the right size fish in an area I will leave it and start looking for similar areas. I want to catch a few fish but never more than one or two in an area. If you are catching small ones catch a few to see if something larger is around but don't hurt your tournament keepers. Go look for areas similar to that one or back up areas that fish may move into. Something a little deeper or shallower close by depending on the weather.
Fish lots of different kinds of structure, cover, and baits. Sometimes we get ourselves set into one way of fishing or a preconceived notion of what the fish are going to be doing and pigeon hole ourselves into one option and no back up plan. When prefishing do lots of different things and look for different ways to catch fish and be successful. I try to find fish in three different zones and techniques for each tournament and as close together as possible. Major runs are fine but try to keep them to start and finish where you can alternate patterns and find the best pattern for the day during your fishing day and stay with it and concentrate on catching that limit. Weather can always be a factor and tend to change the fishes mood from day to day even hour to hour, so have a back up plan. That way a major weather change gives you options that you have faith in and believe will work.
Research before you go the lake especially one you do not know as well. There are tons of websites out there that give you information or lake reports on different major lakes. See my lake section for possible sites for the different lakes. I keep a log of fish I catch and have binders with articles on the different lakes I fish tournaments on. I do drawings or areas and write in what I caught them on and why as well as weather and water conditions at the time. That helps me remember those little details when I go back to the lake again. I fish all over the midsouth and sometimes you memory gets a little foggy so a written record can be a big help two or three years down the road. If you can't draw it our photocopy a topo map of the area and draw in the details attaching it to a log similar to what you see below. Feel free to use mine. As the year goes by I am going to try to update this page with some of my prefish logs for you to look at and compare to see if helps you.
Planning is the next part to any successful tournament day. Below I have a fishing log that I will record my quality fish and maybe some smaller fish on if I feel they may be a key down the road. Feel free to print this out and use it in whatever way you see fit. I use it particularly in multi day prefishing scenarios to help with bail out plans etc. I can't always remember what conditions were on a particular day or may miss that little variance that can make the difference in a limit and a zero. This gives me a memory jogger if I get stuck or need a confidence boost. When I go to the lake I will record those fish caught or if only have a day to fish may see the lake conditions then go to my lake binder and look at what worked in the past. So record the catches and then on page 2 formulate how to start based against the weather and back up plans to give you some options. You should always fish in the moment and let the fish tell you what to do but sometimes you just need that little extra plan to give you the confidence to grind it out and keep working. Always remember it only takes the right 20 minutes to catch a tournament winning limit!
The last thing is CONFIDENCE. Keep searching til you find something that you are truly confident in. That to me is the absolute most important thing I can stress to you. I have been burnt more than once because I lost confidence in an area and bailed too quickly. I personally believe confidence is the absolute most important piece to fishing of any kind. Fish do bail from an area at times but most of the time they don't go too far and they have just changed their mood and you just have to go to a different technique to reactivate them. Think through the conditions and what has changed and adjust accordingly. It usually just means making a slight change to get them active and to react. Good luck and I hope you found this helpful.
Feel free to print this log sheet below and use it for your next trip or tournament. Let me know what you think and if you have any other suggestions. Also, if you have any trouble printing feel free to email me and I will be happy to email the PDF copy to as well. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org Also, indicate if you would like to be added to my mailing list for updates on the site and products being added to the site.