Bass Fishing's Pit Stops

There's no time-outs, no pit crews, just a one-man show -- against the clock

By Jerry Drazer


In sports such as basketball and football, teams are allowed a set number of time-outs per half to strategize and refresh. Plus, they get a nice rest period called "half-time". In baseball, players get a chance to re-group when their teammates are bat or during the "7th inning stretch". Coaches and managers usually call and control these athletic breaks, and/or strategy sessions.

The sport of auto racing isn't as generous with time-outs and breaks. Drivers have to make "pit-stops" to change strategy/set-ups, give the driver a fresh drink, and get rolling. All in less than 15 seconds preferably. The crew chief, driver, and the spotter usually all have input in these decisions. Drivers are also given a few minor breaks during "caution periods" for wrecks or when debris is on the track. This allows the driver a break and the driver can regroup, and refocus. Some "cautions periods" are very short in length, while others are extensive.

Bass fishing though, is a multi-level sport. You can compete in tournaments at many levels, or you may simply opt to go out bass fishing, relax, and enjoy God's splendor. It's your choice. That's the beauty of this sport.

The sport of bass tournament fishing is much different from basketball, football, baseball, or auto racing. There's nobody dictating to you "when" to take a break to strategize, refresh, or refocus. You're on your own, if you take a break, it'll cost you, and the price you pay is in time. The old saying: "time is money" takes on new meaning in bass tournament fishing, because you are fishing against the clock.

Bass tournament fishing has evolved and will continue to evolve in years to come. Prize money has increased, sponsorships have increased, and so has the level of competition. Most serious tournament anglers, seldom sit in their seats, have a picnic, and admire the wildlife while competing in an event.

Most tournament anglers have become very effective "time-managers", and are extremely well organized. They recognize the value of time, and weigh the time costs in the balance whenever they make a decision. Most tournament anglers plan ahead and are usually prepared for problems before they arise. Whether that means performing a repair, changing strategy, replenishing fluids, or just regrouping.

Today's bass tournament angler is essentially a "one man pit crew" once competition begins. Sure there's a service truck back at the marina. But how do top flight touring pro's perform an "on the water" pit stop, and beat the clock?

Most touring pro's have at least one spare prop and tools onboard their boat, just in case of an unforeseen breakdown. "Changing props can be difficult, if not dangerous, especially in rough water" explains ESPN/B.A.S.S. Touring Pro, Joe Thomas of Ohio. Thomas is truly "the master" of rough water bass fishing, and at handling his Skeeter bass boat in 6'-9' waves. If it's rough, you can bet Joe Thomas will be near the top of the leader board, because he'll get to his fish, catch them, and get back to the weigh-in.

Thomas came across a quick and easy fix for the time consuming dilemma of changing a prop last year. It's a product called the "Prop Block" (see picture). "It's made of super light composite material and is compact for storage anywhere. It attaches to the cavitation plate of my Yamaha or any other outboard by way of a molded groove. This tool allows me to change props in minutes, safely. There is now no need to carry a wooden block, or have a spare set of hands available to hold it in place" explained Thomas. The Prop Block is available through his web-site at

Organization is yet another key to success, as well as saving time. As soon as you step in the boat with ESPN/B.A.S.S. Touring Pro Mark Randolph of Indiana you'll see how organized he keeps his Ranger Boat. All his tackle is labeled in storage boxes in one certain spot. "I've been told by several guys I've drawn out with that they have never seen a more organized boat than mine. When it comes time to change lures I know exactly where it is, and do not have to spend valuable time looking for it" explained Randolph.

Randolph pointed out that it also helps to take a friend along to tournaments. Randolphs' friend Don Amsden, travels with Randolph whenever he can. "This is a great help, Don is a good tournament fisherman himself, and knows what needs to be done. Making sandwiches to take in the boat, throwing a different lure if he's practicing with me, or checking the oil tank for my OptiMax. I can't tell you how valuable this second guy is at a professional tournament, it let's me concentrate on just fishing" praised Randolph.

The former W.C.F. tournaments allowed anglers, and their teams a "pit-break" in order to take off electronics, attach the fiberglass shell to the deck, and tweak performance.

Will the sport of bass fishing ever formally utilize pit stops or breaks on the water? It's highly unlikely.

"I wish we had pitstops so I could take a break during a tournament day. But since we don't, I'm forced to save as much time as I can" says ESPN/B.A.S.S. Central Division Points Champion Jay Yelas of Texas. Yelas knows the value of time. The 11-time Bassmaster's Classic qualifier offered these valuable tips to help tournament anglers maximize their time on the water.

Jay Yelas's Top-10 Time Saving Tips:

Eat while on the move, either running or idling.

Apply sunscreen before take-off.

Clean sunglasses before take-off.

Have baits that are "on the bench" ready to go: Trailers on, skirts and weed-guards trimmed, hooks sharp, and split rings in place.

Carry a spare trolling motor, trolling motor prop, outboard prop, and spare electronics in rod locker.

Carry a cell phone.

Carry a spare timepiece.

Use culling system to mark each fish.

Use bright colored handle scissors and pliers for quick finds under pressure.

Keep drinking to a bare necessity minimum, to minimize the amount of restroom breaks.

The next time you go out on the water remember to try and incorporate some of these timesaving tips. They’ll give you an edge on the competition if you compete in tournaments, or maybe help salvage your day if you are just out enjoying a day of fishing.