By John Boudreau
The topic of having consistent success from the back of the boat is one that has many layers. As far as co-anglers in the tournament scene are concerned, we are all familiar with who typically places at (or near) the top on most days. Many people often wonder, “How do you get to be one of those recognized co-anglers?” Depending on the type of tournaments you fish, it could vary a little.
For example, in a Team Trail, you want the boater that agrees to be your teammate to feel confident in your abilities and vice versa. You both want to be confident that the two of you can win or place at any given tournament you enter. Your performance on the water is one way to gain that confidence from your boater. In a club tournament where boaters and co-anglers fish against each other, being able to out fish the boater you‘ve drawn (although they may not like it), or finishing in the top five overall consistently is another to way to stand out.
Then there is the Pro-Am style, where it’s boater vs. boater (pro) and co-angler vs. co-angler (Am). This can be tough sometimes because if the boater/non-boater pairing is done the morning of the tournament. It’s near impossible to predict how and where your boater will fish. That’s where having the versatility and instincts to be able to adapt on the water really comes to the forefront.
This is really just scratching the surface. There are a number of things that work for me personally, such as time on the water, ongoing learning and education, organization, and versatility. Let’s start with the obvious, time of the water. This helps anyone, whether it’s fun fishing, pre-fishing, or tournaments. If you’re not fishing then you’re not learning. Learning and education is key. Every time you are on the water, you should be able to take something away that will help you in the future. If you are not constantly learning, you will be at the back of the pack more often than not. Don’t shy away from fishing with different people. This exposure is a great way to learn. If you only ever fish with one teammate, you’re missing valuable experience. I would encourage you to expand your horizon, and enter a pro-am tournament. Enter with an open mind, and it will help you in the long run. Allow with that, of course, is respect for your boaters and their property. Stray from this, and you will find out real fast that those invitations will go away quickly.
Organization is also extremely high on my list. It’s crucial as a co-angler to be extremely organized because of the varying space limitation. This is something I work on all the time. From my home tackle and rod storage, to my tackle bags and rod transportation, I’m always thinking about what can be better. Versatility as a non-boater is essential. It’s a “must” to be able to work within the limitation at high level.
Just speaking for myself, I probably have enough rods to fill two rod lockers on most boats. Working within the non-boater limitation, I try to take 6-8 rods (I try, but don’t always get there! Haha) and I will put a couple of extra reels with varying gear ratio and line type in my tackle bag to allow me to cover more techniques. Some of the best advice I’ve been told is “keep your head down, fish hard, fish smart, and don’t let adversity get you rattled.”
Fishing smarter is a really simple concept, but not always easy to grasp. The organization and versatility I brought up earlier in this article will help you fish smarter. For instance, if the boater you’re fishing with is slaying them and you haven’t got a bite, the ability to pick up on those small differences in your technique and what they are doing in order to turn the day around, is fishing smarter. When the bite is tough, being able to fish different techniques or baits than your teammate or boater to cover more water, is fishing smarter. Being confident in your instinct to know a certain technique will work, or when it’s not, to know when to make the call to adjust your plan that might salvage the day, is fishing smarter.
Let’s face it, there is plenty of time to think on the water, but using that time wisely will help you succeed more often in this humbling sport. I hope this helps make your future back of the boat experiences a little more positive and successful.
About John Boudreau
John is a New Englander living in the Boston area, which due to the large amount of water surrounding and throughout the state, is extremely conducive to his fishing lifestyle. “I can enjoy some freshwater bass action from one of the many lakes, ponds, or rivers if I choose, or switch it up and head to the coast for some saltwater action.” Fishing for John is not only a hobby, “but an obsession that began at an early age. Introduced to the activity by his father, uncle and grandfather, John was an avid angler up until early his 20’s at which time he decided to dedicate himself to creating music. But all it took was picking up the pole again and landing a nice 4 lb. for John to be right back where he left off. In 2009, John began bass tournament fishing averaging 12 plus tournaments a year, with 20+ top five finishes that included five wins. John currently serves as vice-president/tournament director for the Avid Anglers (avidbassin.com). John’s sponsors include: Denali Rods (www.denalirods.com), River2Sea, Boag Hog Baits , and EZ Angler.