Do you have a passion for bass fishing and want to start doing it competitively? There are many different avenues of doing this. It is important to remember first, however, to make sure you are ready for the competitive aspect. If you haven’t been successful in catching big fish when you go fishing for fun, then you might need to practice more. Ways of doing this are simply to spend more time on the water to get an idea of what the fish are biting and where they are positioned, and to practice your fishing mechanics and boat navigation. Fishing with many different anglers is a great way to learn a lot, and one way of doing this is through fishing as a co-angler in tournaments like the Major League Fishing BFLs or Toyota Series, Bassmaster Opens, and many other tournament organizations! Every professional angler will tell you that more time spent on the water is the best way to improve your fishing skills. So, if you are practiced up and want to fish tournaments, here are some tips on how to get started!

  1. Start small, then grow.

Fishing tournaments can be intimidating when there are 200-300 boats on the water, literally. Bassmaster and Major League Fishing high school, college, and semi-professional tournaments often have at least 200 boats competing. Before jumping in a big tournament, it is good to start fishing with a local club that has 10-20 boats fishing against each other. Many of these local clubs fish a lot of the same lakes that are nearby, so there is a lot less traveling required. While fishing on several different lakes across the country can be a great learning experience further down the road, it could be wise to start out fishing more local tournaments to get your feet wet. With social media at our fingertips, it is fairly easy to find local tournament opportunities through joining a Facebook group for example. After getting comfortable fishing smaller tournaments, you can then start competing in bigger tournaments that are offered through tournament organizations such as Bassmaster, Major League Fishing, American Bass Anglers, and The Bass Federation as examples! To learn more about paths to becoming a professional angler, click here to read a blog we wrote about it!

  1. Stick with what you are confident in!

When competing in fishing tournaments, it can be easy to listen to what is referred to as “dock talk”. Dock talk is a term used that simply refers to all the chatter amongst anglers about things like what the fish are biting or where they are positioned. Listening to dock talk can often make an angler overthink his or her game plan. However, dock talk can be beneficial if you don’t rely solely on it and still stick to your guns. The bottom line is to fish the way that you are confident in fishing come tournament time! Tournament day is not an ideal time to try and gain confidence in new techniques, but it is a time to fish your strengths. Learning and trying new techniques are what practicing is for. Even the pros don’t fish certain techniques on tournament day unless it’s something they’re confident in doing. When it comes to utilizing forward-facing sonar, Buddy Gross said in a recent Bassmaster article, “I don’t have that confidence to do that. Until I get it, I won’t be able to do it. I’ll always think I have to be on the bank or a ledge”. This is a prime example of a professional that feels like he needs to do the things he’s confident in to be successful.

  1. Don’t overthink your approach to fishing!

Tournament fishing can often be stressful or overwhelming if you let the pressure get to you but remember that even the pros have bad days of fishing or even multiple bad tournaments in a row! Even the greatest angler of all time, Kevin Van Dam, will tell you that you must learn to lose if you want to be a tournament bass fisherman. The best thing to do after a bad day of fishing is to keep fishing until you figure out what the fish are doing! Lure selection is perhaps one of the biggest things that anglers often overthink. When they’re not catching fish, they often blame it on the lure. While it can be good to try different lures until you find the one the fish wants, if it ever comes to a point where you’re spending too much time tying on lures than fishing that’s when it gets excessive. Another thing that many anglers often overthink is the area they are fishing in. They often blow through an area fishing their lure too fast with the trolling motor on high. The best thing to do when fishing in an area is to either pick it apart or leave it if you don’t have confidence there. Tournament bass fishing can often cause doubts, especially when you know that other people are catching them when you’re not. However, the best thing to do is just trust your gut, keep fishing, and don’t worry about anyone else!

To conclude, we would like to include a few things that anglers should bring to tournaments that can often be overlooked, other than rods and tackle of course!

Things to bring to tournaments:

  • Lifejacket—make sure to always wear it when the outboard motor is running!
  • Plenty of water—drink plenty, especially when it’s hot and sunny!
  • Bags of ice in hot weather—for ice and livewells!
  • Plenty of food (especially protein)—lack of food can cause an angler to lose focus.
  • Fish care formula for livewells—this produces oxygen in the livewells and can often save an angler’s tournament.
  • Fin clips and fizzing needles for fish caught deep—fizzing the fish releases the gas from their swim bladder as it expands when the fish is brought to the surface. Fin clips keep the fish upright in the livewell.
  • Rainsuit—not just a light rain jacket, but an actual heavy duty rain suit.
  • Fishing license—make sure it’s renewed!
  • Navigation mapping—most depth finders have this capability, but the mapping chip is often sold separately (CMap, LakeMaster, or Navionics are a few examples).
  • Culling beam or scale—this makes it easy to see which fish is the smallest when you are culling!
  • Sunscreen and/or protective clothing—especially in the summer!
  • Polarized sunglasses—especially when the fish are spawning!