Obviously, the first decision that you need to make is which professional level tournament circuit to fish, and there are a number of them out there. By professional level tournaments, I am talking about multiple-day, pro-am tournaments where you fish with a different partner on each day of competition. These tournaments can either be combined or “shared weight” tournaments where both anglers get credit for the day’s total catch, regardless of who catches the fish, or they can be Pro and Co-angler tournaments where each angler in the boat is fishing against the other Pro and Co-anglers in their respective divisions.
Regardless of which tournament trail you decide to fish, I have long felt that jumping right into professional level tournament competition on the “Pro” side is a recipe for disaster. I believe that an angler should spend at least a minimum of two and preferably three years fishing on the “Am” or Co-Angler side first. I am not saying this to slam anyone’s fishing skills or saying that they aren’t good enough to fish on the pro side, I am simply saying that there is a lot more to fishing professional level tournaments than the actual fishing itself. Things like learning the how to navigate our waterways, learning new techniques and tactics, and, as I mentioned, learning the logistics involved in professional level tournament fishing. Here are a few of the logistical aspects that I am referring to:
Once you have decided on the professional level tournament trail that you want to compete in, the very first thing that you need to do is enter them, and enter them NOW. All too often I see or hear about guys who are way up in the point standings after the first one or two tournaments who waited too long to send in their deposits or entry fees for the next (or subsequent) tournaments and were “locked out.” This is not just an Am or Co-angler problem. I recall a Pro angler who was in 11th place in the points standing who thought that he could just show up on check in day and enter the tournament. Now you might be able to do this at some of the regional level pro-ams or at local team tournaments, but you absolutely cannot do this at major National level professional tournaments, as this one was. He was not allowed to enter which, in all probability, cost him a trip to the BASSMASTER Classic (not to mention the money that he wasted for gasoline, food, and lodging).
I strongly recommend that you send in your entry fees (or at least deposits) for all of that season’s tournaments. This will not only prevent you from being locked out, it will also assure you priority entry and/or guaranteed entry status (which means that you will be officially entered in all of the tournaments and not placed on a waiting list hoping to get in).
Once you are officially entered into all of the tournaments, don’t put that credit card away just yet. The next thing that you should do is IMMEDIATELY make your lodging reservations for ALL of the tournaments. This is, bar none, the biggest logistical mistake that most anglers make.
When a tournament organization schedules a tournament, they usually have a “host hotel” that they use. In most cases, a number of rooms are “blocked” for the organization and are offered to tournament anglers at a reduced rate. There is always a deadline for when these blocked rooms are released (or dropped) back into the regular reservation pool and back to the regular seasonal room rate (usually 30 days before the tournament). If you wait to make your room reservations until after the block has been dropped, you will most likely be paying more for your room, if you can even get one, that is.
Some guys elect to stay somewhere other than at the host hotel, which is fine. However, if you do this, make sure that you will have access to an electrical outlet to charge your boat batteries. Keep in mind that most hotels and motels don’t take too kindly to having their window screens bent by guys running extension cords out of their room windows. (Have you ever noticed that almost every screen is bent at every hotel or motel near the lakes that we fish?). Heck, at one place I stayed, the night shift security guard walked around cutting extension cords that were hanging out of the window. Man, there were a lot of angry fishermen the next morning!
Another thing that you need to plan for is where you will be buying your boat gas. Although I have always recommended that guys should gas up their boats as soon as they come off of the water, it seems that most guys wait until the next morning to do so. This may be ok if you are staying at or near a bigger town or city, but if you are out in the boonies, just remember that not all gas stations open up early, like when we are headed to the lake. Other things to consider are where to get your morning coffee, munchies, sandwiches, water, Gatorade, and of course, ice. Fortunately, most gas stations these days carry all of these things – if they are OPEN, that is.
I also recommend that you always bring your own outboard motor oil. If you have to rely on a local marina or tackle store for your oil, you will be paying top dollar for it and you may not get the exact brand or grade of oil that you prefer or need. Nothing can put a wedge between friends faster than when a guy is always bumming oil because he forgot to bring his own (or he never does and can’t find any when he gets to the tournament location).
My favorite part about traveling to the various tournament locations is knowing where to eat. I have a reputation among my friends of knowing where the best eating spots are, regardless of where we are at. (I have to confess that my dear friends Don Lee and Don Iovino showed me a lot of them – but not ALL of them). Just remember that most of the major pro-am tournaments are a week long and eating out every night can get rather expensive. To help cut these expenses, I recommend stopping by a local market and pick up bread, lunch meat, or other groceries and prepare your own sandwiches or other meals back at your room. But here again, you need to know where the nearest market is and when they open and close.
Hopefully I have given you some things to think about when you finally make that big decision to step up to the world of professional level tournament competition. I know that I frequently look back at what I learned from my travel partners many years ago. Guys like Don Iovino, Larry Hopper, Rich Tauber, Fred Borders, just to name a few. Not only did these guys help me become a better tournament angler, they also helped to educated me on the equally important logistics involved in professional level tournament competition.
Thanks for your time and always remember: “The shortest distance between two points is a reef!”
About The Author
Ron Cervenka is sponsored by: