by Jeremiah T. Bagwell
Contrary to the opinions that most people have, fishing is very much a sport that can brutalize the body. Everything from extremely rough boat rides to crazy weather conditions to poor eating habits can have a significantly negative impact on your overall performance.
Unlike other sports where their elite athletes can bench press 500 pounds and have just 3% body fat, the upper echelon of Bass fishing doesn’t have many anglers that fit that profile. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t perform better if they were more physically fit.
I personally feel so much better when I am in shape. My level of alertness is much higher and my body feels great. When I skip working out and eat like garbage for a couple of months my gut grows faster than a Florida strain Largemouth and my energy levels are just horrible. When I am in shape I feel like a machine and ready to catch Bass all day long.
The off season is the perfect time to start getting your body ready to do battle with Bass. Start with looking at your diet and figure out what needs to go and what can stay. Look at things like
portion size, meal frequency and your horrible habits.
Start by getting rid of things that are the easiest do without. For me it was pop (or soda depending on what part of the world you are in), tortilla chips and chocolate snack cakes. Making these little changes can have positive effects right off the bat. I had a bad habit of drinking a Mountain Dew every day about mid-morning. It is loaded with sugar and is just not good for you. I replaced that with a drink called Emerge that I get from Max Muscle Sports Nutrition (QCMaxMuscle.com). It still gives me the pick me up that I need but it also acts as a fat burner, appetite suppressant and so much more. And because the cost per serving is actually less than a bottle of pop, it was kind of a no brainer to start fueling my body with something beneficial to me.
Another thing that I changed was the frequency of when I eat. Before I would eat breakfast and then not eat again until the afternoon. I would be absolutely starving by supper time. Now I eat more frequently and I also have a couple of Max Muscle’s Triple Whey Protein shakes throughout the day. This will lessen the need for your body to store fat because it isn’t sure when you are going to feed it again.
Nutrition Coach Scott Herkes recommends that anglers eat more regularly. “Eat breakfast, a mid-morning snack, Lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner and then something right at bed time (like cottage cheese). Eat protein and carbs with each snack. Stop the sugary sweets and soda.” Herkes also encourages you to make sure the following foods are part of your normal diet. “Lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and nuts are all good sources of nutrition. Also try to reduce simple sugars.”
Sometimes anglers get caught up in the assumption that certain things are good for us when in fact they really aren’t. Just because a label or an advertisement implies that something is healthy doesn’t mean they are. One such item that you see regularly while guys are waiting to take off in the morning before tournaments is fruit juice. I used to always grab a bottle of juice at the gas station on the way to the ramp but not anymore. “Fruit juice has some good vitamin and phytonutrient content but is almost 100% sugar. It would be better to eat the raw fruit than to drink it in juice form. The raw fruit has fiber and will break down slower and tend not to spike your blood sugar so fast,” Herkes explains.
Not eating healthy can have additional negative ramifications that may result in a poor performance or even worse as detailed by Doctor JJ Patton who also happens to be the Iowa State and BASS Nation Northern Division Champion as well as a Pro Staff member of Dobyn’s rods and Brovarney baits. Dr Patton says “Not having adequate intake of food or water has the same effect on your body that not charging your batteries or filling your gas/oil tanks has on your boat. If you are dehydrated or have not taken in enough calories, mental acuity is reduced and physically your body will fatigue leading to physical and mental mistakes. This could greatly affect performance and lead to heartbreak and lost opportunities in the form of more missed bites and poor execution. If severe, you may even become dizzy, light headed and unstable in the boat or on shore which will be performance robbing and maybe even dangerous.”
Eating healthy is only one piece of the puzzle. Exercising is another piece. Adding some form of daily exercise and stretching program to your lifestyle is extremely valuable when it comes to improving your ability to fish hard all day long. I utilize a few different programs that I select from, based on how much time I have in my schedule to work out that day. One is a short 10 minute program that is very intense, another is a 40-70 minute full body beat down and the others vary greatly in time and intensity. I get bored very quickly so doing the same workout every single day is not something that I can do. The most important thing is that you are doing something physical to help your cardiovascular system and overall physical well being. Just don’t get carried away and do more than your body is ready for. If you have to, work your way into a more intense program to help reduce the risk of injury.
FLW Tour Pro and one of the all around hottest fishing guides in Texas (LakeForkGuideTrips.com), Tom Redington shared some of his insight on fitness. “It apparently takes a different set of muscles to fish than most regular physical activities. I guide a lot of guys who are in great shape – runners, athletes, etc. Almost all of them start stretching out their back and complain about lower back pain by about 2 PM, if we’re doing a full day trip” Redington explained. “I think that is in part to do with not standing up straight for a lot of fishing methods. Especially when retrieving moving baits all day, like spinners or cranks with the rod pointed down, you bend forward just a little. I rarely notice my back except when I’ve been off the water for a week or more after a vacation or holiday. When I start back to fishing daily, my back will kill me the afternoons of days 2 and 3, but the ole body adjusts to it by day 4. Unless you developed some bent back workout routine, I think only time on the water gets in you in shape for regular fishing, just like basketball and football players can’t truly get in game shape without actually playing games.”
Tom continues to explain, “For tourney fishing, I’ve gotten serious about working out the past 15 months, doing sessions with a personal trainer and working out regularly on my own between. While you don’t need to bench press 350 lbs to cast a 1 lb rod and reel or set the hook on a 2 lb fish, building up your core muscles really helps prevent injuries and fatigue. Most guys concentrate on big arms and chests to look good in the mirror but abs, back, and leg muscles really help the fisherman a ton. We have to balance in choppy water on one foot while running the trolling motor; all the time making crazy angle sidearm and backhand casts to get into the honey hole or bending down to pick up a different rod. 4 day tourneys with several days of practice are a grind, especially in the heat. Having a strong core plus good cardio conditioning really pays off after a few days. You have the extra energy to keep pushing late in the day, plus you keep a better mental outlook because you feel fresher and stronger. Pros in fishing have also caught on to proper nutrition for fishing as well. With the competition at the pro level being stiffer than ever, guys are looking for every possible edge and fitness and nutrition is an aspect that most are pursuing.”
As I said before you don’t have to be ripped like a UFC fighter to be a Bass angler but the better your physical health, the better your body will perform on and off of the water. Even if you don’t have enough time in your busy schedule to go to the gym for two hours per night, there are plenty of workouts available online that you can perform while at home. I can’t stress enough that it is just so important to keep active and don’t overload your body with junk food.
Treat your future habits as a lifestyle change and not just a fad diet or a temporary adjustment. It is so much easier to maintain a healthy body than it is to get a healthy body after you have abused yours for so many years.
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