What the Pro's look for when they practice for competition

By: Mark Scocco

Most of today's major bass competitions provide a special one, two, or three-day practice period immediately preceding the tournament itself--valuable time the pros use to locate fish and establish actual fishing patterns.

In recent years, a new trend known as "pre-practice" has started and many consider it more valuable than the actual tournament practice.

"Pre-practice is making a trip to a lake just before it goes off-limits for the tournament" explains Evinrude Outboards Pro-staff member, Ken Cook. "The purpose of this trip is simply to gain knowledge about the lake itself, such as color of the water, the location of cover, or even how to navigate it".

"Sometimes, very little of this time is actually spent fishing. We just go boat riding, going into every major tributary creek and looking at the conditions". Even though the water conditions can change in the two or three weeks off-limits period, the time is still not wasted".

During pre-practice, I carry a tape recorder with me and note the different things that I am looking for, such as muddy water, weed lines, brush piles, or rocky ledges. Then, when I get back to my room that night, I play the tape back and mark these things on my map. That gives me a permanent record to study no matter what the conditions are during the tournament.

Cook does spend time fishing during pre-practice, particularly during the summer or winter when bass patterns do not change very quickly. In the spring and fall, he spends less time fishing since the patterns will likely change before the start of the tournament.

Many times, we actually decide where we are going to fish during the tournament when we are pre-practicing. Then, when the official practice begins, we go right to that spot and begin working out the pattern.

Even though he may have fished a lake many times, Ken Cook may still spend time pre-practicing. "Lakes can change, particularly those in the south where grass has started growing in many places. I feel that it gives me an advantage to know these changes before the tournament starts."

So do a lot of other pros. At a really big tournament, the last week before the waters go off-limits will be like a reunion because all of the pro are pre-practicing.


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