How to Practice for Fishing Tournaments

Since the inception of the Bass Angler’s Sportsman Society by Ray Scott in 1968, bass fishing tournaments have grown exponentially. College and high school fishing teams have blown up in recent years as well. Clubs now exist in each  of the Lower 48 states. And amateurs can participate in weeknight, weekend, and multi-day events. On and off the water, the competitive angler prepares meticulously for tournaments. This is why they protect their boats with a Megaware KeelGuard and spend hours upon hours practicing. Today we’re going to cover how to practice for fishing tournaments of all kinds.

How to Practice for Fishing Tournaments

Heath Wagner of Angola, Indiana, has extensive experience in all three formats. In 14 years in the Michigan BFL, he has never failed to qualify for the Regional. Additionally, he has finished in the Top 10 of points 12 times, boasts four victories and 18 Top 10’s. He has also led 10 co-anglers to victory from the back of his boat. Plus, he cannot recount the number of weeknight and weekend tournament victories. He prepares similarly for all three tournaments formats but notes key differences as well. We’re going to break each of them down.

How to Practice for Fishing Tournaments on Weeknights

A weeknight event typically lasts between 3-4 hours. “There are really two ways to prepare for a weeknight tournament,” Wagner insists. “If it is a spawning event, it is necessary to get out beforehand and find the biggest fish on beds.” This eliminates wasted time during the tournament. Instead of guessing which fish to spend time on, he can run from one fish to the next to target the best fish.

“If it is summertime, I will check the best five docks on the lake. Then, if I catch some fish, I know that’s what I should do in the tournament,” he says. “But if not, then I go to the best breakline on the lake and try a couple of different techniques. I’m not necessarily looking for the area with the biggest fish, but the highest concentration of fish.” In tournaments this short, it is vital to catch a 5-fish limit. “Except in spawning tournaments, catching a limit takes precedence. Because of limited time, there is no room for error either. This is why I’m after a pattern to assure a limit.”

How to Practice for Fishing Tournaments on Weekends

Weekend fishing tournaments typically last 8 hours, and often attract more anglers. The length of time adds some room for error, which means there is time to target bigger fish before focusing on a limit. When practicing for fishing tournaments on the weekend, “I’m still looking for a limit, so a place with a high concentration of fish, first,” Wagner confesses.“But I’m also going to spend time looking for a secondary pattern that might produce some larger fish. This usually means shallow water.” Wagner looks for rogue largemouth bass in shallow weedbeds, lily pad fields, and docks.

“For an 8-hour event, it is critical to find multiple primary and secondary places,” Wagner urges, “because there is a good likelihood that someone else will beat you to the same spot. So, finding just a single spot in practice is not sufficient.”

How to Practice for Multiple-Day Fishing Tournaments

Tournaments of this length change Wagner’s approach because getting five keepers is normally not important. These are the events where you need to find five big ones each day.” Catching five big fish is not normally accomplished from one or two primary spots either. Rather, they typically come from four to five different spots. Thus, during practice it is necessary to find as many spots as possible that might produce a large fish.

“When I was on the Barron River for the BFL Regional in 2017 (10th place finish), I found a pattern on the bluff walls,” Wagner shares. “When I caught a good fish, I left to avoid burning the fish and found as many spots across the lake that were similar to test if they were holding fish. After five days of practice, I had 30 spots located.”

In order to avoid burning out the fish, after Wagner caught a quality fish, he would put his rod down. From there he would use his electronics to discover why that fish was there. After doing this at a handful of spots, he was able to establish a pattern that he could repeat at different spots on the lake.

Just like baseball, volleyball, and football, scheming is a big part in the sport of fishing. Consider applying Wagner’s approach to ensure success in your next derby. And if you haven’t already outfitted your boat in Megaware products, be sure to check them out on

Check out more from Andy Buss on his YouTube Channel.