TOP50 Tournament Lessons
Updated: Feb 12
While our strategies for finding and catching fish is something we pride ourselves on at New Wave Fishing Academy tournament fishing takes it to a whole new level. Not only do you need to be able to find and catch your target species but there are a number of other constraints that are working against you compared to a normal day on the water. This makes catching the fish you need to win even more difficult! Time constraints for blastoff and return, the starting location, drive times, keeping fish alive, and fighting other anglers for spots are all things that have to be considered in the tournament strategy that are usually not part of a day on the water while fishing for fun.
With low water levels, a long cold winter, and then a week long warm front with little wind just before tournament day the Top 50 Event in Parry Sound on May 7th was expected to be challenging. Low water levels left a number of traditional hotspots high and dry meaning that fish had relocated to new areas. Anyone not able to get out to pre-fish for this event was at a huge disadvantage not being able to see if their usually hotspots were even accessible let alone had fish in them. The cold temperatures leading up to the week before the tournament had kept fish in deeper water recovering from their spawn with little incentive to move shallow but an incredibly warm front moved in and raised the temperatures 6-8 degrees F just in time for tournament day meaning that activity should have increased and fish will be moving shallow to digest throughout the day. Conditions proved to be tough for the entire field as a mere 40 cm separated 5th and 20th place with most teams bringing in 2 or more fish between 60-70 cm. Replacing one of these with one good fish (100+cm) could have immediately put any team into the top 5. Plenty of teams were able to find fish of this caliber throughout the day but we're unable to entice them into biting. Two members of the New Wave Fishing team competed in the event and came away with 11 and 20 place finishes out of the 41 boat field. On reflection of the event and decisions made there are a lot of lessons learned that will carry over into our strategies going forward.
1. Time spent driving is time spent not fishing Pick a big area you know holds a lot of fish are really work it. Running around to find fish wastes time you could be fishing. Pick spots you can fish deeper, shallow, and in between without driving too much
2. Go for the big fish early Bite windows are important. Pike use ambush tactics to feed and as such prefer to feed / are more active in lower light conditions. Going to areas to "catch your limit" early in the day may ruin your chances at catching the quality of fish you need to win. By the time we went to our big fish spots the fish were inactive, digesting in the shallows, and not willing to chase any baits.
3. Fish slow, fast With the cold water temperatures we had seen up until just before the tournament it was expected that the fish wouldn't be too active. Fishing slow (long pauses, slow retrieve) was crucial in enticing these fish to bite and most bites came after a long pause of 2-3 seconds. Fishing this slow can make it difficult to cover water, be sure to make deliberate casts to high percentage areas and cover different water than your partner to cover as much water as fast as possible while still showing the fish a slow presentation.
4. Don't leave fish to find fish There isn't a lot of time to fish in tournaments once you take into account hour long drives in each direction to reach your fishing spots. With this in mind once you have found quality fish don't leave them to find other fish. Even if they are not active at the moment the bite will turn on at some point and you will want to be there when it does. No matter how much history you have with other spots holding fish it will still be a huge time sink to go there and look for them when you could just stay where you are and work the fish. We made this mistake after stinging one giant in the shallows and seeing multiple others that would not commit. We had more confidence spots from years past and thought they were a sure thing; they did not produce a single fish!
As there always is in these events someone was able to get the job done! Ryan & Jay Shearer were able to bring in multiple fish over 90 cm and sealed a victory in this first event of the season. Ryan was kind enough to offer some thoughts on how he was successful during this day when so many others struggled. See below for Ryan's recap:
- scouting or pre-fishing (especially on bodies of water that you’re unfamiliar with) which gives yourself both the ability to navigate safely and to eliminate underperforming waters
- timing: some hours in tournaments will produce more than others, it’s important to be casting continuously all day because the “bite window” can change quickly thanks to changing weather conditions
- good decision making: whether it is to measure large fish so that they aren’t strained too long by keeping them in the well all day, or whether it’s changing up things that aren’t working (lures, depths, etc.) or sticking with things that are
- boat prep: be sure to get your equipment and gear ready for the day, you don’t want to waste time during a tournament looking for things or having to repair things that could have been avoided - are your batteries charged? Do you have enough oil/fuel? Booster cables, tire pressure and wheel torque on the trailer, greased bearings? Is your gear ready? Leaders tied, hooks replaced, etc.
- stay hydrated, pack high protein snacks, wear sunscreen
- have fun and be safe on the water, the season is short so you have to be sure to enjoy it
- not all days will produce giants and that’s not something you should let bring you down
Congrats to Ryan & Jay on a stellar performance at this event and the best of luck for the remaining events this season. Thanks to Top 50 for putting on the event.
If you want to learn more about targeting pike in the spring be sure to check out our Zero To Hero Fishing Masterclass where we had a module that covers how to target pike throughout the year no matter where or when you get to chase them!