Are Ice Fishing Tournaments And Poker Really Similar?
How to plan for your next event.
By: Nathan Krusko “Fishman”
Team Panfish Persuders
Are you really ready to take the plunge into your tournament? I bet you cannot wait, but hold up you will have to get your fish in a row before you are fully ready for the big day. All tournaments can be approached in the same manner and there is a check list that will help you be ready for your win.
This is part poker and part reconnaissance at times. Beware not all sources are willing to give all the info but sometimes it is not what they are giving but what they are not giving that you seek. When looking for a place to ask questions go to the local bait shop. These are places that hold a wealth of information but sometimes the information is not readily available so you have to be patient. Do not expect to learn everything in the first visit but be looking to the answers you seek hidden in your conversation. Ask how the fish have been biting, where the access is & what the favorite jig is. The favorite jig is tricky but with good observation this may be revealed. Look at the selection available and usually the one that is in short supply may be the one you seek or may indicate the style that you should try. In some locations you may discover that all of the jigs are of a small horizontal design or are of a vertical presentation style. Bait shops tend to stock the largest variety of styles that the anglers prefer to use.
Time for a little on the lake reconnaissance. Take a walk and see where the crows are fishing. There are usually some common threads amongst the crowds such as bottom structure or weed beds. This information can be interpreted through observation or through the studying of your maps. While at the lake it does not hurt to venture out without your gear. Take this opportunity to talk to some of the other anglers. Look for some of the seasoned veterans on the lake as these are the ones that may bear the most info. Share info with them as well although be cautious of revealing the fact that you have plans on fishing an event there. This is where you people & poker skills come into play. If you are sharing info with them be appreciative of their time and even hare a few jig and pointers to help improve their day as well.
This is the modern age. There is so much information available at your finger tips and you have to learn how to find this information. Here is the list, 1. contour maps, 2. satellite images & 3. fishing forums. Lake maps are an absolute must have and fortunately there are many sources of maps available. The most readily available are the free maps produced by your states fisheries department. In today's modern age most can be found on the states department of environmental conservation website or department of natural resources website. If not there contact the regional office and most likely an individual there will be able to help you. If paper mapping is not enough then check with any number of the digital varieties such as those made by Garmin (http://www.garmin.com/garmin/cms/site/us), Navionics (http://www.navionics.com/) or DeLorme (http://www.delorme.com/default.aspx). Most of these are in formats that are for both reviewing at home on your pc and on the water with devices that are either hand held or for mounting with gps and mapping capabilities. Satellite images and areal photos will show weed lines and hopefully break lines or channels within these weeds. Fishing forums are hot beds of discussion for reports on lake conditions to guys bragging on their catches.
Dissecting a Lake
The pieces are starting to come together. You have done your information gathering and map research. If this is done properly will have yielded you enough information that would overwhelm the average angler. The map is the base of this puzzle that you will piece together. Look at this map and study it for contour changes, funnels, flats, humps, inside turns and changes that would draw or hold fish. Next layer this with the satellite images that you have and look for weed lines and breaks that coincide with some of the key fish holding structures that you have found on the contour map. The last piece is one of the more complex and this is the human element. All of the conversations that have occurred and all the forums that have been read lead to places being pointed out on the map. As you look at each one of these places you will see the puzzle transform into a treasure map.
Time for all of this home work to be applied. Hopefully through this you have gained multiple possible locations that you plan on finding fish. This is where the fun begins. As you approach the lake try to target areas that have differing characteristics and try to fish them in similar times of day. Successful prefishing will take more than a couple days. The reason for this is you will be looking for areas that will hold the best opportunities for the hours of your event. While going through the locations try not to focus in on areas that are all similar by doing this you will be drastically limiting your options. As you fish areas the more holes you drill the better the coverage that you will have. By thinking of each hole as a cast you will quickly discover that the more holes you drill the better coverage you will have and the faster you can learn an area. As an example: if you are to approach a small cove it is best to not only cover the contour curve through the cove but to cover the transitions within this cove in a grid pattern covering all of the depths through the area. As another example: if you are to investigate a basin you will want to widen your grid and try to cover this basin from the edges of the basin into centers. Let's say you have found the fish that you are perusing it is best not to continually keep pounding that area but to turn away with the location marked in your gps.
With multiple locations hopefully found it is now time for your personal discipline and judgment to guide you on tournament day. There are multiple strategies that can be applied at this point. Go for the gold, this is finding an area that you know has large fish but limited numbers with the hopes of striking it big. Safety in numbers, this is finding an area that has a large group of fish and working it to hopefully find the combined weight that you are looking for. Which ever you choose stick with it and the game is not over until you reach the scales.
Good Luck and Tight Lines