Supporting small businesses is important to me. Those dollars you give for that product don't go to fund a yacht; they pay for dance lessons for a daughter or the new alternator on the truck. These folks work hard. They deserve a look when you're in the market. They will be the ones who answer the phone if you have a problem with the product down the road. It's hard and almost near impossible to get that with larger companies. A special mention to some of my friends in small business at Mariner Sails, Hag's Tornado Baits, YakAttack, HOOK1, Papa Chops Rod and Reel Repair and SuperNova Fishing Lights.


You probably know a small business owner. Heck, you may know several. According to the Small Business Association, America is experiencing a significant rise in small business, cottage industry startups. Unlike the dotcom boom of the 1990s to early 2000s, these are typically not money grab startups. Most of the small businesses that are cropping up are about passion. Whether it's a rod making business, shirt printer, custom lures or fishing accessories, new businesses enter the marketplace everyday. You've probably been asked to "Like" a Facebook page for some of them. You've probably bought some of their stuff because it's a new twist on a technique or look. Not all will succeed however.

Lots of these companies start as or maybe still are garage start-ups. All the money they make is poured back into the business and sometimes the owners work another job to supplement it. They believe in their idea that much. They like to have quality control close at hand because the name on the package is a direct reflection on them. But passion is not enough. Lots of passionate people fail.

A good business plan will go a long way. After successfully selling a couple of products, a savvy owner will do a return on investment calculation (and many already have done a predictive ROI before the first sell). If it takes 10 hours and $24 worth of materials to make a rod and you sell it for $44 you may be "making" $20 but you are also only paying yourself $2 an hour. If you are after money, you can make almost four times that working a side job at the minimum wage. If it's a hobby and the money isn't important that might work. Just breaking even is enough for some folks. Only you can decide. If you are looking at expanding past a hobby business where you are the only labor cost, this model will fail.

Price point is another make or break. Entering the marketplace at the right tier level can set you up for success or failure. Have some outside sources, not your best friends and fishing buddies, give you a valuation. How much would they pay for this new bait? What companies would they compare it to? You need to know your competition. If I pour a plastic worm that looks like a Yamamoto Senko and sell it for the same price, will people buy it? Doubtful. Why not by the proven bait at that price. If it cost half, then you might get some looks. Even Yamamoto does this. He has his signature GYCB at the $6-8 price point and then the Kinami line that is a couple of dollars cheaper. He is offering product at different price points.

Volume is also important. If you sell expensive items, you'll move fewer but will have more money per transaction. Basically, you may only have to sell a couple of products to collect $1,000. If you sell $3 crankbaits, you may sell lots of them but you will need to sell over 300 to hit the $1,000 mark. It just depends on the product.

Understanding the customer is perhaps the least known entity in business today. Just because you cater to fishermen does not mean they are all the same. More specifically, it doesn't mean they all purchase products the same. The market is made up of three different types of customers. I won't go into great detail here but I'll give you some high level info.

Let's start with Bobby. Bobby is a young guy, usually between 18-29, single with some disposable income. He likes new things.

Next is Joe. Joe is the most common customer. He is 25-55, usually married and middle class. Joe works hard for his money. He likes new things but does his research, sometimes to his detriment, on new products.

Last is Terry. Terry is 30-65, married or single, but makes his own money decisions. If he wants to make a purchase, he does so without asking anyone else. Terry is typically middle to upper middle class if not wealthy.

All three of these customers can overlap in some areas. Some Terry customers will be a little older. Some Bobby customers will be older as well. Joe, however, is pretty standard across the board. In most markets across the US, Joe will be 65% of your purchases (once he finally decides to buy).

As a small business owner, you should know how to sell, market and advertise to these different customers. All three of these types have female counterparts too (Ashley, Mary and Karen respectively). The same strategy rarely works for all 3 (or 6) customers. Knowing how to present your product to each one, differently, will allow you to close more purchases.

  If you want to know more, shoot me an email or a Facebook message. It is a ton of info so be prepared. Maybe a seminar is in order. Hmmmm.

Not all small businesses will make it but if you know and execute these strategies, you'll have a much better chance.

Business Plan.
Volume Expectations.
Knowing Your Customer.

Do you know/have all of them?


In 2013, the American Cancer Society estimates 1.66 Million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. 112,000 of those will be in Texas alone. Of the total 1.66M, 76,000 of those will be skin cancer represented as a melanoma. Let me put it a different way. Today, September 24, 2013, 210 new people will be diagnosed with melanoma. This happens every single day.  Not included in the new cases are the number of NMSC (non-melanoma). These are estimated at 3.5 Million for this year. These are people having to get places cut off their noses, heads, ears and hands to make sure it doesn't spread.

So why the gloom and doom?

Cancer has been on my mind alot lately. I have a friend who had a NMSC removed last week the size of a golf ball. I have family I have lost and friends who have lost their loved ones to various forms of cancer this year and my time on the water yesterday afternoon brought it all bubbling up. Needing to get out on the water after a horrid day at work, I was at the kayak launch and was internally dialoguing whether or not to wear sunscreen. I would only be in the sun about an hour. Did I need coverage past the sunscreen? I opted to play it safe. I applied sunscreen to all my skin I could see and then put on my Hoo-Rag to cover even more. As soon as I started toward the west I felt the sun. It felt warm and I knew I had made a good choice.

As a young man in my teens and twenties, I didn't use sunblock. I can remember getting burned to the point of having blisters and welps. Stupid. I now know better. It's a habit you have to build into your routine but if it means being around for your family, friends and fishing buddies a few more years, isn't it worth it?

Here are some of the things I recommend and do.

Sunscreens come in a variety of forms: creams, sprays, gels and more. Find one you can tolerate and keep it with you.

Coverage is another big help. Find a hat. Some people like the wide brimmed ones. Those are best. I have a hard time wearing one so I opt for a ball cap and a Hoo-Rag. The Hoo allows me to cover my ears, face, neck or all three in addition to the sunscreen coverage. I switched to the Hoo-Rag recently because it is a little thinner than a Buff, stretches better and is easier to breathe through. I have four in my collection currently but they have over 30 designs to choose from. I wear long sleeves 95% of the year, especially in the summer. I very rarely wear shorts. And yes, I have a glorious white glow, not that anyone ever sees it.

Reapplication. Sunscreens are usually only good in wet conditions for 60-80 minutes. Keep it with you on the water and reapply often.

Protect your eyes. Find a comfortable pair of sunglasses. I prefer polarized glass lenses and use the Smith Optics PolarChromic Tenet Glasses. The important thing is to protect your eyes. If you want protection AND performance, the Smiths are amazing and light on your nose.

Hopefully this doesn't come across as preachy but I do care about each and every one of you. I hope you and your families never experience cancer and especially one that can be avoided in most cases.

Stay safe out there.

Have you ever had a far off adventure that keeps crawling back to the front of your consciousness? I have. More correctly, I do. My adventure is in South Africa.

The Background

My wife's cousin and her family live in Swaziland, a country hugged by South Africa on its Northeastern border. She and her cousin are basically sisters who grew up in different houses. Our children and theirs are very close in age so get togethers are always fun and entertaining for all. I have been receiving increasing pressure to take a trip to Swaziland to see them.

She's a smart woman, my wife. After several failed attempts, she knew how to hook me into going. Swaziland has become somewhat of a jewel in Africa for fishing. They have trout streams, largemouth bass lakes and are almost pollution free. An untouched paradise if you will. Just across the border in Mozambique is saltwater and Maputo Bay. Further working toward me going is a private lake that the cousins have access to.

Honestly, this would be a once in a lifetime trip. I don't foresee being able to travel very often to Africa or even South America. I daresay I may only get to do Africa once.

Enter my imagination.

If I am going to do this, I want to do it big.

The Plan

Local intel is telling me there a few to no kayaks on any of these lakes. Noted.
I also know that Lake Komati is a growing hotspot for South Africans to seek out big largemouth. With only a few years since development, the lake has already produced an 11.9lb behemoth. Regular catches are bass between 5 and 8 pounds. Yes. You read that right! The bass are getting fat on a fish called a Blue Kurper which is in essence a Tilapia.

The streams are fished by conservatory fly fishermen some but not with the pressure like Colorado gets here in the States. I might have to try that too.

As for Maputo Bay, I'll have to do more research. Security is a huge concern for me while there. Inside of Swaziland, threats are minimal, security is tight and tourists are welcomed. Mozambique may prove to be a different story.

In scouting out Swaziland I feel like I would most likely be out of the US for 14 days. Four of those would be for travel and then 10 for exploring. I would like to spend an entire day at Lake Komati, maybe two if we stay at the lodge. It's only 75km from where we will be staying and has a nice highway (if there is such a thing) to and from. I'd like to spend three days on the private lake looking for different species of fish. Both of these excursions I would want to do in a kayak. More on that in a bit. The third leg, if it proved safe and worthwhile would be to cross the border into Mozambique and fish Maputo Bay. For safety this would also likely be a surf casting trip and not a kayak trip. Great white sharks are no joke, not to mention those crazy currents.

The How

The hardest part of trips like this is lodging. Luckily, that part is figured out. This trip would most likely take place in November or December of 2014. The seasons are different of course and the November/December time frame has temperatures from the mid 50's to the low 80's. That also allows for time to gather what will be needed. To make this happen, I would need sponsors to be able to donate equipment. The idea would be any equipment that doesn't fit in a suitcase would have to be shipped and stay there when we leave. The cousins run the African Christian College in Swaziland. Ideally all shipped equipment would then be donated to ACC for their use. A write off as a charitable gift.   So what items would we need?

Kayak, 11-13 feet in length.*
Video cameras to film along with batteries and memory cards
Fishing reels, rods, line, artificial baits*
Kayak cart for transport*
Rope for tying down kayak*
Pliers, gaff, anchoring method*

*donation items

The Finished Product

Ideally, I would like to be able to produce a documentary and a book about the adventure. If a company wanted to send a crew to film it, I could help make arrangements for lodging and most likely at no cost. The other logistics we could work out. I do not expect any payment for this adventure. I want to be able to show people around the world Swaziland and its natural beauty as I discover it for the first time from a kayak with a fishing pole in hand. Only a few anglers in the United States will be able to discover what I am planning for. I'll be bringing my story through video and writing even if I am unable to receive help. There is time to plan, come on board and be a prominent and integral part of the adventure but it needs to start taking shape now. If you have an interest in helping and being a part of "Scouting Swaziland", please contact me. 

If you are unable to help, be ready for a completely new adventure in early 2015. Thanks for reading!

Chris Payne
(512) 517-3936

The age old question with a fishing twist: What's your favorite color?

I spent some time with family this weekend, talking fishing, shooting some clays at a five stand and enjoying way too much food. Any time we talk fishing, color and style comes up. We fish a lost of soft plastics in our family. They are versatile, fairly inexpensive and produce every season of the year. The styles and colors however, are diverse.

My brother loves to throw a Junebug colored Yum Dinger. He especially likes to throw these when he can find it in the 3" variety but now they're almost all 4". I'd call him crazy but I've seen him consistently put fish in the boat.

My Dad throws a lot of different baits but if I made him choose one, and he could find it, I'd bank on the 4" Berkley Power Worm in Camo. A close second would be a sandworm.

For me, it's a 4" Hag's Tornado in Watermelon Chartreuse. Is it any wonder I do a lot of finesse fishing? My whole family does it and has for decades.

So if we fish the same waters primarily,together much of the time, why different color preferences?

Catches and Confidence.

I feel like I could catch Moby Dick on a 4" Hag's in WC. I have consistently put fish in the kayak. If I have a skunk day going on, I know I can catch fish on it. The first time I thought it could happen and it did, the confidence started to build. As I repeated the cycle and it continued to be true, it became known to me that I could put a fish in the boat with this bait. I proved it again on Friday. No fish the first three hours. Switched back to my confidence bait and bam, two fish in 10 minutes.

I have seen my brother catch what had to be every fish off of a bank on his bait. The same for my Dad. When I try to use their colors the results are underwhelming.

The cool thing is, it might be a color on a crankbait at a certain lake. I know a guy like that. He has won a lot of money (some of it mine) on a Central Texas lake with one particular color. He knows it's special too because that is a secret color only a few know.

I have another buddy who has a particular style and color of trailer he uses on spinnerbaits.

Call it hocum, voodoo, confidence or coincidence but I bet if you think about it for two seconds, you have a color you always go back to.

So, what is it? Let me know here in the comments or on Facebook.
Chad Hoover
Last week when I wrote the "Want to Be Sponsored?" piece,  I heard from people in 32 different countries. Some were mad, some angry, some thought I was clueless, some agreed but what became evidently clear is that the definitions of the different levels were muddy and in some cases not even known. 

Luckily, Chad Hoover who has worn hats as a business owner, tv show host, manufacturers rep, pro staff director, kayak fisherman and brand rep chimed in. He saw what I saw: misconceptions and half truths. Chad wanted to give an outline of what the different levels were from a business and manufacturer rep's standpoint as well as someone who had climbed through them all. It may not hold true for all companies but it does for a lot of them. Actually most of them.

You want the inside scoop? The real deal from Hoover himself? Here it is.

We'll start first with definitions.

Level 1- Field Staff

At this level, a fisherman will typically get some stickers, maybe a hat or shirt and a discount. Usually the discount is less than 20%. There are few expectations for these folks except to say good things about the product.

Level 2- Pro Deal

At this level you are doing some significant things for a company. Maybe it's blogging, videos, pictures, social media and some trade shows. You conduct yourself in a manner consistent with company values and may do a few seminars or speaking events. The discount increases at this level and is usually 20-30%.

Level 3- Pro Staff

One of the most over used terms in the industry, Pro Staff means just that. You are a Pro on the company's Staff. People that work at headquarters know your name even if you don't work in that city. They seek out your advice on product development and deployment. You have a public presence and insider information. You know what new stuff is coming down the pipe well before the public and most of the time, you've been involved with it in some form or fashion. You get good discounts (30-50%) and some free product as well depending on the company.

Level 4- Sponsored

The pinnacle of deals for fishermen. Sponsored guys get significant amounts to all product for free. They are also compensated for entry fees, appearance fees, stipends for days at trade shows, get travel fees and most importantly cut a check for fishing in a kayak. Hoover says there are fewer than 10 of these folks in the country in kayak fishing. 


Let's talk about getting a deal. Lots of fishermen want a deal. Who wouldn't like free product? So can you get a deal? Maybe Field Staff or a Pro Deal? Sure. Can you get sponsored? Sure. BUT... Let me say it again. BUT... you have to work to get there.

Do you want to know the truth? 
If not, thanks for reading, we'll hopefully see you again next week. 

If you do want the actual truth from the man who has climbed to the summit, keep reading. Hoover doesn't pull punches. He wants you to know the REAL DEAL.  These were my takeaways from our conversation. 

There is no sponsorship lotto you can buy a ticket for. No fast track exists. I cannot learn to throw a football today and expect to quarterback the 49ers tomorrow. Too many people want to know the shortcut. They will ask, so how can I get there? Should I blog or do photos or shoot video or talk at conventions or work trade shows? The answer is yes. You should be doing all of those. One avenue for public exposure is rarely enough for potential suitors to want to give you a deal. You need to network, be known and also be reputable. You can't build a good reputation with thousands of people over night. It takes time, public vetting and hard work with no compensation. If you wouldn't do it for free, don't try to get paid for doing it. 

Confession time. When I started this blog I thought I wanted to be sponsored. I called Chad and he gave me the same info you are now getting. He asked me what I loved. I told him I loved to write and tell people about kayak fishing. He told me to chase that. He told me to fish and write. He told me to quit thinking about targeting companies and start thinking about developing what I loved. So I did. To this day I have received $0 for writing this blog. What I have received in abundance is an overwhelming network of friends, business contacts, partner companies and fishermen that have found value in what I have worked so hard to develop. It's very similar to the feeling you get when you catch a big fish on a bait or rod that you have made by hand. 

So what are some keys to getting to a place where companies will ask about you?

1. Care more about the name on the front of the jersey than the back. If your identity is wrapped up in who your sponsors are, you are doing it wrong.

2. Patience. It takes time to become noticed. In some cases, it may never happen and you need to be ok with that.

3. Work.Can't stress this enough. You have to be willing to put more in than you expect to get out. 

4. Don't posture. Brand wars, mine is better than yours, acting like a fool in social media and fights whether verbal or physical are bad news. Keep a positive attitude and represent yourself well. You are your own brand!

5. Stop trying to get free stuff. Get in the game, pay your dues, keep your nose clean, be accessible, open and honest and your time will come. People are attracted to others with passion. If you are passionate about pneumatic snowball throwers and blog about it twice a week, shoot videos and hold seminars on how to build your own, people who share that interest will seek you out. It may take some time but once they find you, if you are the real deal, they will tell their friends. Building a following takes time.

You want the formula for a Staff, Deal or Sponsorship position?


Don't spend your time looking for a loop hole. Spend your time developing your passion. It pays off much bigger in the end.

Do you have thoughts about this article you want others to know? Don't agree? Fully agree? Let me know on Facebook or in the comments section. 

Luther Cifers from YakAttack upped the ante when he introduced the Zooka Tube this summer. A rod holder that can manage baitcasters, spinning reels, long pole or just about any other combination, the Zooka is proving to be one of the most versatile, rugged options for securing your fishing poles.

Past the obvious use, many folks, myself included are using the Zooka as a holder for a Park-N-Pole. An anchor trolley gives a lot of flex and using the scupper holes in your kayak can do damage over time when trying to stay put in wind and waves. The Zooka allows a very rigid mounting point to your kayak with easy in and out access for quick moves on and off anchor.

The Zooka also allows lots of flexible positions because of the RAM ball. The spherical head provides myriad angles to make sure you can choose what you need for best ease of use specific for your application.

Inside the Zooka are interlocking teeth, tightened by a wing style nut and fitted with an interior spring. This is my only gripe about the rod holder. The interlocking teeth offer too few angles and deep teeth that require a lot of unscrewing, separation and re-tightening  to set the angle of the tube. While on the water, this is tough and a bit scary.

 Utilizing an existing product I have had success modifying the Zooka slightly to make those slight adjustments quicker and less difficult. I have added a Scotty Slip Disc to the interior gear set. By placing this Slip Disc inside, I only need a quarter turn to loosen the tube find the exact angle I need and then re-tighten. This slight modification is low cost ($4) and gives further refinement to an already well designed rod holder.

The Zooka Tube is definitely worth a look. I have already replaced my RAM 2007 rod holder with the Zooka and have plans for an additional one in the near future. For about $30 you can add one to your arsenal and stop limiting the rods you can take with you. This newest offering from YakAttack will fit almost all of them.

A topic that comes up all the time with fishermen is sponsors. Some people are for it, some people against it and others are curious. These are my thoughts on the subject. Love them, hate them, add to them or don't. It's all ok because we are talking fishing. This is one of the most frequent things I am asked about so here is my take on getting "sponsored".

We've seen it since we were little. The Bill Dances and Roland Martins of the world in tons of commercials, patch heavy shirts and boats with only the best of the best on board. My thoughts seeing that growing up were of envy. I would love to have all that. Then someone told me they don't pay for any of it. As an early teen I guess that stuck in my brain. It seemed like the ticket was to be sponsored. Lots of free stuff and go fishing all the time, who wouldn't like that?

Lots of guys are good at fishing. It's a science and once you practice it enough, you become more and more consistent. Luck plays into it but in any trail you have very consistent performers. Everyone knows who they are. Lots of those guys, if they want it, are sponsored. But here comes a curveball. Sponsored is a bit of a misnomer. It's like saying bring me a Kleenex. Kleenex is a particular type of facial tissue. Sponsored is a particular type of vendor agreement. In the world of product lines, manufacturers and vendors there are many tiers of involvement with anglers.

Some common agreements include field staff, pro staff, team member, ambassador, Pro, sponsored and many others. The terms have different meanings for each manufacturer if they even have multiple labels. To be on a staff might include angler benefits of 10% - 50% off, free gear, free hats, free stickers, free boats and all the way up to a check that arrives at your door monthly or yearly. So how many guys score that ever sweet, get a check and a bunch of free stuff type deal? Very, very , few. Think of it like this. Think of how many people have ever played quarterback on every level of football. Now think of how many guys get to start at quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team. That's an approximate snapshot of your odds here.

So, if it is so elusive, why does it seem that guys who don't win every tournament keep getting agreements with companies? Curveball number two. Marketing and advertising play a big part in a company's willingness to work with an angler. Well, I'll wear my jersey with their logo and tell everyone at the ramp they should use Dr. X's Magic Reels and Baits; isn't that enough? Frankly, not for most companies.

If you are working with a company, they need a good return on investment. Here's another analogy. If I want to open an online shoe shop and I have set aside $1,000 to put up a billboard, where do I want to put it? Do I want to locate it on South Highway 70 just three miles north Blackwell, TX? Probably not. Would I put it on Southbound I-45 in Houston just north of Nasa Road? Very likely. Do you know why? Exposure. To be a good return on a companies investment, you need to be able to talk to lots of people in lots of different platforms, places and settings. Slinging baits on the ramp won't do much, especially for larger companies. Have you ever thought about why lots of full time guides on Lake Fork have big name sponsors? One reason is because of the exposure number. Not only are these guides meeting 600+ new people per year, they are also speaking at various events, fishing in tournaments, have a website, a Facebook page, make videos that lots of people watch and are in the public eye. That can generate a lot of buzz.

Buzz is nice but it's not the only ingredient needed. You also have to be a salesman. Until Facebook likes and positive reviews on websites start generating dollars, actual sales and free tv time are among the only ways a company can recoup its investments. At 10% off, it won't take much. At the "here's a check and a boat" level, it's going to be a little harder. If you can speak positively about your manufacturers, not disparage the competition, present yourself and your company with a positive attitude and outlook and sell why Dr. X's Magic Reels are the best you've ever used in a way that people can understand, you can be successful.Just keep in mind, it may not be at the KVD level.

Every company I have dealt with is interested in the deliverables. Not what they deliver to you but what you can deliver to them. A wise man (and company owner) once told me that big companies get thousands of requests per year to be "sponsored". Most of them are asking for free stuff because they won their local bass club's Angler of the Year. These letters and emails find the round file pretty fast.

So what can you do? If you really want to have a relationship with a company, what can you do?

1. Start with a product you already use. Start small. Soft bait companies, small apparel companies etc. You need to be able to speak to why you love their product and you should already be telling people about why they should use it too. Don't do it expecting to get a pro deal. Do it because you can't help yourself. You are a much better sales person when you can describe in great detail the features you like and also add feedback about changes you would like to see or additional offerings. I love Hag's Tornado Baits.Anyone who has fished with me knows this. If I had one bait and only one bait to fish with the rest of my life it would be an F4 Tornado in Watermelon Chartreuse. It has won me money, it catches fish on the toughest of days out there and I ALWAYS have a bunch with me on the water. Tommy and Barbie Hagler saw the passion I had for their baits and called me. I was ecstatic to be able to represent Hag's. Still am. My car and kayak always smell like garlic because of it.

2. Have a gameplan in writing. Talk is cheap. Lots of people can talk a good game but knowing what you are wanting to do, promote, how, and your expected results will speak volumes to your potential partners. What is your three year and five year plan? If you don't know, spend some more time on the game plan.

3. Represent. When you put on a jersey, a hat, hold Dr. X's Magic Reels ready to show the world how far it will cast, you are an extension of that company. If you act like a fool, get in a cursing match with a hot head who wants to challenge you or look like a slob, the company mirrors that too. No company wants to be those things.

4. Be patient. Lots of the bigger companies want you to have an established track record with other companies before considering you. It doesn't happen over night. At least not for us normal folks. The important thing is to keep fishing and find products you are passionate about. You might start at the ground floor but believe me, the sky is the limit. The only fuel is your passion.

If you want stickers or a jersey, buy one. If you want to help a company you are passionate about to grow their business, get to work and make it happen.

Do you have some additional thoughts? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page

When you think about fishing tournaments, from pros to local fishermen, myriad ways of preparation exist. I have my own methods and they differ based on a few factors. Kayak fishing doesn't allow you the running ability a power boat tourney does. When I decide to fish a kayak tourney, I run the details through a question filter that looks something like this:

How far from me is this lake?
How many times will I be able to prefish it?
Have I ever been on the lake?
Do I know anyone who knows the lake?
Are fishing reports available for the lake?
What is the main forage of the lake?
What species of bass are there?
What time of year is the tournament?
What is the typical water clarity?
What is the weather forecast for the week leading up and day of?
What is the moon phase?
What are the water temps?
Is it a power generation lake?

These are not all of the questions but some of the first ones. In just over 30 days from now, the Texas Kayak Bass Fishing Open will be at Houston County Lake near Crockett, TX. This is what the filter looked like for me with answers:

How far from me is this lake? 3.5 hours
How many times will I be able to prefish it? maybe 1
Have I ever been on the lake? Nope
Do I know anyone who knows the lake? 2 people
Are fishing reports available for the lake? Rarely
What is the main forage of the lake? Red ear sunfish
What species of bass are there? Spotted and Largemouth
What time of year is the tournament? Fall
What is the typical water clarity? Clear to slight stain
What is the weather forecast for the week leading up and day of? most likely cloudy
What is the moon phase? New Moon
What are the water temps? Will be Mid to High 70s
Is it a power generation lake? Nope.

So the next step is finding reports. I look at reports from anytime of the year first, taking notes on baits, colors and depths. After I have data from 10 or 12 reports, I'll look specifically at the fall reports. If a report has pictures, I'll pay close attention.

Next I'll get on the Navionics map and checkout the lake for specific spots. If I get to prefish, this is where I will concentrate my efforts. Just because it looks good above the water, doesn't make it a fish hangout. Knowing what is under the water through maps, apps and electronics is a much better indicator.

After scouring the maps, I'll look for pictures on the web. Any scenic shots, Google Map images, anything that can help me get my bearings once I am there. I want points of reference.

Finally, I'll compile a game plan for baits to take. I want to limit myself from taking all of the tackle I own. Narrow it down to a few categories and colors and figure out what will work.

Once the game plan is intact, I'll respool the rods I'll take to prefish, load only the baits I'll take later and hit the water as soon as I can. I'll take my GoPro, digital cameras and shoot lots of pics and video. I'll log all the fish I catch, where and how and then catalog it all for further digestion later.

I'm not saying that a fisherman can't get lucky now and then and win a tournament without any prep work. What I am saying is the odds are a lot longer to do so. With the prizes and cash Bobby Clark and his sponsors have lined up for this tourney, I want to be as prepared as possible.