Inside the Boat: A Co-Angler's Journey in the MLF Tour with Jason Kelly

Inside the Boat: A Co-Angler's Journey in the MLF Tour with Jason Kelly

As a child, some dream of becoming a professional athlete or simply experiencing the atmosphere of a professional event. Well, in the bass fishing industry, that possibility can become a reality by being a co-angler. We had the chance to sit down with Jason Kelly and discuss his experience as a co-angler in the MLF Tour.

So, what is a co-angler? In bass fishing tournaments, a co-angler is a participant who fishes from the back of the boat alongside the boater. They bring their own equipment and aim to catch their limit of bass independently of the boater. The co-angler's success relies on their individual skill and adaptability to varying fishing conditions and the preferences of their boater partner.

Before we launch, prior to the event, you are given the contact information of the angler you're actually fishing with. This provides you with the opportunity to understand the captain's rules so that you can have a good day on the water without any conflict or bad etiquette. After establishing the rules, the next key thing is understanding the captain's fishing styles. For example, if the captain says he fishes deep most of the time, you should prepare tackle for deep water situations. Jason was very adamant about respecting the captain, and he mentioned that a co-angler can net the captain's fish if assistance is needed, so you should ask the captain how he prefers his fish to be netted.

As we continued our conversation, he noted that he didn't catch any fish that day but had a few bites, and the captain caught three fish with an average weight of five pounds. Jason did mention that the weather wasn't too good; it was relatively colder than usual. (Feb 21, 2024)

Update (Mar 12,2024)

Jason eagerly returned to the lake for his second shot at redemption in the tournament circuit. Let's face it, many anglers fish tournaments tirelessly without ever cashing a check. However, Jason's determination was palpable as we discussed his upcoming event. I was fortunate enough to also chat with the boat's captain, Dalton Hanger, who exuded expertise in bass fishing and showcased a keen mastery of his boat's electronics. Dalton shared his tactic of meticulously probing a dock with multiple casts before moving on, able to discern the presence of bass beneath the surface even before a single cast. While this strategy might seem daunting for a co-angler, Jason Kelly proved himself more than capable.

As the clock neared 11:00 am, Jason hadn't landed a single catch. Despite the challenging circumstances, he maintained his composure and soon reeled in his first fish. It's worth noting that the tournament ended at 3:30 pm, yet Jason, without control of the boat, managed to secure four catches before the final half-hour. Recognizing Jason's need for just one more fish to solidify his position, the captain declared the last half-hour a neutral fishing area, giving Jason the opportunity to clinch his final catch. With only 10 minutes remaining, Jason managed to hook a hefty 2-pound bass, propelling him to 19th place in his second event.

MLF Tour

MLF tour

Jason's journey as a co-angler continues until he completes his own boat, a goal he aims to achieve by the end of the summer.


Here are five tips for being a co-angler in a bass fishing tournament.

1. Communication is Key:
   Maintain open communication with your boater partner before and during the tournament. Discuss the captain's rules, preferences, and strategies. Understanding each other's expectations ensures a smooth and enjoyable experience on the water.

2. Pack Appropriately:
   Be well-prepared by packing a variety of tackle and equipment to cover different fishing scenarios. Since you're not in control of the boat's movement, having a versatile selection of lures and gear allows you to adapt to changing conditions and maximize your chances of catching bass.

3. Respect the Captain's Space:
   As a co-angler, be mindful of the limited space on the boat. Avoid clutter and respect your partner's fishing area. It's essential to maintain a balance between being engaged in the tournament and giving the captain the space needed to operate the boat efficiently.

4. Be Adaptable:
   Bass fishing conditions can change rapidly, so be adaptable to different techniques and environments. If the captain prefers deep-water fishing, make sure you have the appropriate tackle. Being versatile in your approach increases your effectiveness as a co-angler and enhances your overall tournament experience.

5. Stay Positive and Learn:
   Not every day on the water will result in a big catch, but maintaining a positive attitude is crucial. Use each tournament as a learning experience. Observe the captain's techniques, study the water, and learn from both successes and challenges. Building knowledge and skills over time will contribute to your growth as a co-angler.

Remember, being a co-angler is not just about catching fish; it's about collaboration, learning, and enjoying the unique experience of bass fishing tournaments from a different perspective.

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