“Shooters, You’re In Your Prep Time!” In the Marine Corps this is an all too familiar phrase that we all grow to understand this is the time we get to “Snap In” and prepare ourselves for a course of fire on the range. The concept of snapping in is a fairly simple one. During this time we prepare ourselves through ensuring the sight aperture is set to the proper range (This is prior to the use of ACOGs), as well as ensuring our loop slings are tight and adjusted properly, and finally we find the groove to settle in to for proper bone support in whichever shooting position we are about to shoot. Then it’s a few dry fires to ensure we have our breathing under control and we go through the motions of slow steady squeezes of the trigger. We also take in account what the wind is, make the proper wind call, and adjust the rear sights accordingly. From this point forward you go into a cocoon of pseudo silence within your head provided by the comfort of your hearing protection. It is you, your rifle, the front site tip, and the target; the range officer’s calls are the only external influence on you at this time.
Times like that are when shooting becomes simple, as long as you are competent in your wind calls, no external force has any effect on what you are doing. At that point it comes down to simple self discipline, breathing, and trigger control. As long as you have those elements going for you, you will do just fine on the range.
As anglers we don’t have that luxury of being our only contributing factor to success or failure. As a shooter you get an alibi if your weapon malfunctions and you respond accordingly. As anglers we don’t have any alibis. There are no saved rounds, no double feeds, no hang fires, it’s either you learn enough to predict the movement of fish and then trick them into thinking processed oil and metal is food, or you don’t. It’s that simple. That’s the challenge.
When we anglers are in our prep time, it starts well before we even look at the “firing line”. You start your prep time as soon as you pay your entry or qualify for a championship. My prep time has begun for my second Florida B.A.S.S. Nation State Championship on Lake Okeechobee. It’s being held out of Scott C. Driver Park in the town of Okeechobee, Fl on the north side of the lake. Personally, I know the south side of the lake pretty well. All of my wins on the lake have been down south, either fishing a dynamite hole in the summertime, or the hayfields in the winter and spring. The fall has always been a tough time for me on the lake, and the north end of the lake has been even more unforgiving.
So what does that mean for me to be “in my prep time?” Well it means research, and a lot of it. Getting on the water up north would be good to be able to learn the trails, but with the water low and the conditions a world apart from what they will be in October, on the water time right now would not be worth anything without a ton of research before hand. Now’s the time to research the generic fall patterns for Lake Okeechobee. The fish are creatures of habit and will generally do the same thing year after year as long as the conditions remain remotely constant. My personal struggle on the lake is not finding big fish, it’s finding them the right days. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve knocked the crap out of 17-20 pounds of fish in practice, only to have that pattern fail on tournament day. So my prep time will consist of learning the movement of Okeechobee bass. I can tell you from experience of fishing almost the entire country that these fish do not follow the patterns most fish do. I don’t want to know the patterns for the days the conditions are perfect, those patterns are easy. I need to find the patterns on the days with the worst possible conditions. It’s those patterns that will win tournaments. Any good stick can find them when the conditions are right, the ones who are set apart are the ones who can find them on those tough days.
My favorite win on the lake I beat second place with my two big fish, and still had almost another 10 pounds in the rest of my limit. I came back with a 6.5 and a 6.82 with a complement of a three and a couple two’s to round out a 19 pound even limit. Second place came back with 12.8 pounds. It was a tough day to say the least. What got me those fish is having a high number of locations in the south end which should have been holding good fish for the conditions. Proper logic would have said I stayed where I caught my first fish of the day which was the 6.5 on a chatterbait. However, the following three hours without a bite told me to move on. That fish was in a drain that big fish had been moving in and out of for a few weeks. So with the north wind of the day I went to an old reliable shell bed where the size of the fish is always a crap shoot. I caught about 20 fish off that shell bed, two of them kept. After an hour of short fish I moved on to another drain. Very similar situation, lots of short fish. So it’s 1:00 PM and I made another move with only 3 fish in the boat. As I was driving through a bay I noticed my wake was incredibly clean, I had found some gin clear water. So with the wind blowing I began to punch matted hyacinth on the points of the thules. Third flip in and the 6.82 chomped, two flips later, a three, another flip, a 16 inch bass, and the last flip was a two pounder that culled a 12 even. Time to check in.
That’s it. That tournament was solely won by reading the conditions of the locations I was at and being able to know when to literally fish or cut bait. Personally I tend to look too closely at an area where I’ve caught a few big ones and tell myself it’s just not the right time of day. My prep time for the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation will be to establish a number of locations which should be holding fish given different conditions, be able to use them as producers and adjustment points in October.
Keep up with this feed because this is my prep time, but you’re coming along for the ride. While some details of my preparations will remain with me until after the tournament, the majority of the big picture and major muscle movements will be well documented. Learn from what I do over the next few months, good and bad, and apply them during your next prep time.
– Chaz Hickcox