UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - St. Lawrence River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Off-the-Water Practice

Off-the-Water Practice
Matt Stefan

In a few more weeks I’ll be leaving for my first tournament of the 2017 season. From the sub-zero temperatures and snow-covered ground of my home in Wisconsin, I’ll be heading for a warmer climate down south.

I’m looking forward to the start of this season, but must admit I feel like I’m running behind on getting all of my preparation taken care of. For me, this pre-practice preparation is crucial and helps me to acclimate faster when on a new body of water. Ideally, I’d like to spend time visiting all of the lakes on the schedule prior to the off-limits period. But that’s not much of an option for me since the majority of the tournaments we fish on the FLW Tour are 14 or more hours of drive time from my home. I also have a 5-month-old son now, which keeps me busy as the days disappear quickly prior to the start of the tournament season.

So, what is it that I need to get done before I leave? Well, tackle preparation is big for most anglers, but I find that my gear is usually well-organized and doesn’t require as much time as other tasks such as Internet research, map study, and booking lodging and other accommodations.

Regardless, there’s a lot to get done before the season starts. To give you a better grasp of what’s involved and how I handle it, I’ve broken down my strategies. Hopefully you can implement a couple of my ideas into your own preparation.

Travel

I’m amazed at how regularly I hear other touring pros talk about having to drive around a lake for hours to try and find a place to stay because they didn’t reserve accommodations prior to practice. In my opinion, this should always be taken care of well ahead of time. I try to reserve a rental house if possible and stay with several other fishermen, which dramatically reduces costs when compared to staying at a hotel.

I always make sure to find lodging with appropriate parking and electrical hookup and try my best to find a location that is near the tournament launch site or strategically located on the lake to allow for less travel time during practice. It’s a lot harder than it sounds to find accommodations that meet my demands, but it’s all worth it when I do and makes life easier when I’m done with a long day of pre-fishing.

I also make sure to have driving directions to boat ramps, gas stations, bait shops, grocery stores and restaurants prior to arrival so that I know where to go when I’m at each tournament.

 

Map study

Once I have established my lodging I begin to break down the lake itself. With three days of practice it’s impossible to fish the entire lake, but it is possible to have a good idea of what a lake looks like ahead of arrival if you do your research.

I always scan over a paper map, but find they are only useful for general information such as depth, lake layout and names given to areas of the lake. I do much more in-depth research by utilizing Navionics maps on my computer, phone and in-boat electronics to look for specific fishing locations such as points, break lines and humps.

I try to be as familiar with a lake as possible so that when I’m in a certain area of the lake during practice I already know of spots to check. This allows me to be extremely efficient and cover large amounts of water.

 

Aerial maps

When conducting my map study I usually try to have aerial photos available to give me an even more in-depth look at a lake. I like Google Maps, which also allows me to select images from a time period that meets similar conditions as what I expect to see when I visit a lake. For example, if Table Rock Lake is 10 feet below full pool, I can look at past lake levels and find a date when the lake was previously that low. I can then enter that date in Google Maps and scan the shoreline for high-percentage spots such as rock transitions, fallen trees, humps, grass lines, brush piles, etc. The aerial photos combined with the Navionics charts can be extremely helpful.

Another tip I recommend is to print out aerial photos and then laminate them. I compile all the laminated photos into binders and bring them on the water with me. That way I don’t need to have Internet access to view digital photos and can look at the hard copies on the water and not worry about them getting wet.

 

Online research

Once I have a good understanding of the lake I’m visiting I begin to scan the Internet for information about the fishery. Past tournament results, community holes, specific baits and colors that are dominant, and seasonal patterns are just some of the information I gather. I also watch TV shows and video clips that have been filmed on that lake, which gives me a first-hand look at the lake features and how others fish it.

I can’t stress enough that it’s not about finding other people’s spots, but rather being as comfortable as possible on a new lake. Without research prior to a trip it’s not hard to be overwhelmed by the size of these lakes. With three days of practice I can’t afford to waste the first two days trying to get comfortable with my surroundings.

 

Tackle preparation

The last thing I do before leaving is rig all of my rods and reels with the lures that I believe will work based on my research. I always make sure to rely more on my personal preference when selecting baits, but also make sure I have some of the tackle needed to fish local techniques. After rigging my rods I conduct any necessary maintenance on my Skeeter and tow vehicle so that I don’t have any problems on the road or water while I’m away.

Hopefully, these tips provide you with some direction as to how to prepare for your upcoming tournaments. Ultimately, it’s about catching fish in order to do well in a tournament, but it’s the little things you do that will make you more comfortable on the water, which should lead to better results. And remember, you can never be over-prepared.

Tags: matt-stefan  blog 

God, Grace, Grit

God, Grace, Grit

Life isn’t always easy, and we all find ourselves in situations that seem impossible to overcome. But with God, grace and grit we have not only persevered, we have risen. And we are continuing to rise together, and can commit to uplifting one another along the way. No matter what you are going through on or off the water, know that with God, grace and grit, but most of all God, anything is possible. READ MORE »

How to Prepare for Big Water 

How to Prepare for Big Water 

As many of you know, fishing big water for giant smallmouths is my favorite type of fishing. Competing on the Great Lakes, 1000 Islands, St. Clair, Champlain and other big Northern fisheries is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it gets rough, which is why it’s critical that you have the correct equipment and understand how to use it. READ MORE »

How to be a Pro Angler 

How to be a Pro Angler 

I get a lot of questions from young and old anglers alike about the steps to becoming a pro. I guess maybe sometimes I take it for granted. The process seems somewhat obvious to me. How to execute on it might not be simple, but the steps you need to take really are. There are only a couple of ways to get into this sport, and they all start at the grassroots level, in $200 and $300 tournaments.  READ MORE »

Introducing Myself

Introducing Myself

I want to start off by telling you a little bit about myself. I grew up in Pennsylvania about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia. I grew up fishing for whatever would bite with my grandfather and in middle school I had a friend who started taking me with his dad down to the Chesapeake Bay. That was my first time ever on a bass boat, and I was immediately hooked! READ MORE »

Riding the Roller Coaster

Riding the Roller Coaster

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, although it seems like the last one was just yesterday. This season has flown by, and I finally have some down time before the last stop on the FLW Tour at Lake Champlain. This Tour season has been full of ups and downs, and I’ve learned a lot. READ MORE »

The History of the Drop-Shot

The History of the Drop-Shot

FLW Tour pro James Niggemeyer recalls his first introduction to the drop-shot, as well as what came before it and how he developed his tackle to have better success with this capable finesse bass bait. READ MORE »

From Dead Last to Making Money

From Dead Last to Making Money

If you were hanging out with me at the FLW Tour event on Seminole recently, you would have thought I won the tournament. I was congratulated by every pro I saw, and they were being genuine. READ MORE »

Fishing the Worst Conditions

Fishing the Worst Conditions

Watching giant bags of bass caught down in Texas and Florida on FLW Live during FLW Tour events has many anglers dying to get on the water. The only problem is that a lot of people are still facing some of the toughest conditions for catching a bass – cold, muddy, moving water.   READ MORE »

How to Deal with Dock Talk

How to Deal with Dock Talk

If you fish tournaments or follow tournament fishing, you know about dock talk. It’s the chatter that goes on among bass fishermen during and around tournaments on subjects such as how the fish are biting, what patterns are in play, the weather and just how much of a grind it’s been. Dock talk can be dangerous. It can lead you astray if you listen to the wrong person. It can hurt your confidence if you hear about someone else really catching ’em doing something different. It can distract you from your game plan and your goals. Dock talk rarely gives you the complete story. READ MORE »

Moving into My New Office

Moving into My New Office

The new year to many professional fishermen also means a new boat. Some people like the smell of a new car — who doesn’t, really? But the smell of new fiberglass is better than that. It’s better than the smell of warm apple pie to me. READ MORE »

How to Work in Fishing

How to Work in Fishing

There was a time when the only way to make money at fishing and to express your love for our sport was by fishing tournaments, but that’s just not true anymore. With the growth curve we’ve had, the economic muscle of the fishing industry has spawned some interesting opportunities that didn’t really exist years ago.  Now, there are many jobs in the fishing industry that allow someone with a creative mind to indulge in what they love to do. I get to be around a lot of pros, but my job has also brought me into contact with a lot of folks with other jobs in fishing. So, here are four people I think you should follow and study if you know you belong in the fishing industry, but you don’t know exactly where yet. READ MORE »

Why We Need More Winter Bass Tournaments

Why We Need More Winter Bass Tournaments

FLW Tour pro Brian Latimer explains why he loves winter bass fishing and tournaments. READ MORE »

Get More out of Guide Trips

Get More out of Guide Trips

Guide trips are great opportunities to learn about bass fishing and to have an enjoyable day on the water without the pressure of having to find fish and figure out patterns on your own. I highly recommend them, especially if you’re sitting around during the offseason with nothing much to do. READ MORE »

Martin’s Final Prep for the 2019 Tour

Martin’s Final Prep for the 2019 Tour

Getting mentally prepared is the biggest thing for me. There’s a process, and it has to be done. Everything has to be ready so when I roll into Texas to start practice for Sam Rayburn on Jan. 6 I know exactly where every piece of tackle is stowed and exactly how every piece of equipment works and exactly what I need to accomplish to support my sponsors and keep my own media  projects on schedule. Sometimes the preparation goes into panic mode, like I’m in hyperventilate mode or something, but that’s just part of it. READ MORE »

Life Between Seasons for a Pro Angler

Life Between Seasons for a Pro Angler

As busy as a Tour pro stays from August until December, getting things lined up for the following year, I still find time to relax a bit. Like most fishermen, I also enjoy passing time in the fall and winter by going hunting.   READ MORE »

Meet the Latimers

Meet the Latimers

I know everyone isn’t in the same situation, but personally, I wouldn’t want to try to be a pro angler and not have kids or a family. I got married in 2008, and I fished the EverStart FLW Series the first year I got married. READ MORE »

Create a Base List of Go-To Baits

Create a Base List of Go-To Baits

Every season, my garage goes from organized to absolute chaos as I come and go from one tournament to the next. By the time I empty out my boat in the fall to sell it, I wind up with a mountain of tackle that needs to be dealt with. It needs to be culled, cleaned up, organized, re-stocked or replaced so it can be packed into my new boat, organized in the garage or stowed in my truck bed camper, keeping in mind all the lakes and reservoirs the FLW Tour will be visiting from January through August. READ MORE »

A New Plan for 2019

A New Plan for 2019

If you haven’t been living under a rock this offseason then you know there are going to be some well-known faces missing from the FLW Tour next year. Over the years, my brother Jared and I have run a lot with the Johnston brothers, Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson and Jeff Sprague, and now they’ve all switched to fishing other circuits. It’s like high school again. At least, that’s the best analogy I can find: You grew up with the same buddies, but after you graduate you go your separate ways. I’m really sad about it. READ MORE »

You’re Not Great at Everything

You’re Not Great at Everything

My wheelhouse is shallow power fishing, mainly with single hook-type baits such as spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, bladed jigs, jigs, soft plastics, and flipping and pitching baits. But I also really like topwater and shallow cranking, plus sight-fishing. That’s where I feel like I really excel. READ MORE »

Fishing for a Championship

Fishing for a Championship

Watching the Forrest Wood Cup and the Bassmaster Classic as a kid was the source of, literally, my entire life’s motivation. I want to fish as a professional angler, and I love what I do every day, but the thought of fishing the Classic and the Forrest Wood Cup – that’s really what I want to do. I want to walk across that stage and be fishing against the top 50 guys in the world. For some guys the dream is Angler of the Year or finishing well in a Tour event or whatever, but mine has always been that big stage. READ MORE »