Ever since college, I’ve been into working out in the gym. For some reason, I just loved it. And when I was a kid, I loved fishing — still do. If you are into working out, you get into the nutrition side to maximize your time in the gym and get the results you want. If you are into fishing, you know it’s physically taxing. So why don’t you eat when you fish like it’s a workout?
Early in my career, I tried to incorporate my knowledge of food in order to maximize my fishing. I always ate more than anyone I roomed with while in the boat. Of course, I tried to eat healthy. During the grueling tournament season, I would lose between five and 15 pounds. That was not my objective. I felt like I wasn’t maximizing my performance since I was losing so much weight. It didn’t make sense to me until I met a man named Ken Hoover.
Ken has spent his life as a personal trainer, gym manager, nutritionist and performance-focused consultant. Ken loved to fish, and he always said he’d never met an angler that eats properly to perform optimally when fishing.
We met about 15 years ago and immediately struck up a friendship. We spoke the same workout and nutritional language. Words like recovery, hydration, performance and metabolic rate were not common to pro bass anglers. They were to us, however.
I hired Ken for many years. He educated me on what I need to eat and drink before and during my practice and tournament days. I quickly learned it was all about the math.
Using heart rate monitors, he calculated the average bass pro burns 3,600 calories during an eight or nine hour tournament day. I thought I was eating enough, but I was barely eating half of the calories I needed during each tournament day. At the time I was eating about 1,200 calories. Now I eat closer to 2,500 on tournament days.
I only burned about 2,600 calories a day during tournament hours because of my smaller size and better conditioning. Note, however, that during one especially grueling day I burned 4,300 calories.
Ken explained that you want a big portion of your calories coming from whole foods. You can’t eat a picnic lunch when you’re fishing a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament so I go with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I eat two of these each practice and tournament day. I supplement more calories with protein bars and fruit during practice. I eat two bars during each practice day and four or five during tournament days. Ken calls that fuel for the body.
My favorite bars are 1st Phorm Level-1 bars, but there are some other decent options on the market.
And, don’t forget about water when you’re on the water.
Hydration is something I didn’t have a clue about when I first started. It takes time to get your body to full hydration. You need to load electrolytes about 24 hours before activity. That means drinking enough water and a good electrolyte drink throughout the day and evening before the activity day.
For anglers during a tournament week, that means staying hydrated many days in a row. Getting fully hydrated before you start practice is the way to make it through even the hottest weeks. And don’t forget that alcohol and caffeine are diuretics. They reduce body hydration by increasing urine. Be careful with them.
The human body is amazing. You can often power through a day on the water without proper fuel or hydration. You think you’re fine, but you’re not. If you’re off just a little with your hydration, you’ll have less cognitive skills. That’s a big deal when you’re trying to cast into a tight spot late in the day.
Food is similar. If you don’t eat enough on the water, your body won’t be operating at its best. You’ll be more tired after you come off the water and often overeat. It’s a bad cycle. It also slows your recovery.
I’m not saying you have to eat and hydrate perfectly, but being aware of them will improve what you’re doing. Good fuel and hydration will make your fishing more enjoyable and more successful.