Tournament Fishing for Beginners

Jason Short

You always hear about tournament fishing online and from your fishing buddies. You might want to try it but don’t know where to start. This article is not for those that have been fishing them for a few years, it’s for those of you that are completely new and don’t know where to start. I am writing from my own successes and failures as a beginner last year. It can be lots of fun, or it can be the most frustrating fishing you’ve ever done. That’s what this article is for, to help you get started and let you enjoy tournaments!

Where Do I Start? Before you can start fishing tournaments you have to decide which ones to fish. Where should you start? There are lots of levels to fish, but you need to start at a low level. You can’t just jump straight into big tournaments like the Rayovac Series and expect to be successful. The place to start is at the local club level. Find a club where you can learn the basics of how tournaments operate and have some fun on local lakes. There are some great fishermen in local clubs that are willing to share information and give you tips, and a beginner can still compete successfully. You can find these clubs online or by asking your friends that fish. If you are younger than 18, you can also find youth clubs to get some great experience.

What’s next? You have found a club to join, now what? The first thing you need to do is make sure that your equipment is ready for tournament fishing. Your boat needs to be ready for an 8 hour fishing day, have a way to keep your fish alive, and meet all required state and local safety requirements. Make sure you have good batteries and any tools you might need to fix on the water problems. You need a properly working live well. Most tournaments penalize anglers for dead fish. If you have a bass boat then you already have a live well that will work just fine, but with a smaller boat you might need to make your own. You can use a cooler with an aerator hooked up to your batteries. My partner and I use a homemade live well made from a cooler and have never had a fish die in there. Get some live well additives as well to make sure your fish survive.

Develop a game plan! Another thing you need to do is research all the lakes you will be fishing. If you have been fishing for a while you might already be familiar with the lakes, but if not you will need to do some off the water research. A great place to do this is on websites and forums where you can talk to other fishermen from your area. You can also find maps of lakes online or at marinas; study these and circle spots that you want to try out. When you get the chance to do some pre-fishing try out the spots that you circled, as well as anywhere else that you think will hold fish. These pre-fishing trips will be very important once tournament day comes around so remember where the fish were and how they were acting.

Keep a Log. One of the most helpful things you can do is keep a log of your fishing trips! Every time you are on a lake write down any information to help you catch the fish next time you go out. Even when you don’t catch anything write down what you did so that you don’t make the same mistakes again. You might think that you can remember everything you need to, but there are little things you forget that could help you out next time. You can find templates for logs online, just add what you think will be important. Study your log any time you get the chance to give you an idea of local patterns and techniques that work well. These logs will be invaluable in future years, so always keep a log!

Have Fun! The most important thing is to just go out and have fun! Don’t get so caught up in winning that fishing isn’t fun anymore. Enjoy the butterflies in your stomach while they last, but don’t get nervous and over think everything! There is a reason we love this sport so don’t think about winning and just go out and have some fun. There is a lot more to be said about getting started in tournaments but these tips will get you started. If you have never fished a tournament, try it this next year and see if it’s for you! Some people will love it; others won’t enjoy it at all. You won’t know if you don’t try, so get out there and have some fun!

Jason Short

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