Southern anglers are enduring a real winter to start 2022, with cold temperatures, blustery fronts and even some snow flurries. But it won’t be long before the thermometer climbs, the weed lines form offshore and the Gulf tournament season is back in full force.

In the meantime, there are plenty of things to do in preparation. The 20th anniversary of the ECBC kicks off June 22 at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and it promises to top the 2021 edition. As a reminder, last year’s fleet numbered 88 boats with nearly $2 million in prize money up for grabs. High Cotton was top boat with a 681-pound blue, and the stakes will be even higher this year. That’s why advance preparations now are so important.

R&R (Registration & Reservations)
Registering for the tournament early has many advantages. It’s one less thing to do on the overall checklist during tournament week and that leaves more time for socializing and relaxation at the kick-off party and docks. Registering well in advance also increases the odds of winning the Early Bird Drawing with $1,000 cash and free dockage at the Baytowne Marina during tournament week to the winner. Optional entry categories can be added up until the start of fishing on Thursday at noon, so teams are able react to real-time conditions with the latest information.

Early registration goes hand-in-hand with early reservations for accommodations, boat slips, golf carts and other associated tournament needs. Sandestin has options from houses to luxury condos and hotel rooms, but they fill up fast. Early reservations offer the most options and best rates. Use Group Code FISH22 and make your reservation online at https://www.sandestin.com/accommodations or call 800-320-8115. The slips at host Baytowne Marina always sell out, so to ensure a spot get your paid entry in as soon as possible. The marina staff also handles golf cart rentals during tournament week and the number available is limited so call Dick Flanery (850-267-7773) to get on the golf cart list.

Team Work
Now is the time to put your winning team together. Will the same group as previous years be back intact? How about the captain and crew? If there are new members, this is the perfect time to iron out financial aspects, such as splits on the entry/optional commitments, fuel, provisions, charter costs if applicable, and how prize money will be distributed. Establishing the team early allows ample time for vacation requests, travel arrangements and family scheduling, too.

Shopping List
The current supply chain issues could impact outfitting the boat. Put together a list of essentials, such as filters and other engine/mechanical parts for spares. Do the same for tackle and fishing gear. Stockpile what you’ll need early to avoid a last-minute scramble for out of stock or backordered stuff like spools of leader, hooks or crimps. If reels need servicing or rods repaired, the winter months are the best time to get those chores done as well.

Taking care of these preparations ahead of time ensures not only a more enjoyable tournament experience, but a more successful one as well.