Originally appearing in the 2013 Tournament Angler Guide.
The 2012 BREAM and BASS Series saw some of the hottest competition for many years. Proven champions were pushed to their limits by a pack of hunger new anglers. And the battle wasn’t just confined to boaters. Non-boaters are stepping up and showing their desire to fish and compete hard on their own stage.
The close battle of the 2012 Humminbird BREAM and BASS Pro Angler of the Year titles illustrates perfectly the current state of play for non-boaters and showed that tournament talent isn’t just limited to those with a boat.
The Cream Rises
Consistency for non-boaters can be hard to achieve. The dynamics of fishing with different boaters with varying, and sometimes conflicting, fishing styles can often make it hard to consistently catch fish.
Nevertheless, cream always rises to the top. Regardless of the venue or the bite pattern, there were the ever-present anglers who place event after event that show the new, and not so new, non-boaters the way to tournament success.
Let’s take a look at the top two Humminbird AOY anglers from the Daiwa BREAM Series and Smak Lures BASS Pro Series and get an insight into how they achieve their tournament success.
Phil Nix from New South Wales and Troy Hamilton from Victoria are models of consistency on the BREAM scene. Phil has four event wins in his 10+ years on the tour while Troy was red hot in 2012 with three top fours for the season.
Two of the most consistent anglers on the BREAM scene, they attribute much of their consistency and success to being adaptable.
“As a non-boater you don’t get to choose where you’re going to fish, that’s really up to the boater. So you need to be ready to fish where they want to fish and, to a certain degree, how they want to fish,” said Nix.
A long-time travel partner of Atomic Bream Pro Graham Franklin, Nix has fished most tournament venues throughout the country and has learnt a host of different techniques.
“Fishing different waterways has enabled me to become proficient at a range of techniques. One month I can be ripping jerkbaits for big black bream on the Derwent while a month later I can be fishing deep with plastics for yellow. This variety certainly helps you become more tournament ready,” said Nix.
For Humminbird BREAM AOY runner-up Troy Hamilton it’s his love of the outdoors and passion for fishing that fuels his tournament success, rather than an underlying knowledge of varying tournament arenas and bream techniques.
“I haven’t fished as many locations as some of the other guys, such as Phil. What I do have instead is an insatiable appetite to fish hard and try things that I haven’t necessarily tried before,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton fished a host of new venues in 2012, so he’ll soon have experience to add to his tournament arsenal. A formidable addition to an already impressive skills set.
Relax and Do It
Of course tournament success isn’t all about the mechanics of throwing out a lure and winding it back in, in many instances it’s just as much about what goes on in the angler’s mind.
“Going out and enjoying myself is what fishing is all about, and this definitely applies in tournament fishing. If I stay relaxed, keep a clear head then I’ll more than likely have fun and catch fish,” said Hamilton.
Phil Nix has a similar upbeat approach to his tournament fishing, especially when it comes to disappointment.
“It’s just about going fishing and having fun. If you come back in with double donuts it’s not the end of the world. It just makes the good results that much sweeter.”
Both these champion anglers believe there is an unspoken ‘non-boater etiquette’ that should be present at all tournaments. It is built around respect for your boater’s boat and, most importantly, their space.
“You’re a guest onboard their, sometimes very expensive, craft. So treat them and the boat likewise,” said Nix.
Hamilton agrees and adds, “Show your boater respect and you may just end up fishing up front with them.”
Respect is an important facet within the sport that should be shown by both boaters and non-boater. The ABT motto of ‘Who Shares Wins’ should remain in the back of our minds at all times.
Love What You Do
Success more often than not comes from doing what you’re best at and doing what you love the most. For Nix, this is throwing hardbodies on an arena that he’s had much success on over the year, Tasmania’s Derwent River.
“There’s nothing I love more than throwing hardbodies along the rocky edges and rubble flats of the Derwent. The technique is fairly aggressive as are the bites and the quality of the fish you catch are the best in the country. Once you do it, you find yourself wanting to do it again and again.”
Practise does make perfect with Nix finishing 3rd place in 2012, 1st in 2010 and multiple top tens since his first visit in 2009.
With a similar love for hardbodies, Hamilton’s stand out arena is Mallacoota. Home to XOS hardbody lure-loving black bream it was on a red hot final day in the 2012 Rapala Mallacoota BREAM Qualifier that saw Hamilton charge up the scoreboard from 21st to claim a podium finish and finish 3rd.
“It was a bite pattern that I absolutely love, aggressive flats bream eating hardbodies, and big ones to boot,” said Hamilton.
Weighing in a 4.38kg bag on the final day gives credence to the saying, ‘fish to your strength and fish what you enjoy most’. Hamilton’s belief in this saying was crucial to his success at the event and, in turn, his AOY success in 2012.
The top two from last year’s hard fought Humminbird AOY race, Ray Holmes and Dylan Mott give us their take on how they make it happen come tournament day.
Planning to Win
Humminbird Angler of the Year Champion Ray Holmes had the year from heaven in 2012. With an event win and three top tens for the year the Brisbane BASSer was a model of consistency throughout the season; an achievement that Holmes puts down to well organised planning and practise.
“You generally don’t do well in tournaments by chance alone. Being prepared plays a huge part. So I make sure I prefish an arena leading up to an event, then use the experience and knowledge that I’ve gathered so I can hit the ground running come tournament day.”
Prefishing non-local events however can prove a little tougher and in these situations Holmes draws upon his past experience on the waterways and his ability to quickly adapt to the prevailing bite patterns.
“My main focus each tournament is to weigh in two bass each session. To do this you need to be able to swap techniques and pick up on the cues of where the fish are and what they’re biting on,” said Holmes.
With this at the forefront of his mind, Holmes is able to key in on bite patterns quickly and formulate plans for what’s going on at the present time and for the next fishing session.
Push Hard and Train Hard
Few non-boaters have the pedigree and training of Dylan Mott. The son of three time BASS Pro Grand Final winner Matthew Mott, Dylan has been living and breathing bass fishing since he first held a rod, and his abilities reflect that.
“I’ve been fortunate to have my Dad there showing me the way and sharing his knowledge on bass and tournament fishing,” said Mott.
While developing the skills set to catch bass Dylan has also acquired the mental attributes needed to succeed, in particular the ability to fish hard, and push hard, right to the end.
“A never-say-die attitude is important in tournament fishing. If you keep yourself up and keep fishing hard right until the end of the session you’ll have the edge over guys who’s focus wanes,” said Mott.
This simple philosophy fuels Mott’s primary goal for each tournament year – to fish as hard as he can at each tournament and leave nothing behind.
Start Taking Notes
Mott doesn’t just rely on his memory when it comes to accumulating experience, he relies heavily on keeping records of what he’s done and also what other anglers have done.
“I like to keep a record on where I’ve caught fish, how I’ve caught them, and how tournaments are won. If I gather all this information then I’ve got something that can help me predict how a lake is going to fish,” said Mott.
Mott’s record keeping is a vital tool in his fishing success and something that all anglers could adopt.
Confidence is the Key
Both these anglers have blazed a trail through the BASS circuit with consistent results, podium finishes and victories in both QLD and NSW. Mott and Holmes possess a level of consistency and quiet confidence that any angler would be happy to possess.
“I repeat to myself in my head over and over to be confident. Having this positive mental state is crucial to being successful,” said Holmes.
Just like Holmes, Mott’s tenacity and fight gives him the confidence to find fish even when the chips are down.
“I believe if you have the right gear, the right technique and right frame of mind then it’s only a matter of time until you catch fish.”
Mr Nice Guy
When asked about etiquette as a non-boater during tournaments, both Ray and Dylan echoed the sentiments of our top BREAM anglers. The game is about respect and manners. Dylan explains:
“I believe it’s a must to offer your boater money for fuel and stay down the back of the boat unless told otherwise. I also try and keep my casts confined to the back half of the boat. Showing good manners and respect goes along way when you’re a non-boater.”
Ray echoes these sentiments as being essential and adds, “I always help my boater net his fish. We all appreciate the hand and it means they’ll also be there to net mine when I need it.”
While Holmes and Mott have many similarities in their approaches, when it comes to the issue of drawing a good boater they have a slightly different take on it.
“Getting a good draw and being paired with an angler who’s more likely to be on the fish is always good for your confidence. It’s easier to stay upbeat and think that at anytime you’re going to get onto the fish,” said Holmes.
In contrast, Mott’s confidence in his fishing ability and gear is more than enough to catch fish.
“You can’t control your draw or where you’re going to fish. Focus on things you can control, namely your fishing ability and your tackle.”
With the number one non-boater BASS Pro ranking next to his name, who can dispute Mott’s rationale? Confidence and ability to catch fish in any tournament, regardless of the draw.
Looking at these top two BREAM and BASS Pro anglers you can see the things that bring these anglers to the top of their game. Their ability to stay relaxed, have fun, plan and work hard on their tournament fishing and seek out things to help them improve are all measures that breed success.
What unites them and sets them apart from the pack are things that all anglers can adopt, not just non-boaters. Add them to you skill set and success will surely come.