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“Hey, you need to sit down and relax a bit.” Ron Fabiszak of South Bend, IN has heard these words on more than one occasion while fishing as a co-angler in FLW events. He explains, “A pro can’t tell the co-angler to quit fishing, but that’s what he meant.” Surprisingly this has happened more than once.
Renee Hensley of Edwardsburg, MI has also run into the same predicament. The 2007 Stren Series Northern Division Angler of the Year has won just shy of $60,000 in only 57. She explains, “Almost always, it’s a very positive experience with the pro, but occasionally you’ll be chastised a bit for doing well.”
Fabiszak, who has won an event in each of the past 3 years, stresses that there are no secrets to his success from the rear either: “Versatility. You must be flexible and versatile.”
Hensley agrees. She points out some obstacles are, “Impossible to overcome,” so, “You have no choice but to adapt.”
Fabiszak quickly points to his win on Falcon Lake where his pro was focusing on submerged structure. Fabiszak wouldn’t throw to the same target as the pro, but he soon realized he was close enough to throw into emerged structure the pro was avoiding. He threw his senko in, and ended up with 28-2 and first place after day 1. He went on to win the event.
the 2001 Stren Championship on Pickwick Lake, AL, by
experimenting with the crankbait she and her pro were using. She
recalls, “We were catching fish on crankbaits, but he was
catching bigger fish. I kept switching until I threw a Bandit
100 and began catching bigger fish.”
Boat positioning and spacing are other obvious obstacles while fishing from the back. Hensley suggests to, “Ask your pro to take the seat out. You already have the motor in the way. This will create more space to move and cast.”
Fabiszak adds, “They (the pros) have to put you around fish. If
they’re not around them, you’re not going to catch them.” Mental
toughness is a necessary virtue according to Fabiszak, “You
can’t let that frustrate you and stop fishing.”
Fabiszak points out that you may be forced to look harder, look for structure the pro has missed, and learn from what the pro is doing. He advises, “Look for the little things. Often it’s the little things that make the big things happen.”
Hensley and Fabiszak pay close attention to details such as line size, reel gear ratio, jig size, color, line size, retrieve, and casting angles. These 2 anglers are prolific at observing what is working or not working for the pro and making adjustments themselves based on what they observe.
out of respect, both refuse to use the same bait as the pro.
Hensley points out that, “Remember, you’re fishing used water,”
and acknowledges, “Most pros are good enough to pick off the
fish that will bite their bait.”
It is easy to conclude that their success as a co-angler is also derivative of their ability and confidence to toss a horde of baits in different situations: the very definition of versatility to the bass fisherman. Fabiszak and Hensley take what they learn from the pro’s they fish with and apply them back home. They also apply their knowledge and experiences from home during these events as co-anglers. Becoming a more diverse angler is a process that never ends for these two.
They both agree that to become better co-anglers there is no substitute for time on the water. Both anglers fish often in between FLW events and participate in local tournaments closer to home to keep skills sharp. They also make pre-fishing these events a common practice. However, pre-fishing is not with the intention of locating fish, but to help determine what kind of tackle to bring on tournament day.
Fabiszak explains, “This is where practice really helps to narrow down what to bring.” Hensley admits she brings a lot of tackle on the road and uses her practice to narrow down, but she goes a step beyond that, “When I find out which pro I’m fishing with, I will do some research on him to determine what kind of fishing he likes to do.” She adds, “I will bring tackle accordingly, but also tackle that is different and work in the same scenarios he might be taking me to.”
will also stuff his tackle bags with extra reels, “If I feel I
may need to adjust on the water, I’ll bring extra reels. This
way I’m not bringing too many rods (which takes up lots of
space), but still have the ability to change techniques.” Both
anglers encourage others to bring baits that they are confident
will work anywhere.
Both anglers are comfortable at running their own boats. Fabiszak was a professional in the Midwest Stren Series in 2004 where he logged 2 top 12 finishes. He also was a boater in the 1999 Michigan BFL series where he won the event on the Grand River.
Hensley’s first experience as a boater came last year on Lake Erie in the Michigan BFL. She managed to cash a check and helped her co-angler cash a check for the first time despite not being able to practice.
But both anglers feel they’re better at running their boats and making decisions because of what they’ve learned as co-anglers. Fabiszak confirms, “I have learned to be more versatile. It has encouraged me to change up techniques (while fishing); and to improve you must force yourself to change up.”
admits she first signed up as a co-angler, “Just to learn.” She
states as a matter of fact, “If you think you know everything,
you’re done as an angler.” She also applies this lesson to life:
“Everything changes in life, and fishing is no exception.”
Fabiszak faces the same struggles: “I’m self-employed. So I can’t guarantee when work will be good or bad. And since you have to register so far in advance; it’s a risk of going broke.” He also emphasizes that he thoroughly enjoys being a co-angler and recognizes that being a boater would add substantial stress. He isn’t willing to let that stress ruin the enjoyment he has fishing these events.
If you’ve considered participating in one of these events, both Hensley and Fabiszak emphatically encourage you to. Hensley quips “Be ready to learn!” Fabiszak reiterates, “Have an open mind and learn. The more people you fish with, the more you learn. Sometimes you can learn what not to do.” He concludes with a catchy double-negative, “You can’t not learn something from other people.”
Quit relaxing and stand up! From front to back, become a more versatile angler and you can experience the thrills of victory everywhere.
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