Tired of sitting around watching fishing shows this winter? Of course you are. Why not use this time to practice in preparation for the spring, then? One way you can keep your skills honed this winter is by setting aside some time each day, if possible, to practice flipping and pitching. Bass anglers utilize this popular and effective technique religiously, but many find themselves shaking off the rust when they hit the water in the spring. Athletes train and practice during their off-seasons, so why shouldn’t anglers? Here are a few tips to help you maintain your flipping and pitching skills this winter.

Establishing a practice schedule, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes each day, is a great start. It’s important to devote your time and effort fully to each session, though. Minimize potential distractions and focus on what you’re doing as you would if a tournament depended on each flip or pitch.

I suggest using the rods and reels that you use most often, which includes your spinning tackle, not just your baitcast setups. You need to know how to flip and pitch with both to become versatile. One mistake anglers make is using the same rod, reel, line, and weight. Use all of your equipment. This will prepare you for any situation you may face. I suggest buying some practice plugs, which come in a variety of weights and usually come in a combo pack of different sizes. When using these, tie a snap swivel on each rod so you can then switch weights easily while practicing. If possible, try to use different line sizes, as well, just to get more familiar with how each weight feels and operates with the different line weights.

The next step is to create a course of targets to which to flip. I typically use small plastic containers spread out across the yard in different spots. Now, with these, I have two stages of practice. The first stage is simple accuracy. Changing weights and combos periodically, simply work on flipping the plug into each container consistently. Get a feel for it and over time, you’ll see an improvement in your aim. The second stage focuses on touch. Fill each container around halfway with water and then work on flipping the plug into it without splashing, which is the aim of flipping and pitching.

Practice sessions will not only improve the physical side of your fishing game—muscle memory, endurance, etc—but will also have positive effects on your mentality. Visualize how each flip should look and eventually, you’ll see an increase in accuracy and consistency. I normally don’t look to clichés for advice, but in this case, practice truly does make perfect. If you don’t want to risk being a little rusty your first few trips to the lake this spring, I suggest taking some time to practice this winter.