Finding (and Keeping) the Right Team Tournament Partner

Recently, there was a post on one of the forums by a disgruntled team tournament angler who openly blasted and blamed his partner for their poor finish in a team tournament. The poster said some pretty nasty stuff and, as you might expect, the responses to his post were fast and furious (not to mention rather heated). Most of the responses criticized the original poster for his lack of common sense, his poor judgment, and his lack of sensitivity. He ultimately realized that he had made a complete fool out of himself and deleted his post and apologized to his (former) partner.

While this guy may have a tough time finding a new team partner to fish with in the future, his post (and more so the many responses to it ) brought to light some interesting points about what team tournament anglers should expected from one another.

During my two decades as a team tournament director, I have seen a lot of teams come and go. While most team tournament anglers (usually) get along just fine with there partners, there are some who fail miserably when it comes to “playing well with others”. Interestingly, there are some very obvious common denominators among team tournament anglers who “gel” with their partners. Here are some that I have observed over the years:

It’s nobody’s fault

When a team does well in a tournament, it is usually the result of a team effort. The exact same holds true when that team does poorly in a tournament, as well. However, when one team member bashes or blames their partner for their poor finish, it is usually a recipe for disaster. We all have good days and bad days on the water. If your partner had one of those bad days and, as a result, your team finished poorly, that’s just the way it goes. To blame your partner for your team’s poor finish is just plain stupid. You can bet your bottom dollar that the situation will reverse itself at some point in the future - if it hasn’t already. Most of us know what it feels like to lose a good fish that would have made a big difference in the final standings. We feel like crap. The good teams have the ability to quickly put these misfortunes behind them and move on; and without casting blame or bashing one another.


Team anglers who trust their partners just seem to do better than those who do not. I’m not talking about the trust as to whether or not your partner is a cheater (if they are, you better dump them or be prepared to go down with them). I’m talking about trusting your partner’s judgment, trusting their fishing abilities, trusting their decisions on where to fish, when to move, when to change presentations, when to change tactics, and the like. Sure their decisions may end up being wrong, but so, too, might yours.

Be a teacher

Do you remember the feeling that you had when you fished your very first team tournament? In all likelihood, you were probably pretty excited and you were probably the rookie, and your partner the veteran (or at least had some tournament experience). You were all eyes and all ears and you could not learn enough fast enough. If your team partner is new to the sport or has less experience than you do, take the time to explain things to them. When you make adjustments on the water, tell them why. If you are fishing with one type of bait, suggest to them to fish with a different type of bait; until you (or they) find the one that is working the best. Doing so will not only help them become a better angler; it will also help your team.

Be a learner

I have yet to go fishing where I did not learn something new, whether from my partner(s) or on my own. Anglers who think that they know all there is to know about bass fishing are only kidding themselves. Team tournament anglers who learn from one another only stand to become a better team.

Have confidence in one another

Next to having complete trust in your partner, having complete confidence in them is the second biggest element that successful teams seem to have in common. It is reassuring to know that your partner will do exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment, especially when the pressure is on. Confidence that they will be right there with the net when you need it; Confidence that they will switch lures when the situation or conditions call for it; Confidence that they will be prepared for almost anything that comes along. This type of confidence can only come from time spent together on the water. How many times have you heard the tournament winners say that they “just knew” that they were going to win? While some may blow this off as cockiness, if it happens more than once, it sounds more like total confidence to me.

Have confidence in yourself

How many times have you said “I knew there was a fish there,” after catching a fish? Better yet, how many times have you told your partner “I’m going to catch one right there,” and then did? While some will claim that this is nothing more than shear luck, the truth of the matter is that it is self confidence at its absolute best. The one thing that even the best tackle stores in the country do not have on their shelves is confidence. You can’t buy it anywhere. You either have it or you don’t. And when both team members have it, especially at the same time, they are going to be very tough to beat.


Giving your partner a few words of encouragement or an occasional “Nice job” complement can do wonders. But words of encouragement shouldn’t be limited only to good things. An occasional “Nice try,” or “Great cast, you ought to catch one there,” can work wonders after a lost fish or other misfortune. Not only will this help to restore their confidence, it will also help to get their head back into the game - ESPECIALLY if your partner is a child.


If you feel that your partner made some mistakes or errors in judgment, you need to address these issues right then and there (or at the conclusion of the tournament). If you do not and you allow them to fester, or if you start badmouthing your partner behind their back (or worse - on a public forum), then it is you who has (or will have) the more serious problem. Not only are you setting yourself up for some pretty heavy ridicule, you will also lose a partner and perhaps a friend (or two), and you will soon find that no one will want to fish a tournament with you. Chances are good that you can save (and improve upon) your relationship with your team partner if you discuss the problem areas in a cool and calm manner. It may very well turn out to be nothing more that a simple misunderstanding or something that your partner did not perceive as a problem. Whatever it is, it certainly isn’t worth losing a friendship over.

Hopefully, these few tips will help you find and, more importantly, KEEP a good team partner, and will prevent an unfortunate situation, like that ugly post on the forum.

I end today with a simple quote from my good friend John Barron that should help keep all of this in its proper prospective: “It’s just fishing, man. It’s supposed to be fun.”

Thanks for your time and always remember: “The shortest distance between two points is a reef!”