all the different aspects of tournament angling, without a doubt,
the least understood by the average angler is the matter of
prefishing. Even the word "prefishing" is ambiguous.
Just mention that word to someone who knows little about bass
tournaments and you'll get some funny looks.
by Jay Yelas
Reprinted by permission of Bass
West USA Magazine.
There are at least two different times to prefish.
The first is the practice period that takes place a week or two
prior to the event, and the second is the practice which takes
place immediately prior to competition. Both practice sessions
can be an integral part of a successful tournament, but if
they're improperly conducted, they can ruin your performance.
I have spent as much time prefishing before
tournaments as anybody the last ten years and I think I've
learned some things that can really pay off for pros and amateurs
When I began my pro career out West, I literally
lived out of my van. I traveled from lake to lake, prefished,
tournament fished, and then moved on to the next lake. I averaged
seven days of prefishing for each tournament. Now, because of
time constraints and plenty of experience, I don't prefish nearly
Prefishing is important on lakes and rivers I've
never seen before and so new bodies of water are where I spend my
The main objective during the advance prefish is
to learn where everything is. I want to know the
"personality" of the lake. That is, where the different
types of structure are, noting changes in water color, depths,
basic stuff. That way, when I come for the tournament and find a
bass holding on a particular type of cover, I know where I can
run to find some more without wasting time.
One of the best lessons I have learned over the
years while prefishing tournaments is that my time is more
efficiently spent just learning a small, key section of the lake.
Trying to cover too much water is a big mistake. No angler will
be able to learn the whole lake in one week, so just try to
become intimate with one or two areas that look like they will be
good when you come back. Don't bite off more than you can chew.
When I try to cover too much water I find myself often passing
right over some good fish. This basic premise is a lot easier to
talk about than it is to execute.
Catching a lot of fish early on in the prefish
can really mess you up. An angler will catch a nice stringer a
couple weeks prior to the tournament and instantly gets locked
onto that pattern and area. He goes back for the tournament and
tries the same things that worked two weeks earlier, in the same
area, and he fails. Fish change daily, and most of the time they
change a lot in two weeks.
I've learned not to be concerned with catching a
lot of fish during this prefishing period. Sure, I want to catch
a few to get a little confidence, but I'm mostly concerned with
learning the lake. I worry about how to catch them during the
official practice period.
If you are not able to spend any time on a lake
before the cutoff period, don't worry about it. Some of my best
finishes have come on new lakes that I didn't have the time to
prefish. The whole key in this situation is being able to commit
yourself to one part of the lake and not being concerned with
what is going on around the rest of the lake. It is hard to gain
confidence in a part of a lake without ever seeing it before so
you have to rely on information from past tournaments, advice
from other anglers, or your natural intuition. This is a very
exciting way to fish a tournament. You have to believe that the
bass in the area you've chosen and figure out how to catch them.
move now to the official days of prefish. Most tournament
circuits allow the angler two days of practice before the
competition starts. How you spend the time should largely be
determined by how many days the tournament will run. The short
tournaments of one or two days require the angler to be on fish
right out of the box. There is no time for catch up in these
short events. So it is important in the prefish period, to
determine where you are going to fish and what you're going to
The longer tournaments like we fish on the
B.A.S.S. Tour, require a different approach during the official
prefish period. In this situation, I often just try to determine
what the seasonal pattern is for the area of the lake I plan to
fish. I want to get a few bites in prefish, but mostly I'm just
looking for an area and technique that fits the seasonal pattern.
I have noticed an interesting phenomena taking
place recently at the B.A.S.S. Tour events. The winner is the
angler who finds a new pattern or area for quality fish that
emerges during the competition. That is to say, the area or
pattern that eventually wins does not work during the practice
period. The pros are so good these days that if a pattern or area
is working during practice, multiple anglers find it. You can't
win a tournament by sharing fish with other talented pros. Shared
fish will not hold up for four days of competition.
I find myself asking the following during
practice: what pattern or areas that are not working now might
turn on soon? The key here is noting the current weather and
water conditions and predicting what changes may occur.
A lot of guys have a record of busting a big
stringer on the first day and then they slowly slip away as the
event progresses. While on the other hand, other guys move up in
the standings each day. The difference is their prefish strategy.
Reprinted by permission of Bass
West USA Magazine.