Many recreational anglers around the country spend many hours pondering about becoming a tournament fisherman. A question that I always hear being asked is, "How do I get into tournament angling?" Coming from someone who asked that very question, the answers can be right under your nose if you’re looking in the right place.
One thing you don’t want to find yourself doing when getting into tournament angling is going out and dropping $50,000 on brand spanking new "glitter rig" and then dropping another $35,000 on the biggest baddest truck you could find, while spending another $10,000 on all new fishing gear. If you find yourself doing this I can already tell you that you’re approaching it the wrong way. You need to stop yourself and move into it slowly.
Whether you have your own "rig" or not, I would not recommend jumping into big money tournaments when first starting. My personal recommendation is to find a few local tournaments that are in your general vicinity and maybe start there. Usually you can find small "open’ tournaments that are between $15-$30 on any given weekend on any given lake or river throughout the country. If you don’t have a boat, find a buddy, family friend, or neighbor that has a boat and get hooked up with them. Usually if you as the "non-boater" are willing to pay the entry fee, the "boater" is willing to comply. Get out and fish some of those tournaments and see how you do, make sure you like the competition, and that you enjoy the tournament environment.
My next recommendation would be to join a local club, either as a boater or as a "co-angler." Most clubs do a "draw" style format where the boaters and non-boaters "drawn" together at each tournament and fish in boater and non-boater divisions. This is a good chance for boat-less anglers to get out and gain loads of information from other local tournament anglers. This is also a chance for anglers that are using their own "rigs" to spend time out on the water while soaking up as much knowledge on techniques, tactics, structure, and patterns as humanly possible.
The next step in this process, this just being a sole recommendation from me, is mainly aimed at the "non-boater" or "co-angler." This step doesn’t necessarily have to be met in this particular order, or even at all, but this is just a sole recommendation from me. If you can get yourself a nice used tournament rig in your budget, I would recommend doing so. This will enable you to spend more time on the water, while being able to still pursue your tournament goals.
My next suggestion would be to maybe get involved in a local tournament trail. While still fishing in your general area, you will be fishing against some of the bigger names in your area. With bigger names comes bigger competition, and with this you will gain more knowledge. Some anglers that might usually fish out of their own tournament rigs may want to begin fishing as a co-angler. This would help them get used to the pressure of bigger competition, and then at a later point they might want to step into the boater category. This is a time where co-anglers will gain lots of info. Most of the bigger local names are always willing to share info with beginning tournament fisherman, and as a fisherman you should soak in as much as that knowledge as you can.
These steps are now in your hands. Where you go with this cannot be mapped out by anyone else but you. It is in our hands to whether you move on from that point or not. I can only give one recommendation, and that is to make sure you always enjoy it. The time that it becomes a chore is the time you stop enjoying it.
These are just a few suggestions from a young local tournament angler. Don’t forget to take a kid fishing, as the memories will last a lifetime.