Tournaments are a good way to improve your technique, as they force you to fish in a spot that might not be the swim that you would normally choose (and in many instances is a swim that is down right horrible!). Even if you get a peg that is reasonable, chances are that you have not fished there before and you will not have much time to figure out a plan of attack. Having just finished up competing in the 2016 Wild Carp Classic, many things are still fresh in my mind and maybe some of them might help you in future competitions.

Oddly enough this year the peg draw went a lot better than normal and our two choices were not as bad as last year. I compromised and gave up my first choice and our team ended up opting for peg 33 as it seemed that there might be better chance at bigger fish. Once the location of the battle had been set we worked on getting our mountain of gear into position…some of the pegs had a longish walk to get to and its a darn good thing we did not end up with one of those as moving the bait alone would have crippled us! Our peg was a comfortable one that we could even park our vehicles right next to and was on the Erie Canal which I thought was pretty cool.

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The view form our peg. Sign in the background indicates the Erie Canal is to the right.

Preparation is a huge part of any tournament, and as the saying goes luck favors the prepared…and those that can remember which bag has the weights! Having everything where you can find it and being prepared ahead of time really makes things go a lot smoother. One of the biggest things is having rigs tied up and ready to be clipped on. Another thing is make up PVA sticks/bags ahead of time – again anything time consuming that can be done ahead of time or while waiting for a run will help to keep the rods in the water and increase your potential for a run. In this year’s WCC each of our team fished 2 rods, which allowed me to always have my 3rd rod re-rigged and ready to cast as soon as the other rod was out of the water.

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Having rigs (with PVA sticks if you want them) already rigged saves time when recasting.

When selecting a rig for a tournament I like to stick with rigs that are my “go to” types. I like the blow back/pop-up rig detailed here and find it also works well with a snowman arrangement. Here is where preparation really comes in as these are not the quickest rigs to tie since they incorporate shrink tube. If I don’t have a way of working with shrink tube on the bank I use an aligner that simply slides on and works just as well as the shrink tube.

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One of many perfect hook holds with the blow back rig. During a tournament I like to stick with rigs (and components) that I have confidence in – this is not the time to be trying new arrangements that may or may not work!

 

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Starting off I tend to stick to particles as I feel they are good for a faster bite.

The general approach was to start off with a mix of particles and a few Mistral Coconut Ice boilies and gradually ramp up the boilies over time to help hold the fish. The area I was fishing was around 100-105 yards which my Century C2-D Spod rod is able to hit easily and with little effort. Accuracy was key as the fish were tight to the far shore and point. If a cast landed short nothing would happen, but if it was placed right on the far bank a run would be quick.

 

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The spod mix. Mostly corn (field and sweet) and smaller particles with a few whole and crushed boilies. I increased the amount of boilies over time.

 

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At the start of the tournament I opted for a method feeder as I wanted to get a run as quickly as possible and also add to my bed of bait.

Just to get a run ASAP I opted to start off my rods with method feeders as this is about the best way to get a run. An added benefit is the fact that using a method feeder helps you to build up your swim and insures you have a good pile of bait right where your hook is. Pack bait is of course the same principle, and in fact my “method” mix was a pack bait recipe…on a method feeder! The reason I did this was two fold: 1) I wanted to use a lot of bait and and make sure it landed next to my hook and 2) at the range I was casting I felt more comfortable that the bait would stay on a method feeder during the cast.

 

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First fish of the event that fell to the method feeder.

It is always nerve racking waiting on the first run of a tournament, and getting that first run is stressful as well as you really don’t want to lose the fish! The first run of the event sadly ended in a pulled hook, but was not as big a blow as it might have been had the fish been larger. My first run was next and after a good fight, in which the hook did not pull, a nice 20+ was in the net. The mood of our team jumped several points and hope that we would not finish dead last started to dawn! The fish had fallen to the method feeder with 2x pieces of real corn and 1x fake corn.

 

The reason its important to have back up rigs ready to go. Terminal tackle loss can be really high when there are zebra mussels around.

 

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Proper foot gear is a good idea. These water chestnuts will really mess up your foot.

We were prepared for snags and zebra mussels but even with the best prep we still has some cut offs. My approach was a ~30ft 40lb mono shock leader which I made sure to make fish safe as most cuts occurred when the mussels got above the leader. The shock leader knot is what can cause problems if the weight can’t make it off, so extra care is needed when constructing the rig. After the shock leader I attached ~3ft of 45lb Gardner Camflex Leadcore followed by a Gardner Covert lead clip with a anti-tangle sleeve.

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Fish safety is always extremely important. I always use a system that will drop the lead should the line break or the lead snag.

Some things you can’t control – the weather being one of them. The first day or so the weather was nice, warm and with minimal wind. After that things really went downhill with the wind starting to blast full in our faces and the temperature dropping by over 30 degrees (and add to that some rain and snow!). It was really nasty weather and made everything much more difficul–not to mention unpleasant. It is important to remember to bring a range of clothing to cover every possible condition (especially in upstate New York). I started off in short sleeves and shorts and ended up in full winter gear – if I had not brought the right clothing, my fishing would have been cut short.

 

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Joe with a nice fish. Single pop-ups accounted for a number of fish especially after the weather turned cold.

Despite the horrible weather we still managed to get a few more fish but they were all just a tad light and we fell just shy of being in the money. A good thing to keep in mind at these events is that even if you don’t win anything it is still a great chance to learn things that don’t come up in your normal angling experience and to see how other anglers fish their given swims.

 

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