Angler Point of View:
I’ve been fishing as a Co-Angler now for about 7 years and I’ve observed what I consider to be a HUGE opportunity being missed by a lot of anglers,.. Signing up with experienced travel/practice partners and fishing as a Co-Angler.
I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid but really got into bass fishing as a teenager fishing local ponds & Reservoirs all around San Diego County in California. I also worked at Bob’s Bait & Tackle for several years, then a Deckhand on several boats in the San Diego Sport fishing fleet. For several years following I really got into Saltwater fishing, inshore, Offshore, etc.
After moving to Northern California in 2008 I wanted to get back into Bass fishing and didn’t have a boat, so I joined a local Bass club, El Dorado Bass. This was my first experience fishing any sort of Bass tournament and I quickly came to enjoy it. But after about a year, I realized my expectations were too high for club fishing and with the exception of entry fees, I was basically spending as much money fishing club events, as I would team or Pro/Ams or Team Events. Plus, the payouts for the Pro/Ams or Team events are much better.
In 2010 I was fortunate to sign up with, travel and practice with Mark Lassagne from Bass Angler Magazine for the entire West Coast Bass Pro/Am circuit. I finished 11th in the top 20 and qualified for the West Coast Bass Classic!
In 2011 I fished a few Angler’s Choice WRL Teams, Delta/Wine region with a team partner Jim Eaton. We took 4th place at Lake Berryessa that year. I also fished a few WON Bass Northern Pro/Am’s as a Co-Angler and realized I needed another travel/practice partner.
Then in 2012 I was fortunate to sign up, travel and practice with former BASSMASTER Elite Series Pro Greg Gutierrez for all the Northern WON Bass Pro/Am’s and finished in 34th overall in the WON Bass Pro AM’s Northern AAA .
That year I also traveled and practiced with Kevin Stewart for the 2012 WON Bass US Open finishing 3rd overall in the AAA division.
For 2014 I fished the California Tournament Trail as an AM and was able to travel and practice with Greg Gutierrez fishing the entire circuit. I ended up drawing Greg on Day 2 and won the final event at Clear Lake and finished 24th in AOY points for the year.
For 2015 I once again signed up, traveled and practiced with Greg Gutierrez for the California Tournament Trail. This year I have had a 2nd place finish, a 9th place finish, finished 10th in AOY standings and a 2nd place finish in the TOC. (Thanks to Ryan Friend for putting us on some good fish.)
As I reflect back on my time fishing as a Co-Angler, I think it’s been pretty successful. I’m confident my success is a result of having experienced travel/practice partners to learn from!
Think of this: I get several days on the water before the event, plus two more days with two different pros during the event on that same body of water! You can’t even get a guide trip like that. Besides, if a guide happens to also fish tournaments, doubtful he’ll fish the same way or the same areas on a guide trip as he would in a tournament environment.
What’s the rush to fish the front? I know, I hear it all the time, “I’m sick of getting bad draws”. It does happen, just make the best of it, maybe learn what NOT to do. Or maybe you could help that guy out with some of your OWN experience. In any case I’d seriously look into getting connected with an experienced “Pro” travel/practice partner and look at it as an opportunity to LEARN! Not to learn his “spots/areas” but why and where he fishes, when to move, when to stay, confidence in an area, technique or bait, etc. In addition what you can learn about EVERYTHING else, ie: How he prepares, rigging tackle, gear, DRIVING a boat, boat handling, etc.
TRUST ME it’s invaluable! After fishing as a Co-Angler now for 6 years in Pro-Ams, when I do move to the front, I guarantee I will have an advantage over they guys that didn’t fish as Co-Anglers. In addition, I now have relationships with those past travel partners whom I hope to share information with.
So when do you make the move to the front? Well I’m sure it’s different for everyone. For me, I’m ready to give it a try but I still don’t have a boat. For others that don’t fish long as Co-Anglers or don’t want to, more power to ya! The Pro’s currently fishing will gladly take your money!
NOTE: When you do fish as Co-Angler with a travel/practice partner, whatever you do DON’T share what you learned during practice with whomever you draw! NEVER! Not even if you’re having a bad day!
See you out on the water!