Because you can bet the largemouth have a game plan, and you’re on their turf.
Award-winning fisherman Brett Cannon does not take any lake lightly. His team has won numerous prizes on both fresh and salt water. He’s fished all over the world, holds the record for catching every species of billfish on earth in under a month, and takes his bass tournaments very seriously.
Here’s some of his tips for preparing for a tournament. There is no secret sauce here — that comes when he’s out on the water. But before every tournament, he and his team go through a series of steps that you can easily apply to your idle weekends out on the water.
Recently he fished Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho for short) in a tournament and detailed a few of his pre-game thoughts and routines.
Know your terrain
“I like to look at a map for a while,” Cannon says. “You don’t want to be out there driving aimlessly. You’re thinking, I know this point, I know that point. Every part of the lake has a name — Twin Oaks, Paradise Island, Friars Cove. So I get this idea in my head — a plan and I’m going to stick with it. I’m going to go there first, then try over there.
“Obviously things change,” he quickly adds. “You can get to a spot and a boat is already there. So you have to go to another spot. You have to have a bunch of different spots. You may get to a spot and it’s completely muddy. Wind causes that a lot of time.”
Get a Feel for the Water, Wind, Rain
Cannon is particularly concerned with vegetative mats — large clumps of hydrilla, knotgrass, or maidencane — that dot Lake Toho.
“Lot of times bass will be under those mats, in the shade,” Cannon said. “You want to know where the mats are, and you need to do that just days before you fish. The week before there will be a bunch of mats. You go there the next week they’ll be gone.
“Wind, rain, water temperature — you have a lot of variables. The fish are trying to get ready to spawn this time of year,” Cannon explains. “So they’re in a transition phase. When they spawn they stage, and you can pinpoint the fish. They get aggressive too. Water temperature is not right yet for them to spawn. Maybe next moon, when we get some warm water.”
Pick Your Baits
“Once you get a game plan in your head, then you figure out what baits you’re going for,” Cannon says. “Make sure you have your baits. Sometimes you get the kinks out while you’re pre-fishing. In this case I didn’t have any opportunity for pre-fishing.
“A lot of times I realize I don’t have my favorite color so I have to get online and re-stock. There’s just a lot of preparation if you’re going to compete at a tournament, if you want to fish at that level,” Cannon explains.
“Weekend guys, you’re going out there to have fun. I get that. But we want to win. We like to take our time and really be prepared for any tournament. Making sure you have backups for everything,” Cannon adds.
“The worst thing I can think of is getting out there, getting really in the groove, and then running out of bait.”
Stock Your Boat
“Everything that can go wrong for me has,” Cannon says. “You just learn. I’ve broke down out there. You just learn from all of your mistakes. Keep learning. Life jackets. Do you have all of your life jackets on the boat?
“If you catch a 2-pound fish, then you catch a 2 1/2-pounder you can’t really tell,” he explains. “You have to have a weighing system, a scale on the boat. All of that stuff. Oil. Gas. Boat maintenance.”
Have a Plan B, D, C and F — Time is Always Money on the Water
“Once I re-lined all my rods, got all my baits tied on, I’m thinking what can go wrong. “Make sure you boat is ready to go. You don’t have anything clogged up or anything. You check everything because you want to make sure you’re not out on the water wasting any time,” Cannon says.
“At the end of the day you only have a certain amount of time and time is money in this industry,” Cannon says. “If you’re just driving around not looking, that’s time you could be spending with your bait in the water.
“Sometimes you do all this and things just won’t go well,” Cannon says, chuckling. “Sometimes it’s about your ability. Other times it may be about your knowledge of the lake. In a tournament like this (Lake Toho) you may have crowd of boats all over the place — some tournaments I’ve been in have had 250 boats on a lake. But you go a little ways, and there may be nobody around. You need to adapt fast.
“You may go into one area at 9 a.m. and not get a bit. You go back there at 1 p.m. and straight catch something like 20 fish.”