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Fishing

How To Be A Good Co-Angler : A beginners guide to co-angler

May 12th, 2020 | Railblaza Team
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A beginner’s guide to co-angling by Mathew Langford, QLD Australia. 

So you’re thinking about entering into your first tournament as a co-angler. I know when I registered for my first tournament, I was excited, but also nervous at the thought of stepping onto something new and also stepping into someone else’s boat, fishing the way they do and being competitive. Now that I look back on it, it’s quite easy to do. Back then it would have been a lot easier for me if I had a guide to follow, so I knew what I should bring and the do’s and don’ts of tournament fishing. Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading this, you’ll have the confidence to go into your first tournament and really give it your best shot.  

Preparation

If you’re keen on entering any Bass fishing tournament, it pays to do a bit of research on where you’d like to fish first so that you’re comfortable with the dam and the surrounds. My advice would be to pick a dam that you’ve visited before and had some experience on. I chose to do locals like Somerset and Boondooma first as these were two dams that I’d had some experience on and had a bit of an idea of what lures I should be taking and the gear that I’d need. To be honest though if you’re going in as a co-angler you shouldn’t be going in to dominate every comp you go in, yes it’s great to do well but the whole point you should be there is to LEARN.

Nov 2019 “If you had of told me 6 years ago when I started fishing tournaments, that I’d be standing on the @bass_nation stage, in America, with an 8th place finish to my name, I’d of thought you were mad”

The first step is registration. Once you know what tournament you want to do all you have to do is navigate to the tournament you want to do on the BASS Australia website, click on register and follow the prompts. It’s an easy to follow process and the online payment options are secure. Your name will be added to the entry list once Drew has received your registration and you are ready to go. It’s important to note that if you want a guaranteed spot you’ll need to register reasonably early, so don’t leave it to the last minute. This can potentially leave you at the bottom of the list and if it’s a popular tournament with more co anglers then pros, it could mean that you’d miss out. If this is the case your registration would have to be moved to the next available comp that you could do, or your money will be refunded.

As I said before it’s always good to go into any situation, knowing what you’re getting yourself into. I always make sure that I have looked at maps of the dams, and check out any fishing websites that may specialise in fishing that particular dam. That way you’ll have some idea of the lay of the lake, what gear to pack and what rods you’ll need. The rest will depend on what pros you’ll get over the three sessions and how they’ll plan to be fishing, these are the guys that you’ll ultimately gain all the valuable information and experience from.

When registering for a B.A.S.S Australia event you will be sent an entry pack in the mail. The entry pack includes all the paperwork, tournament timings, rules and regulations, registration papers, a dam map and weight in location map. That way you have all the information you need so you’re not left guessing or left in the dark.

Bassmaster stage Nov 2019 “Today I just went out and had some fun doing what I’d worked out in practice. Turns out I’m not far off the pace.”

Packing your gear

As I stated earlier, it’s always good to do some research on where you’ll be fishing for your first tournament so you have a bit of an idea what to take in regards to tackle and rod set ups.  In preparation for any comp I will put together a selection of gear to take along with me. Some of which you won’t actually use but it’s always good to be prepared, just in case. Here’s a list that I always take with me out on the water as a co-angler.

  • A Backpack, Tackle bag or tackle box to store your tackle
  • Braid Scissors
  • Pointy nose pliers
  • A small selection of leaders (size depending on the dam and the terrain you’ll be fishing)
  • A selection of Spinnerbaits (¼ through to 5/8 depending on the dam and where your fishing)
  • Surface lures (dependant on the dam and the bite)
  • Jerkbaits suspending (various depths)
  • Lipless crankbaits (50 to 70mm, soft and hard)
  • An assortment of jigheads (1/8 through to 5/8 depending on the dam)
  • Soft plastics (Curl tail and swimbait 2” through to 4” depending on the dam and what the fish want)
  • Small selection of ice jigs
  • Selection of Blades (1/4 & 3/8 commonly)
  • Tail spinners (7 g through to 18 g)
  • Lure scent
  • 1 litre bottle of water
  • A couple Small snacks (I always take muesli bars to keep the energy up)
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • Polarised Sunglasses
  • Long clothing (protection from the sun)
  • Rain Gear (depending on the weather, keep an eye on the forecast)
  • Life Jacket/PFD
  • A camera/phone (Photos and in case of emergency)
  • Your wallet with $60 cash and your fishing licence (I’ll explain the cash part later)
  • A small towel (keep feet clean when entering the boat)

Now I know that may sound like a lot of tackle and gear, but remember most of the items and lures are generally small and light weight and can be stored easily and compact in storage trays in your back pack or tackle box/bag. The lures you take will also depend on what dam your fishing and what the go to lures are at the time. I always take most of my gear from home with me so that I have it handy and can use it to stock up my tackle that I will take out in the boat.

As far as rods go, I generally take no more than three rods, again this depends on the dam. Commonly, I’ll take the following.

  1. I always take one stiff spin rod of about 7ft, 3 to 6 kilos with a 2000 to 2500 size spin reel, so that I can fish soft vibes, heavier spinnerbaits and fish heavy structure.
  2. A longer lighter rod of 7ft 3” 2 to 4 kilo with a 1000 to 1500 size spin reel to fish open water, blades, plastics, jerkbaits, plastics and topwater.
  3. A baitcast set up of around 6ft 3”, 3 to 5 kilo with a bait cast reel with a medium gear ratio for casting edges and structure. And also fishing vertical ice jigs in deeper water.

It’s very important to find out what you’ll need for the sessions fishing by asking the pros that you’ll be fishing with when you meet them at the pairings.

Pre-fish day, Briefing and meeting the Pros

The day before the event, ‘Prefish day’ is the day when you can pre fish the dam with a pro if you’ve already pre-organised to do so, otherwise you can fish by yourself from your own boat. As a co-angler it’s not that important to pre-fish but if you’ve organised with a pro it can be helpful, so you know what lures are working and what gear you’ll need for the two tournament days ahead. Nominations will take place throughout the day from 10.30am till 4.30pm at a predetermined “weigh in” location that you’ll find in your entry pack, this is where you’ll take your signed registration papers, sit down with Drew and have any questions answered that you may have.

Generally the tournament briefing will take place at 5pm that afternoon, Drew will go through the rules and any issues that relate to that weekends tournament. At the end of the briefing is when you will be paired up with three pros for the 3 sessions. Make sure you introduce yourself to the 3 boaters and have a brief chat to them about where you’ll meet before take-off. It’s very important to make sure you know where you will meet them, have an idea of how they want to fish for the session and what room they have in the boat so you can take what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the pairings because these guys are only too happy to help out and don’t be afraid to let them know that this is your first comp and they will talk you through the process as well.

Tournament day etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

In my couple of years as a co-angler I have picked up a few things that I feel will be valuable for you to know so it makes the tournament experience a little easier and more enjoyable.

  • As I mentioned earlier, it’s a great idea to prearrange a meeting place with your boater for each session. I like to meet my boaters at or near their camp earlier before the session so I can help them with any final preparations. This way you can also make sure all your gear is stowed safely in their boat and ready for fishing. Don’t be afraid to ask your boater if they would like help with backing the boat in or taking the boat off for them as this will take much less time and won’t hold up the precession of boats putting in at the same time. Please only do this if you’re a confident boat operator or can back a trailer down the ramp well.
  • When getting into their boat make sure that your shoes or feet are clean and tidy so that you don’t put mud or grass over the boat. I always take a towel so that I can give my feet a quick wipe down if they get dirty.
  • When heading up the dam at full noise make sure that you have everything that you own tied down or stable so that it doesn’t fly out. The boater will most likely keep going as he will want to get to his spot first. Pay particular attention to your hat, a session without a hat will leave you sunburnt and uncomfortable.
  • When you’re on the water with the boater don’t be afraid to ask questions if you see something that you haven’t seen before. E.g. Knots, tackle, rods, reels or technique. It’s also important to remember that the pro will be concentrating hard on catching his two fish, so make sure you don’t break his or her concentration. Talking to much can be annoying. I have been with a bunch of boaters and I haven’t had one yet that didn’t want to talk or share information, I’ve gained some pretty great information, tips and techniques through the pros. Usually they will go to no end to help you out so soak it all up and take it all in.
  • It’s important to remember that the pros have worked hard to find a location that they feel they can catch their bag. If you go out in the first session and catch some really good fish make sure you keep that location to yourself. It’s not a good idea to tell the second pro where that secret spot is because it won’t be taken lightly. It’s great to go out and catch some good fish but remember your there to learn. The three anglers will help you learn different techniques and fish different locations, so it’s different from one angler to the next. This will help develop versatility and make you a stronger and more versatile angler.
  • If you’ve had a bit of experience on the dam where you’re fishing your first tournament and things are a bit tough, don’t be afraid to offer some advice on previous productive areas. A little help may go a long way to helping the pro and the co catch a fish or two. Some may take your advice and some may not but it doesn’t hurt to let them know if the session isn’t going to plan.
  • In every tournament I fish, I always carry $60 dollars cash in my wallet with me. After each session is finished I always offer my boater $20 dollars for fuel and the experience. No matter if you’ve had a good or bad day. This, in my eyes, is the courteous thing to do.
  • After the session or the day is over offer to help put the boat on or back the car down the ramp. This helps everyone get off the water quicker. Remember only do this if you’ve had the experience and are confident in doing so.
  • Always help the boater out, if he wants help or wants you to do something (within reason) do your best to do it.

Weighing in

After each session is completed a weigh in follows. This is where you will take your two best fish from the session, have them weighed, and talk about your time on the water. It’s a great opportunity to talk about what lures you used and the techniques used to catch them. It’s also a great opportunity to thank any sponsors and a good chance to thanks the boaters you went out with.

If you weren’t lucky enough to catch a fish I always make sure I go and listen and see who has got the big ones. Again this is another great learning opportunity to see what tackle worked on the fish that day, what techniques they used to catch them and even where they were fishing. This isn’t always the case in the initial two weigh-ins but when it’s all over the secrets are revealed. I sometimes go as far as fishing the winning pattern so I can take experience from it in case it ever happens again.

No matter how you look at it co-angling is a whole heap of fun, you will take in an absolute ton of valuable fishing information. Every time I enter an event I take away so much valuable information, be it good or bad it will make you stronger, more versatile angler.  

If you’re interested in entering a tournament in Australia the best thing to do initially is give Drew McGrath a call he is a very professional tournament director and will give you all the information you need to know about registering and how the series works, give him a call anytime on 0400 655 326. Give it a go, it may be just the challenge you’ve been looking for!

Matthew Langford – RAILBLAZA Pro team – read more like this and find out more about Mathew in his BIO link below

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