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Pro Tips: How to prepare for a competitive fishing tournament


By Jonathan de Boer

It’s been a long time since I have fished in a competitive nature, and what better way to make my return to the ring then by jumping head first into the largest fly fishing tournament in the country? Of course, I’m talking about the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament taking place this Saturday, May 20th. Three-hundred fly anglers from across the country and beyond will descend upon Cape Cod in hopes of a day filled with hard-fighting early-season striped bass and the chance to walk away with a prize (and maybe some bragging rights). Now, having not competed in a long time and being relatively new to saltwater fly fishing, I don’t expect to even get a whiff of the podium. Instead I’m just hoping for a chance to prove my mettle and hold my own in this sport for which I hold such a deep passion.

As I get ready to compete, I want to make sure I am as thorough in my preparation as possible, and I’ve come across a few tips that have been very helpful. They say failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so if you’re gearing up for a competition, follow these steps to make sure you have the best chance possible.

Know The Rules

Make sure you are completely familiar with the rules and boundaries of the competition. Nothing is more disappointing than winning a contest or breaking a record only to be disqualified due to a technicality. Spend time reviewing all information that the tournament provides. They want people to enjoy the competition and have fun, so usually all of the rules are spelled out as best as they can be ahead of time.

Check Your Gear

Check your gear at least a week ahead of time. Tournaments start early in the day and the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament is no exception. You don’t want to pull your gear out the night before and find out something is not ready to go or you are missing a crucial piece of gear. At that point it’s too late to run out to get another and if you wait until stores open in the morning you will lose hours of valuable fishing time. So, pull everything out way ahead of time and check it top to bottom. Holes in waders, dirty line, stuck reel, or being out of your go-to fly pattern can all lead to a bad tournament experience.

Always remember to check your gear at least a week ahead of time.

Plan Ahead

Do your research. It’s a great time to be a fisherman with the access to tide reports, weather, and even other fishermen at your fingertips. It’s not hard to develop a game plan ahead of time and also be prepared to adapt. So check the weather and tides, and look for old reports to see which areas might be more likely to produce fish. Spend some time researching the local bait and making sure you have the right tools to match what will already be in the water. This information can be updated up until the day before, and if you keep your ear to the ground you might just get that tip that puts you slightly ahead of the field.

Make sure to look at maps, tide charts and fishing reports to help you plan your day on the water.

Scout Your Spots

Digital research is a big help, but don’t forget to go and scout some locations and spend time in the area. All the tips in the world won’t help you if you show up and can’t find where to park or the entrance to the water. Use this as a chance to knock the rust off your cast and make sure on the day of the competition all you need to worry about is fishing.

I hope these tips help you get ready should you make the decision to get out there and compete in a fishing tournament, and I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend at the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament! For more information about the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, visit the Schoolie Tourney Webpage.