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Staying fit for better fishing

Danno Wise

Bass fishing has changed considerably over the years. So have bass fishermen. A lot has been written about the mental and technical challenges faced by today’s bass fishermen. However, perhaps the most overlooked aspect of modern angling is the physical stamina it requires – particularly for those in the competitive arena. And, though today’s pros know they need not look like Adonis, they certainly understand the importance of being physically fit.

“I think it’s incredibly important,” BASS Elite pro Tim Horton said when asked of the role fitness plays in tournament angling. “If you’re not in shape, your performance will definitely suffer. It affects everything. When your body gets tired, your mind gets tired. If you want to remain sharp all day long, day after day, you’ve got to be in shape.

“The challenge for us (touring pros) is keeping up with exercising when we’re on the road. It’s a lot easier to keep up with when we’re at home during the off-season. So, it’s important to get in really good shape in the off-season, and then do what you can to keep up with it when you’re on the road.

Reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones agrees wholeheartedly.

“Being in shape fits hand in hand with successful tournament fishing,” Jones said. “If you’re not in shape, about halfway through the day you fatigue and lose focus. Being in good physical condition allows you to stay mentally focused.

“In my opinion, competitive fishermen are athletes. Sure, we’re not athletes like those in the NFL or NBA where you need intense, peak physical performance over 2 or 3 hours. But, we are in situations where we have to maintain a level of physical and mental concentration for 8 to 12 hours. It’s more about endurance. But, it requires a level of physical fitness nonetheless.”

Since there is no definitive workout regime geared specifically towards bass fishing, the pros say it’s important to find something that will get you and shape and is comfortable enough for you to stick with.

“I use P90X, which is an exercise program anyone can order online,” Horton said. “This is the program I use in the off-season. Like I said, it can be a little hard to keep up with on the road. But, during the year, I still try to do whatever I can to stay in shape.”

“I like to do several different things – just to keep it interesting,” Jones said. “But, everything I do is set around developing endurance. I like to walk or jog or ride my bike for cardio. Again, it doesn’t need to be fast, just consistent to help build up endurance.”

Although overall fitness is the most critical, there are things anglers can implement in their exercise program in order to address angling-specific needs.

“To me the back is very important,” Jones explained. “Not only for standing eight, 10, 12 hours a day, but also on the hookset and landing fish. Everything I do, I try to keep that in mind and do things that will help strengthen my core.

“I also have a couple of things I do to specifically help my casting endurance. Acually, I have a cut down rod that I place resistance bands on. I can then hook the bands to a chair or the door or something to hold it in place. Then, I go through all my casting motions. I’m not going full speed when I do this, but I’m using the exact same motion I would during my cast. And, I work on every type of cast I’d make during a day of fishing.”

And, though Vienna sausages are a time-honored food for fishermen, the pros say something a bit more substantial is necessary to perform at a high level.

“You’ve got to eat the right things if you want to keep your energy levels and concentration up throughout the day,” Horton said.

“For me, the nutrition was the hardest part, but also the most important,” Jones added. “In fact, I started working with a nutritionalist, Ken Hoover, who’s really helped me learn to eat right. Sometimes it’s hard when you’re in the middle of fishing, but you have got to make sure and fuel your body while you’re fishing. I’ll take grapes, peanuts, Zone power bars – things that are healthy and easy to eat while I’m on the boat.”

Like anything else, it is also necessary to get out and replicate the tournament fishing experience as often as possible.

“It’s important to eat right and exercise, but you also need to mix in some of those long fishing days during the off-season,” Jones said. “You’ve got to be accustomed to fishing a full day. But, then again, I can think of worse ways to spend a day off.”


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