Whether you are gearing up for your next tournament or a long-awaited road trip, planning ahead and developing a game plan is crucial to your success. Bassmaster Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion Luke Clausen has a specific approach to planning upcoming tournaments that will help weekend warriors and tournament anglers alike. With the use of the internet, map study and a close network of fellow competitors he begins his research weeks before launching his boat. Once the official tournament practice begins, he is then able to test his research and refine his game plan on the water.
It has been said many times how the Internet has sped up the learning curve for today’s bass anglers. Even top professionals like Luke Clausen rely on the information that can be found online by anyone with a computer or smartphone. “I use Google Earth more than anything else just because of how much you can find out by looking at maps of the lakes. You can easily look at images from different dates to see things like grasslines, reefs, submerged trees and water levels,” says Clausen. Even more so than paper maps, Google Earth gives a better picture of the lake at various stages and seasons. “The spring is a time when it is really important because you can see what areas have been flooded and backwater areas that may be good when the fish move up to spawn,” adds Clausen.
In addition to Google Earth, Clausen is a big fan of the Navionics app for his iPhone. “It is so easy to just pull it up and take a look at the different contour lines. It has almost replaced paper maps and is usually very accurate,” emphasizes Clausen.
Water Level and Flow Data
Another readily available and valuable Internet resource is the flow charts and water level charts posted by companies that generate hydroelectric power via dams. “In the spring, the daily water level charts are the most important thing, but as it starts to get into the summertime, then flow charts and output levels can really show the power generation numbers that are so important when you are fishing offshore,” says Clausen.
Past Tournament Results
For tournament anglers, not knowing what it will take to make a check in an upcoming tournament can literally cost them. For recreational anglers, recent tournament results can help determine which lake to head to on your next day off. For both groups of bass anglers, recent tournament results as well as results from the same time period in past years can be found online and give you a good idea of what to expect and what quality of fish can be caught at that time of year. “I spend time looking at past results to get an idea what I should be expecting, so that when I am prefishing, I can know if I am around the right types of fish. You just have to be careful about it and make sure you are taking into account the type of tournament, whether it was a team or individual and also any weather adverse factors they may have had,” says the Bassmaster, FLW and PAA pro.
Professional anglers are given a short period of time to cover an entire body of water and must work efficiently to develop a winning game plan. Not wasting time on unproductive water is critical to pros and it’s something that will help all bass anglers find more success on the water. “The first thing I do on the first day of practice is cover as much water until I start to find the fish. In the spring, I am going down the bank at nearly full speed until I find something, see something, or get a bite. During the warmer months, I may slow down or even idle around until I find the fish before I start to fish for them, it really changes throughout the year,” explains Clausen.
Bait Selection and Depth
The tournament practice period is the time to experiment and cover all of your bases. It is not uncommon for professionals like Clausen to have fifteen or twenty rods on the front deck of their boat. “I really want to make sure I try every different water column more than anything. Once I start to get bites in one depth range, I can start to fine tune with different baits and colors,” acknowledges Clausen.
Saving Your Precious Fish
Many tournament anglers will cut off their hooks or purposely not set the hook when they get a bite to try to save them for the tournament, but Luke Clausen says to go ahead and catch them. “I have changed over the years and now catch plenty of fish when I am practicing because if you get a bite you might think ‘that was a good one’ but really it’s just a two pounder and you spend hours during the tournament trying to catch non-winning fish. The better approach in my opinion is to catch one or two to see how big they are and then leave the place alone until you come back during the tournament,” believes Clausen.
Predicting the Weather Options
In any given week, weather conditions are likely to change. Top professional anglers look ahead to the future and what the weather is going to be doing in order to plan for the movements of the fish. “I always look at the upcoming conditions because it can really change and you have to predict where the fish will be going to if there is a major change in weather coming. If you are catching them and a cold front is approaching, chances are that shallow spot is not going to hold up in just a few days,” adds Clausen. While it may be hard to try to predict the weather, the best solution is to have a plan for where the fish will move contingent upon several different weather option possibilities.
Preparing for your next tournament of road trip to a big bass lake will ensure that you do everything you can to find success. Professional anglers are given limited time on the water to prepare for an event, so the bulk of the work must be done before even arriving at the lake if they expect to do well. By utilizing this approach to your own fishing, you can make sure your limited time spent on the water is more productive.