We are joined by Rick Garavaglia who recently participated in the KBF Trail Series event in Kissimmee, Florida this past spring. We are super excited to have him join us for part one of a three part blog on how to fish a tournament. So whether you are new to fishing tournaments, or a seasoned tournament fisherman, sit back and enjoy this conversation with Rick.
Last time Rick shared about his own prep and travel. You can find that blog here but in this blog, he shares with us how he went about prefishing for a tournament in a state he had never fished before. Let’s just get right to it Rick, you had three days to prefish the tournament, how did it go?
I made the drive to Kissimmee Lake for my first taste of Florida fishing. I was overwhelmed by all the lily pads and the vastness of this lake. The opposite shore looked like it was fairly close, but it was a lot further than it appeared. I didn’t catch any fish on this colder rainy day. I covered a lot of water and had my first taste of fighting the thick vegetation with my DIY trolling motor set-up. I chose to use my 55 lb Minnkota Endura Max instead of my 30 lb Endura C2 due to the heavy vegetation. My friend Phil caught his personal best bass on a swim jig. It was 24.75” long and right around 10 pounds. I didn’t get to see the fish with my own eyes, but was pumped about the possibility of landing my personal best at any moment. That was motivation enough for me to fight through the less than ideal weather and the new environment. After day one I was down, but not out.
I chose to fish Cypress Lake and got a bite almost immediately on my M4 Custom Jig swim jig that I designed in what I call Mearl’s Pearl color and a Payne Outdoors Crappie colored 4” Riblet swimbait as a trailer. I really wanted to find a pattern that would work consistently, and began flipping a black and blue senko into some reeds and around some hydrilla and caught a bass (13.5”). I found a canal and caught another bass (14.75”) on a red shad trick worm shaky head before finding a little pattern on some of the smaller patches of grass and floating mats that were scattered around the edges of the canal by throwing the weightless Texas rigged black and blue 5” senko near the edges (13”). I caught four fish on the day on Cypress Lake. The 4th was 9.75” and wouldn’t have counted in competition.
On my final day of prefishing, I fished Lake Hatch and caught three bass and my first bowfin. Two bass were on the same M4 Custom Jig swim jig and Payne Outdoors Riblet trailer. Another was my first punching fish. I used a 1 oz. Siebert Tungsten bullet weight with a Payne Outdoors Grappler Grub and my new Sixgill Fenrir flipping rod and Hamarr reel. I also caught my bowfin on a swimjig.
I started off the morning going up a canal near the launch and witnessed a doe whitetail deer jump off a dock wall about 8’ above the water in order to cross the canal.
I turned around and returned to the main lake and caught my first bass (15”) on the outside edge of the reeds on the main lake. When I couldn’t reproduce that bite I moved inside the reeds to a boat lane and found my first mat on this lake. My very first punch into the mat I caught my second fish (16.25”) of the day. I worked that edge with the mat to no avail. I made the decision to move back to the outside edge and fish some more reeds. As I was picking my lane to work my way back to the outside edge I made a cast with my swim jig toward a point of reeds and immediately saw a swirl and the bass hammered the swimjig before I could turn the reel handle three times. This was my biggest bass of the week at 18.5”.
I made it through some heavy cover and found my way to another canal, but this canal had a lot of current. I eventually found the source of the current at a series of culverts. I made a few casts while talking to a local deer hunter that was prepping his airboat to leave. I got a bite, and two casts later I caught my first bowfin. I was feeling rushed to get out of the way of the airboat, so I snapped a quick picture and released it not really getting to enjoy the catch and examine this new-to-me species.
I proceeded out of the canal and joined my friends back at the main lake to explore a little off shore before leaving for the day to make final preparations for the tournament.
The whole goal of prefishing is kind of two fold. The first thing you are looking to do is to find fish. I really wanted to see if they were up shallow, or offshore. Are they under weed mats, or near stumps and trees? The second goal is to try to establish a pattern that they are biting on. Over the course of the three days, it seemed like jigs and soft plastics were working, and punching mats seemed to be a pattern for finding fish.
I knew that the tournament was going to be rough as I checked my weather app and saw that a huge storm was due to hit the area the next day. As I went to bed that Friday night, I braced myself for what could be a very windy and cold tournament.
Well, you kind of left us with a huge cliffhanger there, Rick! I can’t wait to hear about that storm and your tournament. That’s in part 3 of this blog series which you can see here. If you would like to follow Rick on his KBF adventures, you can find him on Instagram and Facebook.
Written by Rick Garavaglia, Feelfree Competitive Fishing Team Member
Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member