A professional bass fisherman must have complete faith in the equipment he uses on the water, or his performance will suffer. The same is true for the food he puts in the cooler box on his boat that will provide tournament-day nutrition. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated and that even something as simple as a protein shake downed on the fly can keep you going. But what do tournament bass fishermen eat on those crazy competition days when they don't want to set their rod down for a minute? Here's how nine of the best stay fueled on the water.
Yelas Says "Hold the Garlic!"
For Jay Yelas, a former Bassmaster Classic winner who's captured Angler of the Year (AOY) titles on both major circuits (B.A.S.S. and FLW), lunch on competition days always includes a turkey-and-cheese wrap. Sure, he likes that combination a lot. But perhaps just as importantly, he trusts it.
"Part of it is just what works for your body," Yelas said. "You don't want to have a bathroom emergency during the day."
He vividly recalls one very bad day that occurred many years ago, before he'd made the simple wrap his staple.
"Back when (wife) Jill was traveling with me, she'd bought a juicing machine that she'd use to grind up vegetables and make juice. Well, one day she juiced a whole clove of garlic.
"Three times during the day I had to get out of the boat and go up on the bank, and I went through a whole roll of toilet paper. Ever since then I've gone with the same routine to make sure that never happened again.
"The big thing is consistency," he concluded. "Whatever your body likes, just go with that."
Here's a look at the on-the-water eating habits of some other tournament pros.
Lee Faces Unique Challenge
Matt Lee is among the more nutrition-conscious anglers on the Elite Series because he has to be. Lee was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when he was younger and he wears an insulin pump to ensure his body is able to maintain proper glucose levels.
"It's like getting struck by lightning," he said. "They don't know how it happens. It could be genetic or a virus that prevents your body from producing insulin. The best way to describe it is if you eat a Snickers bar, the pancreas produces insulin to combat the sugar in the candy and everything mellows out.
"When I eat a Snickers, my pancreas doesn't produce insulin so I have to give it to myself."
So while he's concerned about water temperatures and bait selection during a given tournament day, Lee also needs to stay on top of what he's putting in his body. The device he wears checks his blood sugar every five minutes and gives him a set amount of insulin each hour.
"The hardest part is managing it," Lee said. "When you're on the water, the last thing you want to do is check your sugar. The pump I have has a Bluetooth sensor on it so that's how I maintain everything."
During a tournament week, he'll stock up on groceries when he arrives in the host town. That way he won't be tempted by quick-fix items that are unhealthy. He prepares sandwiches (turkey on low-carb bread) nightly and keeps a stash of certain items in his boat to get him through a day. If he snacks on something, he makes sure it has a low glycemic index. If he senses his sugar levels have lagged, he'll take a few swigs of Gatorade or a soft drink.
"When you're fishing as much as we are, you become way more health-conscious," he said. "If you get into a bad pattern, that's 150 days a year. You won't last long out here."
Proper nutrition, diabetic or not, is a key component to making good decisions on the water, Lee says.
"A lot of times in practice, you find yourself just fishing and you'll spend two hours without a making a decision," he said. "You're just going through the motions. If you're mind's not right, you're not making good decisions."
Chapman Shakes It Up
Brent Chapman, 2012 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year and 4-time winner in B.A.S.S. tournaments, likes to start his mornings off with two egg burritos (homemade by his wife) or oatmeal with pecans.
He has a Sportsman protein shake (sometimes 2) on the water. Other favorite foods be carries include two PB&J sandwiches, apples, mandarin oranges, almonds, and a Clif or protein bar.
To stay hydrated he drinks at least 3 to 4 bottles of water.
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What Martens Munches On
There are few Elite Series anglers more vocal about his fitness and nutrition than three-time Angler of the Year Aaron Martens. He frequently will run several miles each day during a tournament week and has competed in two half marathons and one full marathon in addition to many 5K and 10K races.
"Running a lot teaches you a lot about good nutrition," he said.
As meticulous as he is about his tackle preparation, Martens is equally picky about what he eats during a tournament week.
During practice, he prepares two protein-rich shakes or smoothies each night and freezes them, keeping them in his boat's cooler to drink throughout the day. The components typically are orange or apple juice, egg whites, organic soymilk, Greek yogurt and various fruits and nuts. He also makes two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to have in the boat.
He keeps cans of sardines or salmon handy and drinks a lot of water. His breakfast routine consists of a homemade breakfast burrito consisting of three scrambled eggs, turkey sausage his wife makes from scratch, peppers (habaneros) and cheese.
"I'm never hungry or lack energy," he said. "It's better for me in the long run. I don't get fatigued."
Spartan Diet for Gagliardi
Former Forrest Wood Cup and FLW Tour AOY Anthony Gagliardi is the first to admit he's not the healthiest eater during a tournament week.
"I'm always catching grief from my wife and mom," he said. "I have a hard time stopping when I'm out there. I hardly get hungry or thirsty."
He knows the importance of staying hydrated during long days on the water, often during warm, sunny periods, but in the midst of a tournament scenario, time spent eating or drinking is time being taken away from fishing, he says. He'll typically eat a protein bar during the day and that's about it.
If his father is traveling with him, his dad will bring items along to make sandwiches in the boat during practice.
"A lot of guys won't sit down and eat something that takes more than 20 or 30 seconds," he said. "That's one or two casts. I hate retying because the thought of stopping fishing kills me. To sit and make a sandwich, I'd hate that.
"Don't get me wrong — I love to eat, but out here I eat just enough to get me by."
He admits he needs to be more diligent with water consumption as well. Sometimes, he'll wait until he develops a headache before stopping to take a drink.
Williams Has Help
Elite Series angler David Williams is well taken care of on the road during the season. His wife travels with him to each event and prepares meals for him to take on the water during practice and tournament days.
"I'm very fortunate that my wife travels with me and every day I'm fishing, she makes me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a turkey and provolone," Williams said. "That's my breakfast and lunch."
As far as fluids, he keeps it simple with Gatorade Propel and water.
"It's really easy to get dehydrated out there, especially during the summer," he added.
Daniels Follows Simple Plan
Mark Daniels Jr. has a food routine when he gets settled in at an Elite Series tournament. He prepares several chicken breasts prior to practice and eats one when he launches the boat for practice or at blast-off on tournament days.
"That holds me until lunch," he said.
Other staples in his boat include granola bars, tangerines and almonds. He's also very conscious of his water intake.
"That's the one thing you can't slack on," he said. "You'll feel it quick."
American Classic Works for Roumbanis
Fred Roumbanis is a self-proclaimed cheapskate when it comes to eating during a tournament, but he relies on an American classic to get him through practice and competition days.
"I love my PB and J sandwiches," he said. "I'll go buy a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and jelly and I'll eat two a day in practice and one during a tournament. I started doing that around the middle of last season after I realized it was so much cheaper.
"I used to make wraps, but that was too much work. Now, I just make sandwiches on the water. For some reason, I lose weight during a tournament, but I gain it back when I get home."
As far as hydration, Roumbanis typically consumes two bottles of Gatorade and two bottles of water along with a Red Bull energy drink during a given day on the water.
Card Hits it Hard
Elite Series pro Brandon Card stands 6-foot-3, but weighs only 175 pounds. You'd never know it by looking at his rail-thin frame, but he swears he's one of the biggest tournament-day eaters on the circuit.
"I always take two sandwiches, usually one turkey and maybe one ham, with a couple of slices of cheddar cheese on each," he said. "I always use wheat bread.
"For awhile I was on this kick of buying a rotisserie chicken and cutting it up to make sandwiches, but that got to be too much work. Now I just go with the packaged deli meats."
Doubling up on the sandwiches allows him to take two lunch breaks during a tournament day, but they aren't really breaks as he confines his eating to the periods when he's moving from one fishing locale to another. He also mixes in some fruit and a few nutrition bars.
"I'll eat one of the sandwiches relatively early, like maybe around 10 o'clock, and the other one around 1. It all has to be stuff I can eat while I'm driving the boat."
Easy Does It for Monsoor
FLW Tour veteran Tom Monsoor always drinks a glass of milk before a tournament day to coat his stomach, and then eats lightly while on the water.
"I don't take much," he said. "Maybe some beef jerky and some cheese and an apple or an orange.
"I just don't want to take the time. I want something quick and easy, and cheese is easy."