This dilemma has been around as long as tournament organizations. What to choose? Where to go? Who to fish with? Team or Pro-Am?
We have all pondered these questions. The real question is, what is best for you?
Are you looking for a regularly scheduled tournament on the same body of water? Do you want to fish a few different bodies of water with the chance of a higher payout? Do you want a chance to make the BassMaster Classic?
You need to answer one or all of these questions when selecting a tournament trail to join. There are so many choices out there, you need to do your homework before committing to one. You may also decide that you do not want to commit to one particular tour or circuit. You need to decide this before committing your time and money.
First, you need to decide what you are in it for. Are you looking to get your name out for sponsors? Are you looking to learn bodies of water or fishing styles? Are you looking to get out for a guaranteed fishing trip once a month? Is your single goal to win a boat? Win a TOC? Win Angler of the Year? All valid questions in shaping your tournament quest.
Once you have answered these questions, you need to look at what you can afford. Is $1000 a tournament in your budget? or should you look at $200 or less a tournament? I, for one, with a family and kids, know that $200 and under is in my affordable range. Everyone will have a different budget and you should plan accordingly. You also need to plan for pre-fish costs, hotel costs, meals, non boater money for your boater, etc. Do not fish tournaments outside your budget at the expense of your family. If you must, wait. I have waited 12 years to finally be in a position to fish tournaments without impacting my family. Trust me, it is much better to come home to a happy family asking about the results from your tournament.
After you have decided what your goal is and what your budget can support, then you need to begin comparing. Anglers on the West Coast have a great selection of tournaments and organizations to choose from. My primary choice (after determining my budget) is schedule. What tournaments can I afford to fish and which fit my schedule? Other than the primary holidays, we need to look at family and job obligations. Birthdays, Anniversaries, important meetings, deadlines, etc. Also look at registration regulations, tournament rules, etc. Make sure they are all a fit for you. These are all things to consider when planning your tournament schedule.
Once you have decided on an organization or tour to fish, get entered. Whether fishing from the pointy end or riding in the back, get entered. Most, if not all, tournament trails have an excess of boaters. If you can get a boater or non-boater to sign up with, all the better. Most organizations guarantee entry if signed up with another (boater or non). Make sure you have gotten the rules clarified prior to signing up and sending your money in. The last thing you want to worry about is whether you are going to get to fish a tournament you have planned for.
Once you have completed all of the above, go out and have fun. I have not finished very high in any tournament. In all I have entered, I have had fun. I have, in my opinion, fished poorly. I have fished well. I have also come away from every tournament with knowledge. Knowledge that will help me fish in the future.
Tournaments are not for everyone. If you decide that they are for you, hopefully this article will help you have the best experience you can.