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How to Become a Bass Tournament Angler

By Ken Warren

Have you ever thought about becoming a bass tournament fisherman? Ok, well if you fish for bass that is probably a dumb question. With all of the fishing shows we grew-up watching, and with the increasing TV coverage of pro tournaments it is fair to say, all bass fishermen have thought about competing. With some the daydream stops, however, when perceived reality hits home. One of the following things may stop you. Perhaps you don t have a boat, or maybe it is not what you think of as a tournament boat. Or it could be that entry fees seem too expensive. Also, daunting is the idea that some of the fishermen live on that body of water and I don t have a chance. Ok, well chances are that one of those ideas has stopped you if you have not given tournament fishing a try. Let s examine each of them and see if it is really a concern.

I don t have a boat. Ok, but owning a boat is not a requirement. You can still participate in one of two ways. You can enter a draw or pro-am tournament. These are essentially the same except for in a true draw

 
everyone competes in the same class, while in a pro-am the boaters are not competing against the non-boaters. So you can sign-up as a non-boater and then you will be paired up with a boater before the tournament. There are usually plenty of boaters but occasionally there are too many non-boaters and that is a risk one has too take. If this occurs, unfortunately, some non-boaters can t fish. To reduce this some circuits will guarantee you a seat if you sign-up with a boater. Some will guarantee you a spot next time if you get bumped or try to ensure it does not happen twice in the same season. Even if you have a boat, going as a non-boater can be a great way to learn the ropes or become familiar with a new lake. Another option is find a friend who does have a boat and compete together on a team circuit. This way you know you have a seat and you also know your partner and how to get along with them.


I have a boat but it did not cost $25,000. Smaller boats are accepted as long as they meet the requirements. This varies with each circuit but normally includes things such as: no tiller steering, must have kill switch and live-well, and be a minimum of 16ft. Ask yourself would it be comfortable for two people to fish from for 8 or 9 hours? If the answer is, yes, then it is probably all right.

Entry fees are expensive. Well, expensive is a relative term. Some events cost a few hundred dollars to enter, but this is not were you start unless you have a lot of stupid money lying around. Some entries are as little as $10 to $20. These low fees can be found with some local clubs. Ask around at tackle stores to see what clubs are in the area. Normally, they have regular meetings and welcome new members and visitors. Pairing of boaters and non-boaters is usually done at the meetings so you can miss the pitfall mentioned before. Some trails are very affordable while at the same time offering good prizes and payouts. Remember, however, cheap fees equal small payouts so cheaper is not necessarily better, but as the fees go up so do the payouts and so does the amount of competition. So, you will have to decide for yourself where you are comfortable.

I don t have a chance against those guys. It is true some guys are hard to beat on a certain body of water. How did they get that way. They had to start somewhere and now most have moved on to higher payout tournaments. If you start at the club level or at the entry-level circuit with low fees then you should be able to be competitive after a few tournaments.

Ok, so how do I find tournaments? As was mentioned before ask around at the local tackle store. They should be able to point you to local clubs. You can find BASS Federation clubs on the web at http://www.bassmaster.com. Or if you are looking for a circuit try the American Bass Anglers Tournament Trail at http://www.americanbassanglers.com. This is the largest circuit out there for the weekend angler and a great place to get started. The entry fees are relatively low and they have a lot of good sponsors. There are over 600 tournaments in 75 districts across the US. With this size there should be one close to most everyone. With ABA you fish a draw tournaments in one or more districts and accumulate points as
 
well as the payout and prizes. If you fish 5 tournaments and end up in the top 500 in points you are invited to their national championship. There you qualify for 1 of 3 fully rigged Triton boats valued at near $45,000 each. One is given away at a drawing to those who fished the 5 tournaments. Chances are around 1 in 1000. Not to bad for that kind of value.

Ok, so it should seem easier now and I hope this was helpful with putting tournament fishing in perspective. One last thing, it is not always about winning. The friendships you make and the good times you have before, after, and during the competition will last a long time and make you a better fisherman, win or lose. Please check the rules and requirements for each tournament as the guidelines stated here were simply that, guidelines. Each organization has some difference. The rules have to be enforced to ensure fair competition, so be sure you are familiar with them.

 

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