On many of occasions I have been asked what is the best way to dive into tournament fishing? I, like many beginning anglers explored bass fishing due to a friend and mentor that sparked interest. The longer I have fished I have witnessed how complex the sport can be. For starters especially, the simpler you can keep the experience, the greater output intellectually you will achieve.
First and foremost, one must make sure that your intentions are not to make money, or you will soon be finding a new hobby. I heard a statistic from the most recent FLW Outdoors tv show which stated that “Out of the 1,485 anglers that have competed on the highest FLW level, only 297 fishermen have qualified to fish in the Forrest Wood Cup,” the biggest stage in the FLW side of bass fishing. That is only 20% of the field that make it. Many, many men have fished their whole lives just to qualify to fish at the pro level and blow their whole life savings on an unsuccessful season. Talk about destruction of dreams, or to look at the bright side a harsh, yet real learning experience. Even the top professionals, sponsorships and all, often find paying the bills a hefty task at times.
You do not need to fish an entire season to compete. Now that FLW and B.A.S.S. have began supporting the High School and Collegiate levels of fishing, new opportunities have arisen to get the younger generation involved. Speaking from personal experience, the FLW College Series hosts four qualifying events per region consisting of 40 teams in each event. This allows a school to send a two-man team to each of the events. A two-man team now has the opportunity to witness what the higher levels of anglers do to prepare for each event, whether it be viewing maps, reading fishing reports, or getting out on the water prior to the off-limits period. Just like in college academia, at least in theory, the individual should be better prepared for one or two classes verses having to plan for a full eighteen credit semester. Place in the Top 5 of one of the qualifying events and make a regional birth. Place high in the regional and qualify for the National Championship (Top 25 Teams in the Country). Talk about an upside to fishing in college! Exposure to your college, the possibility of bringing money back to your school and club, and even the proposition of television coverage are all advantages that await you on the High School and College levels of competition.
As for the BFL level I am currently competing in as a back boater, you can also fish one, two or all five events according to your schedule. A guaranteed boater is all you need to guarantee your opportunity to compete. Not only do you learn new fishing techniques and perspectives, you will learn time management and preparation. If you fish inefficiently, you can often come to a realization of why and shift what could have been a tough day into a learning experience to build on.
Minimalism is a virtue. As any angler will tell you regardless of the level of competition, the less tackle you have the less hectic your fishing experience will be, especially beginning your endeavors. Any one that has fished as a co-angler or even at the college level that downsizing is tough, especially with limited to no access to the body you are fishing. I have experienced this firsthand, often questioning what color best suits the situation. You will find that the less you take, the easier it is to assess the situation and make a decision on what to throw. In the same regard, the fewer rods and tackle you carry the less space you will take up which is key to fishing with a boater investing more than two-fold your commitment monetarily and. This will only grow as you climb the latter in tournament fishing, so get used to it now! Cleanliness goes a long way as well, so do not treat your boaters deck like some of your bedrooms. Tripping over your equipment on the way to new your boaters fish can never end well, but we’ll save that for another time…
Realize that you are not competing against your boater. I have often found myself concerned about the number of bites I have gotten when a boater has filled a limit, just to come in and realize on the Co-Angler side I was in contention for a check. The Co-Angler may be a game of a couple bites at times, but those couple of bites go a long way in a tournament with lots of Co-Angler competitors zeroing. With a random drawing to link a Boater to his Co-Angler for the day, even the best back boat fishermen will zero at times. That’s the gamble of this style of competition. A single ounce or tie-breaker may separate 40th and 41st place, a difference between a regional birth and a computer televised weigh-in as experienced last year.
Saving the best for last, the most important aspect of competition in anything you may desire is to maintain a good reputation. I have never taken part in a sport with more humility and comradery as is the case in bass fishing. The lack of consideration of human understanding will surely bite you in this sport. You will quickly demonstrate the investments each of us pay into the sport, and part of the understanding is in knowing that each of us have made sacrifices to pursue whatever our dream may be in the sport. As a Co-Angler, the simple act of writing a check, transferring cash, or presenting a gift card to your boater after a day of fishing will not only maintain your positive reputation but also contribute to the continuation of another angler’s endeavors. The list of expenses goes on and on, so the simple thought goes a long ways! What is more important than maintaining the greatest number of devoted anglers to the conservation of our sport? The fewer individuals we turn off to the sport, the greater preservation of what we all love. With each license sold, we each help to keep the sport alive.
In conclusion, refrain from spending your whole life savings account getting into the sport. It is better to understand the bait you are using before you build a whole tackle box. As with anything in life, you can surely dip your feet in before fully submersing yourself into the sport. Especially for youth wanting to get involved, overwhelming an individual is an easy way to lose an interested prospect. Surround yourself with anglers that are higher in experience level than yourself so that you can push your personal understandings. There is no right way to fish for bass, so use each mentor to your advantage and mold the most versatile repertoire you can deploy on the water. There is a world full of knowledge to be learned, and it’s available to each of us who desire to step outside the confines of home. By Emmet Luck