SUMMARY OF LESSONS LEARNED
Here are the major lessons I learned from these tournament experiences.
1. In a major professional catfish tournament the deck IS stacked against the average person.
Here are my viewpoints on a major professional catfish tournament. The tournaments are loaded with professional catfishing TEAMS. They travel all over the country from tournament to tournament. These guys know each other and are friends to a point. In some tournaments they may even have the same sponsors so they work close together to keep their sponsors happy. Sometimes they are pre-fishing for days before you can even get there. Their boats are loaded with the best electronics possible to guide them anywhere they have to run on the water. They also have the best fishing and navigation maps of the waters they will be fishing. Their boats have the faster motors, big bait tanks and live wells. Now days they use cell phones to pass information such as where the fish are hitting during the day.
2. These tournaments are 70 percent marketing functions for various companies. 30 percent about fishing.
The SPONSORS have products to sell, so they use tournaments as the way to get exposure for those products. They pay for THEIR teams be fishing in these tournaments. They cover the entry fees and expenses for travel food and lodging for the event. The teams go out and do the pre-fishing to work out their fishing plans for the tournament.
The teams wear their sponsor shirts, hats, etc. to the seminars, fishing out of the boat, and the awards presentations. The publicity when the teams come in money is then used by the sponsor in ads all over the place.
One guy's company actually sponsored two PRO TEAMS at last week's tournament. One of the teams came in 2nd. place.
3. Check out how many and value of the door prizes. That is really the best chance for the for the average person to take something home of value.
Most tournaments pay out only to TOP 3 places and big fish. Chances of making a lot of money for the average person is very low. That is why door prizes are so IMPORTANTAS best I could tell YOUR chance of YOUR number being called is the same as the PROS. Last week's tournament the number and value of the door prizes actually was of greater value than the pay out for the top fishing spots.
4. Be sure you get to know your PARTNER before you go.
I was flattered when I heard I was to partnered up with a Professional catfishing guide. He is from South Carolina so I got his phone number. When I got hold of him the first time, he was out on the lake fishing with some friends. He had to hang up before I got to ask some questions for they had a big fish on one of the rods. The next time I called I asked about what all I needed to bring. He said just bring myself and some hooks and sinkers everything else was being provided. The boat, bait, and everything we needed was covered. He kept on saying just show up and we will be in the money for sure. A couple weeks later I called to find out where he was staying so we could stay at the same motel. That is when he said he was staying a friend's house that had the boat for us. I then asked about pre-fishing, his reply "was no need for that, he knew the spot to fish already".
I called my partner's cell phone a number of times the week of the tournament. I got a message the number was out of service. Then the night before I was leaving I got an e-mail saying call tournament phone number in Detroit. My partner was already up there but lost my phone number. He then gave his NEW cell phone number. That is when He told me we needed a hitch for the boat. I have a hitch but need a different size ball for the boat up there. Told him I would get on before the seminars . He then said bring a dip net and 2 rods to fish with. Then he informed me I will have to be his EYEs for he had a vision problem that hampered seeing at a distance. Gave him my cell phone # and told him I would call him when I got checked in at the motel.
Big problem was we had little time to actually talk things over as we should have done. He did not have use of the internet to send or receive e-mails. Since he was the Pro I really did not push the questions as I usually would have done. He was assured the spot we were to fish was a HONEY HOLE and we would be in the MONEY! The assurance of winning money was the reason he drove all the way from South Carolina.
5. Get together with you partner to at least look over a map of spots you intend to fish.
When I did meet up with my partner I did ask again about WHERE we were going to fish. We were at the seminars and the room was filled with our competitors. Looking back on this I believe he did not want ANYONE else to know the spot. All I was told it was 20 miles for the starting point. I asked NORTH or SOUTH he just did not answer. I had been checking out the area and knew 20 miles north would put us north of the Detroit river on lake St. Clair. Once again I dropped the subject for I assumed he knew where we were going. I also had concerns about getting the ball hitch on my car. Where to go to pick up the boating the morning.
So I never did see any map of where we going! did learn he had seen the map and it was marked how to get there and spots to fish on at the place. Somehow it was not given to him just sorta got dropped through the cracks with so many things going on at the same time. Bottom line we DID NOT have it the day of the tournament.
6. At least one of you should do a least 1 day of per fishing.
Since I had NEVER been on that body of water I had no idea what it was like. I had based all my fishing ideas on 3 spots on the Detroit River. I even had downloaded photos and maps of the those spots. Since my partner was so confident of his spot I reasoned he fished it. I expected him to know the water and how to get there. As I learned too late, he had not been on the water and had no feel for the layout of the area at all.
7. Be flexible for way too many things can go wrong the day of the tournament that are out of your control. Weather, high water, stronger current than expected, car trouble, boat trouble, etc.
Be flexible for some strange and unexpected things DO happen at these events. I did not know I would have to get a ball for my hitch I had no idea I would be the one towing the boat. That brought up the problem of getting my old ball off when I got up there. I also believed I would be meeting my partner before the Seminars so we could talk over some things. We did not meet until the seminars were getting underway. Between the seminars I was running back and forth trying to get the new ball on my hitch. When we found out the we were not able to get the old ball off which meant I would have to get at 3:15 A.M. . He was sure he had a wrench that would get it off o.k. That meant I needed to get directions to the house where the boat was stored. I lucked out on that for it was only 2miles from my motel.
Got up at 03:15 and got to the house without any problem. We got the hitch changed out and boat hooked up my car just fine. I believed my partner would jump in and we would head for the park. Instead he said since I had to go slow with my small car instead of a truck he would meet me there with the other guys. I went the only way I knew to the place. When I got to the ramp the other guys came up for they thought I might have gotten lost. We then got the boat into the water just fine. I loaded my gear on board.
I then asked my partner once again WHERE were we going? He then informed me 20 miles SOUTH which meant going out in Lake Erie! I was not thrilled with that news to say the least. At that moment we had light rain falling with lighting all around the area. When I noticed the visibility was poor at best, asked my partner HOW we would know where we are going? His reply was the other boats in the group were going to WAIT for us. Our boat had a smaller motor than any of their boats. As it turned out they DID NOT WAIT for us. We got lost for a good hour before one of the locals gave us good directions to get out into Lake Erie. The 20 miles or so on the Lake was a beating with 2-3 feet swells . My rear end and lower back was slammed against the bow deck floor more times than I can remember. Did get some good directions as we got right near the fishing place from the other guys using the cell phones.
We also did not have a working depth finder which made us blind as to how deep the water was or where the fish were holding. We were given suggestions where to anchor by the other boats in the group. It took some time getting set up with the anchors and such since neither one of us had used this boat before.
On the way back to the dock one of the other boats in the group had a problem. Fortunately we were behind him to help out. His live well lost it's water somehow. We had a portable pump we loaned him so his fish would be live at the weigh-in. Later at the weigh-in a boat SANK right at the dock area somehow. They were able to bail it out and get it up on the trailer and drag it out of there. I had already been back my hotel cleaning up and trying to get a short nap. Had gone down to the motel desk at 3:30 and said give me a call at 5:30 so I would not miss the awards get together. Had them call the place that holding since I was not able to place local calls as it showed I could on my room phone. Got great directions to the place. Took my nap to awake at 5:50 instead of the 5:30 I instructed the desk. Then at 05:30 I did get a wake up call from the front desk, just rolled over and went back to sleep.
So those are just the THINGS that happened to me. I am sure 48 other teams had at least some unexpected things pop up on them. So be ready to ROLL with them as best you can.
8. Take good rain gear, life vest, check your tackle box or bag. sun screen drinks and food. 8 to 12 hours on the water you need food and fluids in your body. If going to fish a lake take a COMPASS !! Even if you see land all too often those bays and shore lines start looking the same. Have a Good flashlight if fishing at night or early morning. Now days take your CELL PHONE, have phone numbers of the tournament officials at the launch site on you. That way if you need help with directions or problems returning to the dock they can give you help getting safely back.
9. Count and recount the number of the legal fish long before you get back to dock for the weigh-in.
A team that was good enough to help lead us back to the ramp was in the MONEY! They had caught their limit of 10 catfish. Since they had some work to do later in the day they headed back in to weigh their fish early. Then somewhere before they got to the park they stopped and counted their fish. They really had 13 instead of the required 10 fish limit. I take it they weighed the largest 10 and released the rest. In their excitement about how much money they would win they STILL MISCOUNTED. When they got to the dock they somehow came up with 11 fish, they were later DISQUALIFIED !
10. Fish a tournament on your HOME waters for your 1st big tournament.
Stay on Home water for YOU know some of the HOT SPOTS. You have fished them when the water was high, low, muddy, and clear. You have an idea where to run if the favorite holes are not producing any fish. You know how long it takes to get from the furthest hole to the ramp for the weigh-in on time. You know how much gas you need to cover all the area you want to fish. You know where to get fresh live bait if you need it. These are all IMPORTANT factors in any tournament. Get a feel for all the things taking place during the tournament, seminars, the fishing, weigh-ins, and awards presentations. The people are a lot more free with tips and information at the awards presentations than at the seminars. The competition is over so the reasons to guard information as to baits and places fished is no longer that important.
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