Analyzing the amateur experience

Have you ever wondered what it's like to fish out of the back of the boat in a pro-am bass fishing tournament? Do you know what a pro expects from his/her amateur partner? Have you ever thought about participating in a bass tournament as a co-angler but didn't know how to get started? If you answered, "yes," to any of these questions, FLWOutdoors.com has an exciting new online feature for you.

Beginning Nov. 20, FLW Tour co-angler Rob Newell will take an in-depth look at the amateur side of tournament bass fishing in a bimonthly series entitled, The Co-angler's Clinic. The series, scheduled to run over the course of five months, will offer our readers helpful tips, information and discussion geared solely for the tournament co-angler. Some of the topics that will be covered in the series include: pre-tournament preparation, insightful questions to ask when you meet your pro partner for the first time, how to organize your tackle, net handling, fishing ethics as well as many other interesting topics.


The Co-angler's Clinic: Analyzing the amateur experience

Welcome to the Co-Anglers' Clinic! Every year hundreds of co-anglers sample competitive bass fishing in FLW Outdoors tournaments. FLW Outdoors' unique three-tiered (BFL, AFS, FLW) tournament structure features a pro-am format that allows anyone over the age of 16 with a fishing rod to experience the excitement of tournament bass fishing.

In all of FLW Outdoors' events, pro entrants are paired with co-angler entrants and the two fish together for the day. The pro controls the boat and fishes from the front deck, competing only with other pros. The co-angler rides with the pro and is allowed to fish off the back deck and competes only against other co-anglers.

Pro entrants are experienced tournament anglers; they have been in tournaments before and know what to expect. For co-anglers, however, it can be a different story. In the BFL and American Fishing Series ranks, there are larger numbers of bass fishing beginners entering tournaments as co-anglers.

Undoubtedly, questions abound for new co-anglers. What do I need to bring? Am I supposed to give my pro gas money? Can I tell my pro where to fish? Should I net my pro's fish? What can I tell my pro about my previous day's experience?

These are logical questions that co-anglers should be concerned with. Over the next few weeks these, and other issues, will be addressed in the "Co-anglers' Clinic." This series will cover: What a Co-angler should pack for tournaments; What to do once a co-angler arrives at the tournament site; How to get the most from the tournament meeting; Packing tackle efficiently; How to properly net your pro's fish; Proper fishing ethics; and Co-angler fishing tips.

But before this series begins, anglers should recognize a few precautionary principles about pro-am tournament formats. These few simple rules of thumb should help clear up some of the misconceptions about the role of co-anglers.

First, bass tournaments are not guide trips. A pro is not a guide who is hired to put a co-angler on fish. With that in mind, catering to a co-angler's comfort level is not the job of a pro, either. A pro is not responsible for providing a co-angler with things like rain gear, sunglasses, or sandwiches for lunch.

That is not to say that pro entrants are cold-hearted stoics. In fact, in my own experience as a co-angler, pros have always welcomed me to anything in their boat. But the point is that co-anglers cannot assume that their pro is going to provide them with anything, even basic necessities like life jackets and sunscreen.

Secondly, pro entrants on all levels of the FLW Outdoors structure are some of the friendliest people around. However, when it comes to fishing, they can also be some of the quietest people you'll ever meet. When the fishing begins, they may not talk much. As a co-angler, do not take this silence personally. I can assure you this reserve stems from being totally consumed by the fishing. It has nothing to do with the company of a co-angler. It is no different than refraining from talking during a good movie. Many pro entrants are totally obsessed with catching a bass. Don't mistake their quietude for rudeness.

Finally, the weather is an integral part of fishing. Only in extreme cases (usually very high winds) are tournament days cancelled because of weather. Sometimes snow, sleet, wind, rain, and freezing temperatures are part of the bass fishing game.

As a co-angler, you agree to stay on the water all day to observe your pro despite the conditions. Pros are not going to "go home early," just because the wind chill is 10 degrees. Always be prepared for the worst that Mother Nature can dish out.

Competing as a co-angler in a bass tournament is one of the most exciting and enjoyable fishing experiences available to FLW Outdoors members who want to learn more about competitive fishing.

Whether you are already a co-angler, getting ready to be one, or are just thinking about the possibilities, click on the Co-anglers' Clinic every other week to get some useful tips on how to make your co-angling experience a more enjoyable one.

What is a co-angler responsible for bringing to a tournament other than his rods and reels? In the next Co-anglers' Clinic readers will learn what they must bring to make their co-angling experience safe, legal, and comfortable.

Rob Newell is a freelance outdoor writer from Tallahassee, Fla. He has competed in many FLW Outdoors events as a co-angler on all levels - BFL, AFS and FLW. He won an FLW event as a co-angler in 1999 at Lake Okeechobee. He finds the Co-angler Division to be one of the most enjoyable and enriching opportunities available to FLW Outdoors members who want to become more involved in competitive angling.

Tags: co-angler-clinic  rob-newell 

/news/2015-03-30-top-10-patterns-from-lewis-smith

Top 10 Patterns from Lewis Smith

The Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lewis Smith Lake featured a mishmash of springtime patterns that ranged from targeting bass feeding on blueback herring to catching spawning fish to dropping in on deep schools of spotted bass. Here’s a breakdown of the patterns of the top 10 pros. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-29-lefebre-lands-on-top

Lefebre Lands on Top

He left the dock this morning in 7th place, eight and a half pounds off the lead. And when he returned this afternoon, Dave Lefebre shocked the weigh-in crowd with a come-from-behind Walmart FLW Tour win that left his competitors shell-shocked. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-10-top-10-patterns-from-toho

Top 10 Patterns from Toho

At the halfway point of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho on Friday afternoon, it looked as if the event would be a JT Kenney runaway win. Kenney’s “red-dot” bedding program appeared to be unstoppable. But then things changed drastically: The warm-up ended, the full moon began to wane, heavy clouds took up residence over central Florida and the fairy tale of scripted plans in a multiple-day tournament came to a screeching halt. By the end of the event, several other patterns on Lake Toho quickly closed up Kenney’s seemingly insurmountable lead (12-10 after two days and 12-8 after three). When the final weigh-in came to an end, the top three places were only separated by 1 pound, 5 ounces. Patterns that involved current, shell beds and even docks helped close the gap. Here’s a look at some of the other top 10 patterns from the week. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-08-kenney-connects-the-dots

Kenney Connects the Dots

Mercury pro JT Kenney was as confident as he could be early in the week at the Walmart FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Toho. He had an incredibly refined plan built on a series of precisely placed waypoints. The waypoints marked isolated spawning areas within beds of lily pads. In the first two days of competition, Kenney looked unstoppable with limits weighing 29-14 and 22-9, respectively, to build a lead of 12-10. On day three, Kenney looked human. His limit of 14-5 could have left the door open – but after weigh-in Kenney’s lead shrank by only 2 ounces. And today, it looked as if the king, despite a massive lead, was about to give up his crown. Kenney weighed in only 9 pounds, 4 ounces. But that was enough. The Florida pro squeezed through by an 11-ounce winning margin to win the first Tour event of 2015. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-kenney-on-cruise-control

Kenney on Cruise Control

For those who don’t believe that professional fishing is a game of offense and defense like any other sport, consider JT Kenney’s strategy for the last three days of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury. The first two days, Kenney ran pure “offensive plays” on key, precise bedding areas to run up the score. Today, he ran more “defensive plays” to protect his lead. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 3

When the Walmart FLW Tour event started at Lake Toho on Thursday, the story lines were all about spawning fish and catching bedding bass by working soft-plastic baits around isolated pad clumps. Today, the buzzwords changed to current, shell beds and reaction baits such as spinnerbaits and lipless rattlers. The change in vernacular is associated primarily with the weather. While a warm, balmy day one allowed leading pros to score big by blind bed-fishing, today’s lower temperatures, nippy northeast winds and dull gray skies caused a significant shift in productive tactics that led to a shakeup on the leaderboard. As already revealed, leader JT Kenney had to resort to a spinnerbait to adapt. Others in the top 10 have found consistency in the currents of the Kissimmee River or have adapted with new baits. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-kenney-crushing-the-field

Kenney Crushing the Field

Day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho saw JT Kenney extend his lead to 12 pounds, 10 ounces over second-place pro Stacey King with a 22-9 limit. Kenney has lived near Toho for some time and prepared meticulously for this event – it appears to be paying off. Fishing in Kissimmee all day, he managed another strong bag on a day when weather changes caused many in the top of the ranks to stumble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 2

At halftime in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury, it’s looking like it could be a runaway by tournament leader JT Kenney. Of course, it’s bass fishing and anything can happen, but the latest frontal system rolling through Florida seems to have certainly stymied the bed-fish bonanza that many expected. As a result, the most productive areas from the last two days have been beat down by fishing pressure and are not recovering or replenishing very well. Here’s a look at how the rest of the top finishers managed to overcome challenging conditions on day two to stay at least within striking range of the leader. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-jt-tees-off

JT Tees Off

There was fuel, and there was flame. The fuel was in the form of a delayed largemouth bass spawn on Lake Toho that had been pushed back for several weeks due to low water temperatures and high water flows through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The biological clocks of Toho’s bass have been ticking, so to speak. The flame was in the form of a fast warm-up over the last three days, a full moon occurring right now and water temperatures rising nearly 10 degrees in the last 72 hours. At the day-one takeoff of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury this morning, everyone held his breath for the combustion that was about to occur. And when fuel met flame there were a few fiery flare-ups, but not of the size that many expected. In all, the 20-pound mark was reached by seven anglers on a warm, balmy day that had five-alarmer written all over it. Exactly why the bite was not as good as expected is still in question. Many pros reported a vanishing act of bedding bass that had just started to show up during practice, but have now disappeared despite highly favorable conditions At the top of the standings are Florida ace JT Kenney and Missouri veteran Stacey King, who checked in with 29-14 and 28-1, respectively. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 1

Lake Kissimmee produced the bulk of the top-10 catches on the first day of competition, but not all of them. Still, it seems that anglers believe the time lost to traveling through the lock from Toho to eventually get to Kissimmee is worth the gamble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-01-toho-s-mojo

Toho’s Mojo

Rob Newell breaks down the Kissimmee Chain lake by lake for a complete preview of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-04-cifuentes-wins-co-angler-title

Cifuentes wins Co-angler Title

ZAVALLA, Texas – Imagine traveling FLW Outdoor’s fishing circuits as a co-angler with legendary pro Larry Nixon…practicing with him…rooming with him…and just talking bass fishing 24-7 with one of the most decorated bass fishing pros in the modern world. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-04-collins-collects-rayburn-title

Collins Collects Rayburn Title

ZAVALLA, Texas – When Tournament Director Ron Lappin asked pro Albert Collins what it takes to win a Rayovac FLW Series event on Rayburn Reservoir, Collins immediately responded, “Weighing in 17 pounds a day.” READ MORE »

/news/2014-06-29-reeltime-report-kentucky-lake-day-4

Reeltime Report: Kentucky Lake, Day 4

Skip Johnson wins and Rookie of the Year Jason Lambert takes second. READ MORE »

/news/2014-04-26-acree-wins-co-angler-division

Acree wins Co-angler Division

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – What’s the fastest way to learn the most about bass fishing? Become a co-angler in FLW Outdoors events. READ MORE »