by: Tim Lesmeister
I started following fishing tournaments back in the 1980s when the national bass events rapidly gained in popularity and major walleye tournaments began appearing. How could a sport synonymous with a leisurely day on the water, patiently wanting for a bite, become a competitive event? Why would people turn something all about relaxing and recreation into a game?
Soon I discovered that tournament fishing is about more than competition. Sure, anglers want to prove their superiority over other competitors by catching more, weighing more, or hauling in the biggest fish, but there is also a learning aspect to the sport. It’s about discovering what works, and unlike many sports, it’s ultimately the anglers versus themselves.
Through the years I discovered that when a competitive angler begins fishing a specific tournament, they first research that particular water body. Many tournament pros will tell you they win a contest in this preparation stage.
Tournaments generally are species-specific. Anglers need to know where that species is staging when the tournament starts. Other aspects revolve around the forage base, the structure, how much fishing pressure the body of water receives, how the fish will react to the weather patterns for that time period, and much more. Anglers craft their game plan according to their research, then take to the water during the practice period to test those assumptions.
Even if the planning goes perfect and the practice days are productive, when the competition starts there are no guarantees. Weather, current changes, and water level fluctuations are just a few factors that can haunt an angler on tournament day. But when all the planets align and the good-luck charms perform, one lucky angler will be in that No. 1 spot.
The huge benefit of competitive angling for those who don’t choose to compete is the knowledge gained from the hard work the anglers invest in techniques and lure presentations. Competitive anglers have sponsors and they promote them. For this reason, they’ll share their secrets so the “weekend” anglers can catch more fish. Sure, they tout a product, but if it works and they’re telling you how to use it properly, that’s good for fishing.
Anglers who fish a particular body of water hosting a tournament also can learn what works best from the experience of the competitors. Sometimes this leads to anglers trying presentations that result in better catches and a better appreciation for the resource.
Today, competitive angling has been expanding into the schools. Keeping this pastime vibrant demands that technology keep up with the sport. It may not be for everyone who enjoys casting a lure or bait into the water, but tournaments provide tremendous enjoyment to many anglers.
Editor’s note: Tim Lesmeister will emcee the 2018 Blackfish Classic Tournament for Bass on July 30 at Lord Fletcher’s on Lake Minnetonka. Want to know how the pros are catching big bass on this tremendous resource? Then attend the weigh-in!