I’m a pretty fortunate angler. In the past 3 years I attended no less then 4 Fishing World Championships plus other fishing festivals or international fishing competitions. I did this from the angler point of view, as well as being the team’s captain. I got to observe a lot of crucial things on the water, as well as from the shore. Things like experience, preparation, practice, team strategy, lures and techniques, hot spots and much more.
The last competition I attended was the III-rd World Championship in Spin Fishing, which took place this October in Riga, Latvia on Kishezers lake. Romania, the country which I represent, obtained the 4th place at this event. It’s an honorable position, but I know we could have done more. The first 3 places were occupied by Ukraine, Poland and Latvia. They were all very organized teams and knew the lake well. They had a good strategy and knew how to stick to it.
All these things made me understand once again that professional fishing has nothing to do with luck. Being able to observe the details behind the curtain of such an event, I finally came up with a list of specific elements that are crucial to your fishing success.
First thing you must understand is that the FIPSed World Championships are not individual competitions. Each nation is represented by a number of teams, depending on the targeted species/type of fishing. In bass competitions there are 3 teams per nation, plus one reserve team. Spin fishing has only 2 competing teams and one reserve team and in trout, shore fishing there are 4 persons competing individually and one reserve.
In order to act like a team, you have to fish like one. Team fishing is different from individual fishing. It requires a good understanding of the team strategy. And the team strategy revolves around having constant good results together, not just individually. In order to be on the top, all your teams must catch fish. Why? Because all the individual results will be summed up, for the nation result. If one couple (or individual) screws up, this will affect everyone. Remember the “all for one and one for all” principle? This is what team fishing is all about. Good individual results matter also, but are secondary to nation results.
2.Never underestimate training
All sports require this. In fishing, training helps you build the team strategy. Usually this sort of competitions have a limited number of practice days, mainly one or two. If you move fast and are well organized you might come up with a viable strategy. This means finding where the fish are and what are they feeding at. The short training period makes this pretty difficult, especially when you are facing a huge water surface.
In order to be prepared you need to spend more time on that water. So go there at least 2 weeks in advance and fish for several days. One week of fishing will be great. Book some local fishing guides. Also talk to the local fisherman, ask them questions regarding the type and size of fish, lures and fishing spots.
Before you leave your country search the fishing forums for tips and tricks regarding that lake or river. Also, don’t forget to print detailed maps. There are a lot of information sources out there, try to use as many as you can.
Good training will give you confidence. And confidence will make you a much stronger angler.
3.Know the fish
You must perfectly understand the type of fish you will be fishing for. You need to know how it reacts, how it feeds, where it hides, everything. Training can’t give you this, experience can. I discovered this in bass fishing tournaments. We knew very little about bass, because we don’t have it in Romania. After the Bass World Championship from 2008, which took place in Italy, on Lago di Garda, we thought we learned a great deal about bass fishing. But understanding a certain type of fish takes time.
In 2009, in Mexico, on El Cuchillio lake the bass was acting totally different. We needed different techniques in order to catch it. We switched from finesse fishing which was successful in Lago di Garda to heavy cover techniques, more suited for Mexican bass.
In time you will face a lot of circumstances which will build your knowledge of that fish. Simply put, it’s called experience. Sure, you can be lucky one or two times, but a good fisherman makes his own luck.
In spin fishing competitions, you usually fish for pike, perch and zander (European walleye). You need to know how to catch all these type of fish and find out which one can take you to the top on that specific body of water. Then focus and adapt your gear on catching only one. This year, in Riga the winning fish was perch. All the winning teams caught huge quantities of perch. Pike and zander were collateral and risky catches. The best teams trained hard and found a good enough number of perch spots. A good perch spot is one that will give you a fish every one or two casts. They only fished in those spots during the competition. That means being efficient.
4.Build strong pairs
Each team is made of pairs. They need to perfectly complement each other. This usually takes time and practice. It’s hard to do a perfect team job in just a few days. You’ll probably lough, and think of your wives, but a good team mate needs to be your friend and understand your fishing. He needs to encourage you when times get rough, and you need to do exactly the same for him. Knowing how to select the pairs is the captains job, and there’s no winning recipe to it. It all comes from knowing and understanding each angler individually.
Replacing a pair during a competition is another tricky call. Usually the pair with the worse results will be replaced by the reserve team. It’s not something you can do automatically, because it comes with consequences. And by this I mean that the ones who were fishing already are familiar to fishing spots, lure presentation etc. If you change them, the new pair will have to adapt extremely fast. Can they do that? Not all of them.
Professional fishing comes with a cost. Performance requires money and a lot of free time. For example being able to train in Portugal, few weeks before the Bass World Championship requires funds. To start with money are hard to get, mainly because they usually come after having good results. At first you need to be able to self-fund your fishing expeditions. If you’re really good, you will get noticed by the sponsors.
Unlike the United States, Europe’s tournaments don’t usually offer large amounts of money. Being a professional European angler can be pretty difficult, if not impossible. I mean making a living out of tournament fishing. You can always become a consultant or distributor for some large American or Asian fishing brand wanting to expand to Europe. By attending all these fishing tournaments you get to know a lot of people and these connections will pay off some day.
The bottom line is that money can make a difference, so try to get funding before attending an international event.
Follow the above steps and results will show up. Don’t forget to be persistent and take Iaconelli’s advice: “Never Give Up!”.
Of course, a bit of luck never harmed anyone.