Outdoor Articles

Bagwell’s Bass Tactics: Taking the Plunge Into Tournament Fishing

by Pursue The Outdoors on June 27th, 2005 in Freshwater Fishing

You have conquered your local ponds, lakes, rivers and everything else in your area that looks like it can hold a bass. You have a nice boat, tons of tackle and enough rods to stock a large tackle store. The time has finally come, you now feel as if you are ready to take the tournament world by storm.

Fishing competitively is an entirely different animal than fishing for fun in your spare time. It requires putting your money on the line so you can test your skills against a large number of other highly skilled anglers. Tournament fishing also introduces a long list of new variables to the equation. Now you must fish with time constraints, follow very specific rules, and endure the mental pressures that accompany tournament fishing. In larger tournaments, you also have to deal with spectator and media boats following you all over the place. The stress added simply by having a lot of people watching you fish, is enough to cause most people to crack.

Starting in local club tournaments, you will not have to deal with some of the additional baggage. These tournaments are typically small and have a fun laid back atmosphere. However, don’t think these anglers are just going to stand by and watch you take their money. Club anglers are as competitive as anyone else is in the tournament world. They may not be competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they are competing for bragging rights which to some is equally as valuable.

Draw Tournaments and Open tournaments “typically” offer a higher level of competition for anglers. Several of these competitors have dreams of making it to a higher level. The entry fees are almost always higher and the number of competitors per tournament is greater. They give anglers the opportunity to fish with and against other fishing fanatics of varying skill levels. These tournaments are a great stepping stone for making it to the big leagues. The amount of time you spend fishing with new partners can greatly improve your fishing skills, if you use this time properly. Whether your partner is the non-boater or the person controlling the boat, pay attention to what they are doing. Watch how they cast and how they use certain lures. You can learn enormous amounts of information simply by watching others. If you have a question about why your partner did something a certain way, ask them. Most anglers are easy going great people that will try to help you grow as a fisherman.


If your practice time is in short supply or you just haven’t purchased a boat, you can join these tournaments as a co-angler. Fishing as a co-angler means that you will be paired with a person that has brought his or her own boat. In some circuits, the co-angler must fish from the back deck. However, this is not true for every circuit. Some tournament trails have distinctions between “boater” and co-angler. Co-anglers will only be competing against co-anglers. Once again, this is not the case for every circuit. There are circuits where it is everyone against everyone regardless of your registration type. Both formats are great and I really can’t say one is better than the other. It is up to each angler to determine which format they feel most comfortable with.

In order to stay competitive during tournaments, you will need to continually learn and increase your skill level. The best advice I could give to any angler would be to keep an open mind and don’t ever think that you know everything there is to know about bass fishing. As soon as you start thinking that way, your results will begin to diminish. Your goal should be to try to learn something from every angler that you ever fish with. By this, I don’t necessarily mean learn a new technique every time, but if you see your partner do something you typically don’t do or have never seen before, ask them why they do it and determine how it can help you become a better angler. The best anglers on any circuit are the ones that continue to get better year after year. They do so by constantly learning as much information as they can absorb into their brains.

Time on the water is another aspect of tournament fishing that you must have. The more you can fish, the better you are going to be, period. It doesn’t matter if you only have a few hours before or after work, you need to be on the water. Everyone has heard the saying “Practice makes Perfect” well this is especially true in Bass fishing. There is absolutely no replacement for on the water experience. You can read as many books and articles as you want, but actually going out on doing the things you have read about is ultimately going to make you a better angler.

If your dream is to fish competitively, follow that dream and don’t ever let anyone hold you back. Build your confidence level and feel comfortable about each decision you make on the water. The only way to get better at anything is to actually do it. Tournament fishing can be a great way to make new friends, increase your skill level, and make a lot of money. Just don’t expect to be a Dave Lefebre, Kevin VanDam or Gerald Swindle overnight.

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