Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
I enjoy fishing tournaments, but I never take them seriously enough to include winnings in my financial budget. Don’t get me wrong, I would never turn my back on a paycheck earned from fishing. It’s just not at the top of my priority list, and I don’t have huge monthly boat payment to inspire me. I use tournaments primarily as an excuse to get on the water. Next, I’ve been fortunate enough to fish with partners who know a lot more about fishing than I do. I’m a better fisherman because of what I learned from them or what they insisted I learn on my own. In plain words, if you want to be a fisherman who catches more fish than average, fish tournaments. The lessons learned will improve your skill set, and the better the skills, the better the success. Also, if motivation is a problem, throwing away entry fee money with regularity will soon give you the desire to be competitive. No one likes to donate money to someone else’s success.
Back in the day, I belonged to a local bass club; fishing local tournaments and an occasional open. I soon learned I would never spend the time or develop the dedication it took to be a winner. This was especially true if the contest was anywhere other than your home lake. I remember placing in an open tournament at GLSM and have some hotshot tell me that the win was dumb luck and had nothing to do with skill. It aggravated me enough that I fished few bass tournament after that. What really got my goat, though, was that the check and plaque I brought home was based primarily on dumb luck. The truth hurt for a minute and I moved on. I got into fishing for catfish after that, and soon learned that the only difference was the skill set and tackle. Practice, experience, time, stamina, and mental toughness are traits of all good tournament fishermen.
I was probably most successful fishing in crappie tournaments. I had good partners and learned where to fish, when to fish, and how to fish. After I started fishing for crappies with regularity, I found that I caught more big crappies than I ever did before. Part of that was due to the phenomenal crappie fishery that developed on GLSM and the other canal lakes. A major part was using appropriate tackle and developing certain tactical skills that I know for sure gave me an edge. Before fishing crappie tournaments, I usually fished when the crappies were shallow. The crappies had to come to me, I never went to them. The philosophy I followed was: “If the fish ain’t in, they’re out, and if they ain’t out, they ain’t.” That doesn’t work if you’re trying to do well in a tournament at different times of the year.
I’m not too sure if I’ll be able to fish tournaments regularly this spring since they tell me I need a personal tune-up and oil change. That’s important when you have 250,000 hard miles on your engine. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t fish. On the other hand, if you have the desire to fish a crappie tournament or two, GLSM provides more than enough opportunities. The Grand Lake Crappie Series has been around for a long time, and I think have always run a good tournament. This year, they have three tournaments scheduled in the spring and four in the fall which includes their classic event. Tournaments are on both Saturdays and Sundays depending on the event.
There will be a new crappie series starting this year at GLSM. The Western Buckeye Crappie Cup is a group designed to draw more fishermen by diversifying and increasing the payout schedule. Other attractions are also being added to increase the financial draw. This series also has three spring and three fall tournaments and wraps up the season with a two-day classic. From what I see on the schedules, there are no competitive dates. So, if you have the drive, you can fish twice as many tournaments at GLSM as you did last year. I’ll be posting tournament dates on fordabirdsoutdoors.com. Grand Lake Crappie information can be found on their website and Western Buckeye Crappie Cup information can be located on Facebook.
Fishing tournaments have a place and serve a purpose. You can learn a lot by participating. You can learn a lot by attending a weigh-in. You can learn a lot by simply looking in boats at seeing the tackle being used. If there is any drawback, it’s the possibility of someone putting winning over fair play. There will always be an individual who plays loosely with the rules. It’s the tournament organizer’s responsibility to get rid of those bad apples. Regardless, spring fishing will be here before we know it. Mark your calendars. Tournament crappie fishermen are going to have a busy year in this neck of the woods.