Tips for being ready for the Island Lake fishing derby weekend!

by Guest Bloggrt: Billy the AMFisH guy

Hi fishing derby entrants, Island Lake visitors, fellow anglers, fishing enthusiasts and AMFisHers, this blog post is filled with tips on how to get ready and be prepared for the Island Lake fishing derby this coming weekend!

If you are registered for the derby just to have fun or if you are a hardcore competitor looking to win the top spot, in this blog I share a lot of great tips to help the derby days go a lot smoother for you. When it comes to any kind of competition the top spot item I always touch on is being 100% organized with a game plan for the days. The Island Lake fishing derby weekend has grown with several entries every year, so making sure you have a strategy in place that can be deployed as is and even altered if needed at the last minute will definitely lead to success!

Having fished this derby myself many years in a row, I start off by making a checklist that includes everything from all the rods I am bringing with me, to the bait trays I am bringing right down to the most recent weather forecast checks as well, this really helps keep you organized and in good shape as the derby weekend approaches. From here I set aside time a few weeks before the derby weekend to put together what I like to call a fish specific “hot box”, which is basically a specific bait tackle tray filled with all my high confidence baits that have produced fish on Island Lake in the past. I usually make two or three tackle trays that are all species specific to the species of fish I am going after during the derby days. In my case it has always been pike and largemouth bass, so I take time to organize both these tackle trays well in advance of the derby weekend and what this does it relieve a lot of unnecessary stress leading up to the derby and the during the days of the derby.

Here are some great Island Lake derby bait choices for largemouth bass, pike and panfish:

Largemouth bass baits– chartreuse spinnerbait with matching scented soft plastic trailer, all white soft plastic swimbait, top water frogs, Texas rigged creature baits, simple finesse style soft plastic 6″ worms on a wacky rig or Texas rig and a black/blue flipping jig with matching soft plastic trailer.

Pike baits – Red eye shad Strike King lipless crankbaits, chartreuse spinnerbait with matching scented soft plastic trailer and all white soft plastic swimbait, Mepps in-line spinner.

Panfish baits – small scented tubes

and curly tail grub rigged on a slip bobber setup.

There is nothing worse than scrambling around the night before any tournament, that is when you mind should be focused and relaxed for the task at hand, not all over the place trying to find

 those baits you have no clue where they are. Once you have your bait trays organized that is a huge part of the mental game that now has instant calm to it. This goes for your fishing rods and reels as well, make sure to examine the gear you are bringing with you for the fishing days, to ensure your fishing line has no kinks or tears in it and that your rods a

nd reels are in good working order. To make things even more organized I suggest tying on your top two or three baits, this way you have those two or three fishing presentations ready to go once you hit the water. I do this on all the rods I am bringing to the tournament, which is usually 4 to 5 rods in total and what this does it allow me to quickly switch from bait to bait to see what the fish are in the mood for going after. 

During tournament days your time starts to run out quickly and you don’t want to be wasting it searching for baits and tying baits on over and over again, this should only happen if a bait is damaged and needs to be changed to a new one. If you fish with soft plastic baits it’s also a good idea to have your top performing baits in a Ziploc bag labeled with what is in there, which again makes it easy and quickly to find when a bait needs changing.  Also make sure to have your PFD and boat safety kits organized and ready for use as well, safety needs to always be at the top of everyone’s list. Re-visiting your checklist the week of the tournament days is a a must to ensure you have crossed off all the key areas for things that will be needed.

Once you have all of the above ready to go from here it’s time to focus on your strategy for the days, which is where reviewing the upcoming weather forecast comes in handy. I would suggest checking the weather forecast right up until the night before the first day of the derby, this is where you ca tweak your strategy should you see a drastic change in the forecast. Ironing out what spots you want to fish and in what order you want to fish them should be next on your list. Taking into consideration what kind of winds you will be dealing with is another key item to note, as Island Lake is not a very large body of water and if winds pick up it can make fishing the open water areas a lot tougher. Map out your spots and review all past successful fish catches at each of these spots, that will help you decide what area to tackle first.

Another game plan for executing your strategy needs to be making sure your possible winning catches are kept healthy and alive, easiest way to do this is if you catch a fish that you feel is worthy enough of having it weighed and measured, don’t risk staying out longer head back to the main dock area and turn your fish in ASAP. Make sure you have your fish in a plastic tub or cooler if you are not in a boat with a live well and be sure to rig up an aerator so it is running in the live well while you are bringing the fish to the weigh in point, as this will ensure fresh oxygen is being generated for the fish. It’s a big risk catching that fish you think is worthy of submitting and chancing staying out longer, as even in the best conditions in a live well fish can succumb to possible death over long periods of time, so rushing back with a catch is recommended as it will be logged and entered as your catch them released back safely.

A big focus should also be put on having your landing net ready and accessible, as this is the key tool to snatching up that winning fish beside the boat so it should always be kept extended in the same place where it can be grabbed within a split second. Having a medium to large size Ziploc storage bag with you will also make transporting the fish to the weigh in much easier than having to carry your cooler or plastic tub, so have a few with you for quick and easy transport.

Another important aspect for tournament fishing is to make sure you stay hydrated and have plenty of fast easy to eat snacks, this is very important as you do not want to dehydrate or battle hunger while you are trying to concentrate. Good snack ideas are granola bars, cliff bars, nuts, beef jerky, hard boiled eggs, all easy quick bite protein filled snacks. When it comes to staying hydrated having 2 to 3 liters of cold water is a good start, followed by an electrolyte filled drink like Powerade or Gatorade, that can be mixed with half water for that extra little boost! Pack these in a small soft cooler with an ice pack and you are ready for the day!

Now if you are fishing for fun, that is what to focus on having fun!  Getting out there and experiencing what a fishing derby or tournament is like, really is a great way to meet various new people and learn a lot about your fishing skills, as well as improve on them.  Sometimes those really relaxed days on the water are when you actually catch the biggest fish, as I have had many great catches on Island Lake while eating lunch as I had cast out a top water bait and let it sit there for several minutes. There should always be an element of fun in any type of competition, as we can’t be so caught up in trying to win all the time because that much focus on one thing can lead to a lot of things going wrong, so be sure to include some laughs and smiles throughout the day if you are fishing with a buddy or family!

Good luck to all and remember to have some fun out there…tight lines everyone!

The AMFisH guy…Billy.

Learn more here: www.amfish.ca

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