The most relaxing and fun time I have had when money is on the line is a Fruit Jar bass tournament. There are bass fishing circuits, clubs, team events, and big bass bonanzas that I enjoy fishing; however, with a fruit Jar there is no pressure, well, except the ribbing from good friends. There is little money on the line, just enough to keep the ribbing from good friends coming. Most of all, there are the good friends with a common interest, to catch a bigger bass than each other.
The fruit jar bass tournament started, when a bunch of anglers got together, and all threw a predetermined dollar amount in an old jar (usually a canning jar from mothers cabinet) for a winner take all event. The winner got to take the jar home, keep the money in it, and set up the next tournament. Because the winner had the jar, he also became the tournament director for the next event. The jar holding tournament director picked the lake and times, then invited all the appropriate anglers. Another fruit jar tournament was held, and the cycle started over.
While this concept has evolved some, fruit jar tournaments are still common place in many southern states. Here in Louisiana, there are fruit jar bass tournaments every week somewhere. Some are held as a prefishing exploration for an upcoming larger event. With so many anglers prefishing the week before a major tournament, many will get together and build some bragging rights.
Some fruit jars are founded around dock talk. Anglers at the dock like to brag about their day; this is where the lies get big, and the bass get bigger. Sooner or later someone will call the bluff and set a date for a “Put Up, or Shut Up” tournament.
With the advent of the internet and bass fishing forums, fruit jar tournaments have grown in size and popularity. Anglers like them because there are no meetings and no points; you get to fish for the day and the angler that had the best day gets some extra money to buy lures.
When fruit jar bass tournaments first started, the normal entry fee was five or ten dollars, and if the word about the tournament got out you might have 8-10 anglers show up. With the help of the internet, (email and forums) a fruit jar tournament can get pretty large, ranging from 20-30 boats. Entry fees have also gone up. What used to be a $5 bill turned into a $10 bill and now usually costs a $20 bill. Inflation I guess. Because the jar has become rather full, pay outs have become the norm. Usually fruit jar bass tournaments will pay one place for every five entries up to three places. Although payouts are normally left up to the fruit jar tournament director, some examples are winner take all, 60/40 split or if there were enough anglers you can do a 50/30/20.
There is a lot of trust that goes into the fruit jar type tournament. Since it is just a gathering of anglers that know each other there is never an issue with cheating or breaking rules; besides the rules are usually very limited. This camaraderie is tight, and it can be difficult for a new angler to join the crowd. So if you’re that new angler, be conscious that everyone at one of these events knows each other, and if you’re accepted as a new guy, you’ll be watched. It’s always best to get an invite to these kinds of tournaments; the reception will be a lot warmer. If you have to worm your way in (pun intended), just know that you’re getting involved with a tight group of anglers. Once you donate a couple times you’ll find yourself part of the crowd.
Fruit Jar Bass Tournaments are a lot of fun. The fishing is always good, but the catching might be limited. The best part is you get to meet up with a bunch of good friends and fish the day away. If you don’t already have a fruit jar tournament in your area, start one. Keep it cheap, keep it small, and most of all keep it fun.
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