I love to fish bass tournaments. The camaraderie and competition make it an experience like no other, but, if I had jumped into my first tournament blind, I’m sure it would have been an overwhelming experience.
Fishing competitively is an entirely different animal than fishing for fun in your spare time. It requires putting your money on the line so you can test your skills against a large number of other highly skilled anglers. Tournament fishing also introduces a long list of new variables to the equation. Now you must fish with time constraints, follow very specific rules, and endure the mental pressures that accompany tournament fishing. In larger tournaments, you also have to deal with spectator and media boats following you all over the place. The stress added simply by having a lot of people watching you fish, is enough to cause most people to crack.
Starting in local club tournaments, you will not have to deal with some of the additional baggage. These tournaments are typically small and have a fun laid back atmosphere. However, don’t think these anglers are just going to stand by and watch you take their money. Club anglers are as competitive as anyone else is in the tournament world. They may not be competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they are competing for bragging rights which to some is equally as valuable.
Draw Tournaments and Open tournaments “typically” offer a higher level of competition for anglers. Several of these competitors have dreams of making it to a higher level. The entry fees are almost always higher and the number of competitors per tournament is greater. They give anglers the opportunity to fish with and against other fishing fanatics of varying skill levels. These tournaments are a great stepping stone for making it to the big leagues. The amount of time you spend fishing with new partners can greatly improve your fishing skills, if you use this time properly. Whether your partner is the non-boater or the person controlling the boat, pay attention to what they are doing. Watch how they cast and how they use certain lures. You can learn enormous amounts of information simply by watching others. If you have a question about why your partner did something a certain way, ask them. Most anglers are easy going great people that will try to help you grow as a fisherman.
In order to stay competitive during tournaments, you will need to continually learn and increase your skill level. The best advice I could give to any angler would be to keep an open mind and don’t ever think that you know everything there is to know about bass fishing. As soon as you start thinking that way, your results will begin to diminish. Your goal should be to try to learn something from every angler that you ever fish with. By this, I don’t necessarily mean learn a new technique every time, but if you see your partner do something you typically don’t do or have never seen before, ask them why they do it and determine how it can help you become a better angler. The best anglers on any circuit are the ones that continue to get better year after year. They do so by constantly learning as much information as they can absorb into their brains.
Time on the water is another aspect of tournament fishing that you must have. The more you can fish, the better you are going to be, period. It doesn’t matter if you only have a few hours before or after work, you need to be on the water. There is absolutely no replacement for on the water experience. You can read as many books and articles as you want, but actually going out on doing the things you have read about is ultimately going to make you a better angler.
If your dream is to fish competitively, follow that dream and don’t ever let anyone hold you back. Build your confidence level and feel comfortable about each decision you make on the water. The only way to get better at anything is to actually do it. Tournament fishing can be a great way to make new friends, increase your skill level, and make a lot of money.