Don't Be the Co-Angler Everybody Dreads!
— by Jeremiah T. Bagwell
Ever wonder why some of your partners are the biggest jerks by the end of the day? Maybe it's because you are the co-angler or non-boater that every Pro hates to draw. Yeah it's true certain anglers just do not understand the fact that common courtesy in the back of the boat goes a long way. Lucky for you I am here to help transform you into the partner of everyone's dreams. It's all quite simple just follow the tips I am providing you and then email this article to all of your fishing friends and we can all make the angling world a much happier place.
During the partners pairing, pay close attention to the names being called. Right after your name is called, you need to go meet your partner. Do not make him or her wait or look all over for you. Introduce yourself and get all of the pertinent information from your partner. You will need to know the make, model and color of the boat he or she will be in. This will allow you to locate the person at the ramp. If the boats have not already been launched it is also helpful to find out the type of tow vehicle the person is using. This is just another resource you can use for locating your partner at the ramp. This initial meeting is a great time to ask your partner the patterns and locations that you will be fishing during the tournament. This will allow you to tie on the appropriate lures in advance. Also, ask your partner how much room is available in the boat for your gear. You will have a better idea of how many rods and the amount of tackle to bring. If the tournament is the morning after the partner pairing, it is extremely important to get your partner's lodging information; which consists of where they are staying and a phone number they can be reached at in case of an emergency or if you simply can't find them in the morning. Another very vital piece of information that you should confirm multiple times is the meeting place and time. Most importantly, it is mandatory that you are ON TIME. I personally would recommend getting to the meeting place ten to twenty minutes early.
Once you arrive at the ramp in the morning help your partner as much as possible. If you can back a trailer, it is helpful to assist with putting the boat in the water. However if you can not back a trailer don't worry most Pro's are understanding and will not hold this against you. I am only aware of one angler that was informed by his co-angler that they couldn't back a trailer, and the pro's reply was "well now is a fine time to learn". The ramp at this particular tournament was extremely congested with traffic because of the lack of accessible boat ramps due to flooding and the fact that a wedding was being held at a gazebo on the lake shore. Needless to say, the co-angler struggled with getting the trailer in the water and in doing so; it caused traffic to back up even farther. Situations like that are just uncalled for, had the co-angler caused damage to the trailer or tow vehicle it is certain that the pro would have been very upset and the co-angler very embarrassed. Should this happen to you simply refuse to back the trailer. Instead, offer other solutions such as staying with the boat at the dock or something of that nature. Just remember there is NO rule that says the co-angler is required to back the trailer down the ramp.
After the boat is in the water and all the gear is loaded continue to use your manners. Treat your partner's boat with the utmost respect. Do not walk all over the seats or do anything else that might cause damage. Next, you need to find out information such as whether or not your partner wants you to net his or her fish. If they do want you to do this, get a clear explanation of what signal they will give you that will make sure you are prepared. Most of the time the Pro will simply yell "net" which is pretty basic and simply means "grab the net I have a keeper on". Once you establish all the necessary information feel free to loosen up a bit and just talk to your partner. Pro's are just people too. If you get the vibe from your partner that he or she doesn't want to talk a lot then simply don't talk much. Some angler's get themselves pumped up and go into a zone where they are in deep concentration. This is each person's prerogative and it should be respected.
During the actual time that you are fishing there are some rules, that if broken may cause some hostility to erupt from some Pro's. First of all, do not cast in front of your partner unless he or she specifically gives you permission to do so. An example of when this may be acceptable is if you are working Crankbaits parallel to a shoreline. You should have a lot of respect for your partner and allow them to completely fish the areas in which they are casting. Pro's not only pay a much higher entry fee than co-anglers but, in most cases they are the ones that actually locate the water you are fishing during the pre-fishing period. Secondly, if your partner misses a fish do not cast at that fish unless the Pro says it's ok. Most of the time if a Pro misses a fish, they will quickly grab a different bait and throw back in the same area. This is impossible to do if you already have your lure in their zone.
Getting snagged or hung up is something that is bound to happen to everyone. Should this happen simply tell your partner that you are hung up. Most of the time the Pro will turn the boat around and go in to retrieve your lure. If you get a bad case of the "snags" and
seem to get one every other cast either switch to a more weedless bait and if it is a low cost bait like a plastic worm just break it off. Time is money on the water and every minute is worth more than the twenty cents you will spend on a worm. Another issue that comes into play when dealing with the time factor, is when your partner wants to move to another location. Since it is mandatory that anytime the outboard motor is running, each angler must have their life vest zipped up and buckled up you need to be quick about doing so. Ask your partner to give you a few minutes warning prior to moving to a different spot. This will give you ample time to get your rods strapped down and get your life vest on. Pro's have a tendency to get a little frustrated if they have to wait for their co-angler to get situated every time they want to move. The following is an issue that is not very common but does occur from time to time. In the event that you and your partner are not catching fish, do not continuously tell your partner that he or she should try your secret spot that is full of nothing but five pounders. It is acceptable to mention a spot you know of one time but when you do, make sure that you do not exaggerate the size of fish you "always" catch there. If your partner chooses not to go fish your honey hole then that is their choice and you should not harp on them about it.
After the weigh in is completed and the boat is loaded on the trailer don't just grab your gear and take off. Stay around to make sure you have removed any trash that you may have left in the boat. If your partner is wiping down the outside of the boat ask if they have an extra towel so you can help them. Basically, just offer as much assistance as you can to help them get the boat clean and so forth.
Most importantly and pay close attention to this one because it is definitely something that will lead to a bad reputation if not followed. Offer your Pro some money to help pay for the gas used in the boat. Generally twenty dollars is acceptable, simply use your best judgment. Just remember that boats do not get the kind of gas mileage that cars get, so it is very likely that the Pro burned fifty dollars or more in gas during the tournament. This figure can more than triple if the tournament is a multi day event and you include gas money spent during the pre-fishing period. Often times the Pro's will not accept gas money and if they don't, that is their choice. The most important thing is that you at least offer. Lastly, do not go and share information about how and where you and your partner caught fish. Pro's work hard to find areas that aren't bombarded with lures all day and you should respect the fact that they put so much time into doing so. I was at a tournament awhile back at Kentucky Lake and the sharing of such information nearly led to a fist fight right on the water. This is just a losing situation for everyone involved.
Following these guidelines will definitely make you a more likable and proficient co-angler. Pro's might not always remember the good partners they draw but they definitely never forget the bad ones.
Read about Jeremiah T. Bagwell and other writers in our Outdoor Writers section.