Let’s talk “mechanics”. For years we’ve heard that “mechanics” are only present during the time on the water phase, of a tournament day. After several years of tournament fishing, whether it is a small club event, or a pro-am tournament, I have realized that “mechanics” begin several days prior to any event.
What are mechanics? First I separate everything into two categories, controllable, and uncontrollable. All the controllables go on the list of mechanics. Let me give an example. A controllable is something like a hook set, a knot, or a flat tire, something that we can change, correct, or alter the outcome of. Uncontrollables are things we cannot change, such as weather conditions, boat traffic, lost fish due to jumping, etc.
Everyone preaches and practices “in the boat mechanics” hook sets, knots, sharp hooks, etc. It’s all the other aspects of mechanics that get over looked.
Body prep: Several days before a tournament I begin eating better by avoiding all the grease from fast food and soda. I know my body, and if I eat McDonald’s for two straight days before a tournament, I’ll end up making a very fast run across the lake to get rid of a stringer of brown trout! If you eat a little better you’ll feel better and have more energy. Remember to drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated. Pack good meals from home to bring with you; you’ll save money, and hopefully feel a little better. Always try and take a lunch or some kind of snack with you in the boat, if the bite’s tough and you’re hungry, it gets tough to fish hard.
Tackle: 4 days before any tournament I start by emptying my boat of everything. I take an inventory of everything I have, and make a list of everything I don’t have that I will need for my next tournament. I organize all my tackle to suit my needs for the body of water I will be fishing. I also clean everything and inspect for damaged baits and dull hooks. After all my tackle is up to par, I place it in the corner of the fishing room, ready to be loaded into the boat.
Rods and reels: The first thing I do is, strip all the old line off my reels. Separate the reel from the rod, then clean them both, reel seats, handles, guides, the whole time inspecting for any damage that could affect my performance on the water like, a nicked rod guide. By no means am I a reel repairman but I do my best to clean, lube, and inspect for damages. After I am satisfied with all of them, I respool all of my reels accordingly. Hopefully now all my tackle is ready for my event.
Clothing and apparel: Always plan for the worst. I have rain gear with me at all times; it doesn’t have to be raining to get completely soaked. I always make sure to have towels and a change of clothes in the boat; nothing worse than taking a dive off the boat at 8am in March and trying to fish a tournament soaked the rest of the day. I always have my clothes prepared and laid out for the next day, so I’m not running around house yelling “where’s my lucky boxers” at 3 in the morning. If I am leaving for a multiple day event, or prefishing, I pack the night before so I can just load the boat and truck in the morning and be on my way. I don’t like being late to the ramp, even on a prefish day. Never know what you might miss.
Boat prep: This is one of the biggest and most over looked areas in tournament fishing. Equipment failures are one of the worst problems that can occur during a tournament day. Inspect everything. Over the years I have made a checklist of things to look at before I leave the house, and it has come in very handy when I start to become lazy. Check bow and stern running lights; don’t be the one that has to go to the back of the line because of a $1.50 light bulb, and always keep a spare with you. Check the live wells for leaks, and proper function. Inspect the drain plug, bilge pump, prop (make sure you’re spare is with you), batteries, outboard for any visual problems, bow strap, tie downs. I also check the air pressure in all my tires including the spare, and inspect the wheel bearings. Check the connectors on your graphs and clean the screens. It’s a good idea to give the trailer a once over as well. If you can’t make it to the ramp, then you’ll never cash a check.
Rules: Always familiarize yourself with every event, organization’s rules, and bylaws. Could you imagine coming to the scales with the sack of the day and getting DQ’ed for a minor rule violation that you weren’t aware of. It is also our own responsibility to fish fairly and govern ourselves on the water. You never want anything bad said about you; in our little fishing world everybody seems to know everybody, including potential sponsors.
Time: I always try to leave with plenty of time before a tournament, so that if I have a flat tire, or some other mishaps, I have time to fix it. I also like being one of the first boats at the ramp, which allows me to sign up, and launch without any hassle. Being in the water 45 minutes early, or so, gives me time to settle my nerves, go over the boat, retie if need be, and get a little feel for what’s going on at the lake. Never put yourself in a position where you’re going to be rushed early in the morning, when this happens the rest of the day seems to follow suit.
Never begin to prepare for a tournament the night before. After the workday is over you’ll be tired and not focused. If you stay up late trying to prepare chances are you will be tired the next day. I begin my preparation the weekend before my tournament, and if it’s a big multi day event I might start a month prior.
This is just my definition of mechanics, which I follow every time I go out. I feel they are just as important as setting the hook at the right time, the type of hook set that is necessary, the speed of lure retrieve, and lure selection. All mechanics need to be practiced regularly. I once heard Kent Brown at a seminar ask, “How many of you practice netting fish?” That one question changed my whole outlook at this game; there is no room for mechanical failure on tournament day. Practice, practice, practice, and when you got it down, practice some more.
Always remember that the definition of “mechanics” is up to you. Use it in any way that lets you become a better angler. The above is just my definition of the word, and some of my pre tournament rituals. I hope I have given you some insight, and some ideas on how you can take “mechanics” to the next level.
If you practice good fundamentals and mechanics you can only get better.