November 20, 2001 by Rob Newell
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.