Prep School

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On a recent fishing trip with my partner Joey Monteleone, the importance of preparation smacked me in the face. Immediately after launch Joey grabbed a rod and started casting. I fumbled around trying to tie a spinnerbait onto my braided line but my Palomar knot, braid, and fingers simply wouldn’t cooperate. I heard “there’s a fish!”, and watched Joey pull a nice largemouth off the windy bank with his pre-rigged spinnerbait.

Having a strategy can make the difference between a frustrating experience and a terrific trip. Muddy water and a cloudy sky call for darker baits and possibly a rattle. A smaller, more targeted tackle box is a better idea than “I’ll bring everything with me… in case I need it”. My Cruise 10 has space under the seat for four flat Plano boxes, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an entire box of crankbaits, soft plastic rigs, spinnerbaits, and jigs every trip. I carry a small bag tucked behind my seat which holds terminal tackle, extra line, soft plastics for the day, and a plastic box with a few hard baits.

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Four rods give me all the presentations I need. Two baitcasting outfits – one rigged with a feel-type bait and the other with either spinnerbait or supersized crankbait (depending on season and aggression level of the fish) – are ready to throw. My ultralight spinning rig has a jighead and tiny tube tied on, and a medium spinning rig is ready for a lightweight crankbait. Aside: leaving multiple-hook rigs tied on is a bad idea – ‘treble hooks’ easily become ‘trouble hooks’ in fabric and fingers. Snip ’em off when you’re done for the day and put them back in your tackle box. If you’re using a waterproof box, be sure to crack the lid until your lures are dry so you don’t create rust on your rigs. Pair lures (if only mentally in the case of treble hooks!) with rods the night before, check line and reels.

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When patience and technique start landing more fish in your boat, consider the resource – proper handling of your fish is critical. Keep the fish out of the water as little as possible – especially if conditions are windy and the air and water temps are in the 80s. Don’t touch gills or eyes, and try to land your fish without a net to preserve the slime coat. Protecting the resource ensures and preserves the future of our sport!

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