Every angler dreams of participating in a fishing tournament, and it's not as difficult as one might think. Sometimes, the only requirements are to pay the entry fee and fish from the back seat of someone else's boat.
Winning is a different matter. That involves lots of skill, knowledge, practice and, of course, just plain luck.
If you're interested in fishing a bass, crappie, striper or catfish tournament, the following tips could help put you on the leader board.
Join a fishing club. You will learn a lot about tournament fishing, and most clubs schedule events that allow you to hone your skills.
Never miss a local story.
Begin tournament fishing on a familiar body of water, and partner with someone who has competition experience.
Study and understand the tournament rules.
If the tournament is out of town, reserve lodging that offers access to electrical connections to charge boat batteries. Consider a place near the official tournament launch site.
Ensure that the boat, motor, trailer, electronics, rods, reels and tackle are in tip-top condition.
If live or cut baits are permitted, catch or purchase them before the tournament begins. Don't wait until the last minute. Sometimes getting bait is harder than catching fish.
Tournament day can be very tiring, so get plenty of rest the night before, and eat a big breakfast.
Arrive at the boat ramp early enough to allow ample time for launching.
Have as many rods on board as tournament rules allow, and have them rigged and ready to fish. Remember, it's faster to switch from rod to rod than it is to tie and re-tie lures over and over.
Use maps, charts, practice rounds and information from tackle shop owners, guides, media and local anglers to learn about the water you will be fishing.
Pre-fish to find patterns that will produce a winning stringer on tournament day.
Develop primary and secondary tournament-day game plans. Example: Fish shallow banks early, deep points at mid-day and boat docks during the last two hours.
Adjust to conditions, but remember the fish you found during practice rounds might still be in the same general area.
Keep a cool demeanor, particularly if the bite is slow. Don't fish faster than normal just because you're fishing in a tournament.
For conservation reasons, most bass, catfish and striper tournaments require that the fish be brought alive to the weigh-in. Proper fish-handling techniques and the right live-well equipment are necessary.
Be on time for the weigh-in. Tardiness can result in disqualification or a loss of points.
Fishermen tend to wait until the end of the tournament to talk about how and where they caught fish. Hang around and listen to what they say. You may hear tidbits that will help you place higher next time.
Win, lose or draw, enjoy the tournament experience and learn from it.
A free safe-boating class, "How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night," will be 6:30-8 p.m. Dec. 2 at North Point Watersports, off Interstate 77 Exit 36 in Mooresville. Topics will include "Understanding LKN's Channel Marker and Buoy System," "Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the 10 Most Dangerous Spots" and "Interpreting Lake Maps." For information, call 704-617-6812 or e-mail Gus@LakeNoman.com.
Just because the water is cooling, don't overlook fishing for catfish. Channel, blues and flatheads will bite throughout the fall and winter months. The key is to use small baits and fish slowly.
Perch and catfish are biting in most major creek runs on both sides of the N.C. 150 bridge. Striper fishing is still fair. The best bet is spotted bass; they are being caught on live and artificial baits at the lower end of Lake Norman.
The lake level is 95.8 feet, or 4.2 feet below full pond. The water surface temperature is in the 50s and 60s, depending on location.