My First Bass Tournament

Have you ever fished in a bass tournament or do you remember your first bass tournament? I entered my first one last Saturday and had a blast! It was an open team tournament organized by a local club.

The tournament started at 6 A.M., so I knew I had to try and hit the sack early the night before. Let’s back up some. That evening I was going through my tackle to ensure I had what I needed, and that I was as prepared as possible. While I looked over my tackle, I realized I was out of YUM Money Craws, and the hooks on my jigs were dull beyond being able to sharpen them, they needed replaced. I could press my thumb down on the point of the hook without it poking through my skin! Money Craws are one of my go-to baits, so that also was a priority. After telling my wife how sad I was that I didn’t have these things, I made a run to Gander Mountain across town. I picked up what I needed and added a spinnerbait for good measure. Why? It was calling my name!

I drove home and hopped into bed with visions of beautiful bass dancing in my head! I had time to grab maybe six hours of sleep. At 1:40 A.M., a cat jumps on my stomach! Oof, I wake up out of a deep sleep and immediately look at the clock. That cat is supposed to be in the garage, so I take it out and realize the reason it’s out, our teenager is not in his room. Argh! So I wake up the wife, and we hunt down our teenager. He was at my sister-in-law’s house; it wasn’t all bad. Back to bed I went; I had a tournament in three hours!

“Daddy…daddy…daddy…I had a bad dream”, as my seven-year-old wakes me up. It is 2:58 a.m. and there is not enough time to persuade him to go back to his own bed; so, he happily jumps in next to me.

In no time, the alarm sounds. It was a rough night and my left shoulder aches from sleeping on the edge of the bed, but I’m pumped and ready for my first tournament!

I drove over to my fishing buddy’s house and he is busy loading the boat. He is not only a good guy, but a great fisherman. He has a lot of tournament experience and has taught me a tremendous amount when I get to fish with him. Finding a friend like this, to fish with and learn from, is invaluable.

So we get to the lake, sign-in and put the boat in the water. The lake is over 700 acres, and the water is a little cloudy. It is about 50 degrees, windy, cold, and it is spitting rain. The rules are six fish limit, with anything over 15 inches or under 12 inches being keepers. We drew numbers to figure the launch order of the boats. I drew a high number, so we are one of the last ones to launch, but that wasn’t a major concern.

All the anglers loaded into their boats and idled out. The lead boat was the tournament organizer, and yelling out numbers to get everyone started in order. The boat engines roared as each number was called. They were hauling rear end to reach their first fishing site on the lake! Our number was called, and we headed out. Luckily I was prepared for the cold wind while skimming across the lake, when I walked out of the house that morning, I grabbed my son’s Spider-man stocking mask. Oh yeah, here comes the Spider-man to lay the smack down on the bass! I might have looked silly, but it kept my face from going numb.

We pulled into a cove, stood up and started casting. I began with a bullet weighted YUM Money Craw, while my teammate went with a wacky worm rig. On my buddy’s second cast out, WHAM! It didn’t measure over 15 inches, but was under 12, so it was a keeper and it started us off on the right foot.

The process was once we caught a fish we used a ruler to measure the length, and if we decided to keep it, we would use an Ardent SmartCull ball to mark the fish before we put it in the livewell. These Ardent balls have a number you can set on them, and you can mark your fish before putting it in. This also makes it easy to pull fish out of the livewell.

About that time, it started to pour down rain, so we hurried to put on our rain suits. Back to fishing, we both casted at the same time, this coincided with a thundering boom while lightning lit up the sky! We both looked at each other with an “OH CRAP!” look. It was short lived because the storm quickly moved on. It continued to rain, but like most fisherman, we know it can be good fishing in the rain. Switching to my Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, I landed a couple, but they were small.

Thirty minutes later the rain stopped; however, it remained cold. The bites actually never stopped. There were so many I actually lost count of how many bass we caught. Most were small. We landed one 15.5 inch bass that was about two and a half pounds. This was our largest bass of the morning. Besides my Rat-L-Trap and Money Craw, I experimented with two different spinnerbaits, and a jig for a short period of time. The bass really seemed keyed in on the rattle trap and money craw. So, I went back to using them. My teammate mainly used a wacky worm, but also caught some on a buzz bait, Zoom Brushhog and a shallow diving crankbait.

Check-in time was 11:30 A.M. On the way to weigh in, we heard many teams talking about catching mainly smaller fish that were under 12 inches. It was a good feeling to know that we were not the only ones. Some of the other teams didn’t catch a limit. So, compared to the rest of the field of competitors, it appeared we really had a good day of fishing.

We docked the boat and anglers retrieved their fish from their livewells and put them in a plastic bag. The bag including water to keep the fish alive until they were ready to be weighed. Teams waited while each bag was weighed and tallied. Once they were weighed the bass could be returned to the lake.

When the total weights were recorded, we came in fifth place out of fourteen teams. We were only two pounds under the winning team. I felt good about the day; we caught plenty of bass and were in contention for the win. Plus, since we didn’t pre-fish the lake before the tournament, building a competitive plan felt great.

If you have never attempted a tournament, I recommend doing so, even if you regard yourself as a very casual angler. It is fairly easy to check out the local open tournaments in your area and find one you can join for fun.

Never Quit Casting
Paul Beel

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