The thrill of bass fishing tournaments

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Practice makes perfect:Fishing expert Greg "Bo" Miller checks out a spotted bass he caught on a tributary on Lake Michigan while practicing to compete in a tournament. Miller will compete in the Big Bass Bash tournament June 29 off Portage Marina. | Supplied photo

The bass tournament season has finally arrived for us northern anglers. I’m starting to feel the excitement already and preparations are beginning. Typically about mid February, I begin sorting through my gear getting my rods, reels, tackle and boat ready for the season.

Pitching a plug into a strategically placed bucket to keep my casting skills in tune can take a back seat until December. Bass tournaments have begun and if you have never participated in one, now is the time to get involved. The excitement level is extremely high. Why is this? Not only do you have the enjoyment of being outdoors, you have the excitement of competitive fishing. You do not need to own your own boat to get involved either. Most tournaments are team oriented and you can enter a tournament as a non-boater. Check your local area for a bass club and inquire.

What’s it like to fish a tournament from start to weigh-in? I guess to sum it up, it’s just a great time! One thing that I thoroughly enjoy is arriving to the launch site a couple hours early before takeoff. It’s almost hard to describe how peaceful it is in the early morning hours, sitting on a boat getting your gear ready, figuring out what lures you are going to start with while watching the sun come up.

The camaraderie amongst the anglers is second to none. Yes, we are fishing against each other but there is something about the sport of tournament fishing and its competitors; it is easier to describe as a brotherhood. Gathering around and talking before each tournament, sharing our fish stories and sometimes secret baits, is always a great time.

So the tournament begins. Now, all your preparation, pre-fishing, map studying, is put to the test. As you are boating to your first spot to fish, it just goes through your mind over and over again. How is this going to turn out? Are my fish going to be there? Is the weather going to hold out? Your mind is filled with thoughts — stay focused. Remember, your participating in a sport that you have very little control over the factors.

When your day of fishing has concluded, it’s back for the weigh-in. The trek back to the launch site will have you biting your nails! The joy of having a limit of fish in your livewell really makes you feel like you accomplished something — your plan came together.

The weigh-in is where it all unfolds and it can be very stressful, but in a fun, competitive kind of way! Watching other anglers bring their weigh bags to the stage just makes you wonder: How much weight do they have? Do I have a chance? Is this going to be the one we win? Did I do exactly what I needed to do today?

The thrill of winning a tournament is unmatched. It is an extremely exciting experience. You come to realize that everything you put together on the water, and all the planning and preparation, has paid off. You have outsmarted your opponent — fish! This is something that you have to experience for yourself.

So what about the times you don’t win or have a great day on the water. Well, first of all, any day on the water is a great day! The days you don’t do so well is a time to reflect on the event and what you may have done differently. Every day on the water is a learning experience for me; you can always take something from every decision you made that particular day. So give tournament fishing a go. You will be glad you did.

Greg “Bo” Miller, of LaPorte, Ind., is on the pro staff at Bass Pro Shops, Mercury Marine, St. Croix Rods, KVD Line and Lure Conditioner, SERVPRO (of LaPorte and Porter counties) and Powerpole. He, along with his fishing partner, Tim Jones Sr., will compete in the Big Bass Bash June 29. He has also been a police officer with the Michigan City Police Department for roughly 19 years. Greg can be reached at gmiller@emichigancity.com.