Every angler dreams of participating in a fishing tournament, and it’s not as difficult to participate as one may think. Sometimes, the only requirement is to pay the entry fee and fish from the back seat of someone else’s boat.
Winning is different. That involves lots of skill, knowledge, practice and of course, just plain luck. If you’re interested in fishing a bass, crappie, striper or catfish tournament, the following tips could help put you on the leader board.
▪ Join a fishing club. Not only will you learn a lot about tournament fishing, but most clubs have scheduled events that allow you to hone your skills.
▪ Begin tournament fishing on a familiar body of water and partner with someone who has competition experience.
▪ Study and understand the tournament rules.
▪ If the tournament is out of town, reserve lodging with access to electrical connections to charge boat batteries. Also, consider a place in close proximity to the official tournament launch site.
▪ Assure that the boat, motor, trailer, electronics, rods, reels and tackle are in tip-top condition.
▪ If live or cut baits are permitted, catch or purchase before the tournament begins. Don’t wait until the last minute. Sometimes getting bait is harder than catching fish.
▪ Tournament day can be very tiring, so get plenty of rest the night before and eat a big breakfast.
▪ Arrive at the boat ramp early enough to allow ample time for launching.
▪ Have as many rods onboard as tournament rules allow, and have them rigged and ready to fish. Remember, it’s faster to switch from rod to rod than it is to tie and re-tie lures over and over again throughout the day.
▪ Use maps, charts, practice rounds and information from tackle shop owners, guides, media and local anglers to learn about the water you will be fishing.
▪ Pre-fish to find patterns that will produce a winning stringer on tournament day.
▪ Develop a primary and secondary tournament day game plan. Example: Fish shallow banks early, deep points at mid-day and boat docks the last two hours.
▪ Adjust to conditions, but remember that the fish you found during the practice rounds might still be in the same general area.
▪ Keep a cool demeanor, particularly if the bite is slow. Don’t fish faster than normal just because you’re fishing in a tournament.
▪ For conservation reasons, the majority of bass, catfish and striper tournaments require that the fish be brought to the weigh-in alive. Knowing this, proper fish handling techniques and the right live well equipment is necessary.
▪ Be on time for the weigh-in. Tardiness can result in disqualification or a loss of points.
▪ Fishermen tend to tell more about how and where they caught fish at the end of the tournament. Hang around and listen to what they are saying. You might hear some tidbits that will help you place higher the next time.
▪ Win, lose or draw! Enjoy the tournament experience and learn from it!
Tips from Capt. Gus:
Just because the water temperature is cooling down, don’t overlook fishing for catfish. Channel, blues and flatheads will bite throughout the fall and winter months. The key is to use small baits and fish slowly.
Captain Gustafson is licensed by the US Coast Guard, a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and a Professional Fishing Guide. You can reach Capt. Gus through his web site: www.FishingWithGus.comGus@lakenorman.com or by calling 704-617-6812.