January 2, 2002 by Rob Newell
Whether it is the FLW Tour Championship or a BFL divisional tournament, every FLW Outdoors event begins with a mandatory meeting where contestants are briefed about rules and pros are paired with co-anglers. The pre-tournament meeting also provides information that is critical for co-anglers such as reports on off-limit areas, legal size limits and flight times.
Co-anglers must understand that tournament rules apply to them as well as pros. Just because a co-angler has no boat control does not give him a "I-did-not-know-about-that" immunity clause to avoid disqualification.
More than once, I have witnessed co-anglers who were disqualified along with their pros because they were late. The pro misunderstood his flight time and the co-angler never corrected him because he/she did not know any better.
At the same rate, I know of two co-anglers who saved their own catch (consequently, their pro's catch, too) by bringing their flight schedule with them and pointing out the correct check-in time to their partner.
I would recommend that co-anglers, especially new ones, get to the meeting site early. Most FLW Outdoors events allow a window of three hours to register; therefore, it is not uncommon for many anglers to show up early.
Always carry a pen and a small notepad or index card to record flight times and your partner's contact information. During the meeting, the key pieces of information all contestants need to record are the tournament director's phone number (in case of emergency), the check-out time, the tournament flight times, boat number (assigned at the time of the pairings) and partner's name.
Meeting your partner
Once a co-angler has been paired with a pro, a customary discussion between the two anglers follows to develop a plan for the next day's fishing events. A word of caution here: One thing that puts a pro on guard immediately is to initiate the discussion with an inquiry such as, "Where are you fishing?" or "Hey, I am on a bunch of fish, can we go there?"
A better approach is to begin the discussion with a handshake and a clarification of your pro's name, the boat number and the flight time that BOTH of you are due in. Before discussing anything about fishing, I would recommend writing down your partner's name, accommodations, cell phone number and description of his boat and truck.
Next, agree upon a meeting place. After many pro-am experiences, I have discovered that meeting a pro somewhere before going to the ramp is easier than meeting at the ramp. The best option is to meet your partner at his hotel or have him pick you up at your hotel if it is on his way. Another option is to meet at a nearby restaurant or convenience store.
Either way, this allows the co-angler to get his or his gear settled into the boat without all of the hectic distraction that invariably occurs at the ramp. Once I load my stuff into the boat, I usually follow my partner to the launch site, quickly park my vehicle, and hop into his vehicle. This way I have a vehicle at the weigh-in site. If my partner or I make the finals and have to attend a meeting, neither one of us is stuck there waiting on the other person.
As a side note, if your partner does not show up at the agreed upon meeting place the next morning, do not panic. Occasionally, a misunderstanding or mishap occurs and partners are not able to meet at the designated time and location.
If this happens, simply proceed to the launch ramp, go to the check-out dock and inform tournament officials of your situation. A co-angler can always catch his partner at the check-out dock at the last minute.
With this in mind, it is very risky to have a friend or roommate drop you off at a gas station or restaurant where you are suppose to meet your pro partner. If your partner does not show, you have no transportation to the launch site. If you are going to hitch a ride with someone other than your partner for the day, just meet your partner at the launch site.
After a definitive meeting time and location has been established, a co-angler should get a few details about his/her pro's fishing plans.
Most importantly, a co-angler needs to find out how far his partner is planning to run. This gives a co-angler an indication on how to dress and how much tackle to bring. Long runs often mean going heavy on the clothing and light on the amount of tackle packed.
Other pertinent and reasonable questions include what kind of cover the pro is fishing, the expected depth of the water that you'll be fishing in, and what lures your pro plans on using.
Remember, the more information you can get about your impending fishing day, the more efficient you can be about packing gear and tackle.
In the next installment of The Co-angler's Clinic, readers will learn packing tips as well as the importance of bringing a manageable amount of tackle for a day of fishing.
Rob Newell is a freelance outdoor writer from Tallahassee, Fla. He has competed in over 30 Operation Bass events as a co-angler on all levels - BFL, Everstart and FLW. He won an FLW 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.
The Co-angler's Clinic: Arriving at the tournament site
The Co-angler's Clinic: Analyzing the amateur experience
The Co-angler's Clinic: Packing for a fishing tournament means careful planning