Bass Fishing Competitions: 11 Tips for Participating and Winning
Bass Fishing Competitions: 11 Tips for Participating and Winning
If you’re like the average bass angler, you probably love going out, trying to beat your personal best, and if possible, beating a state record or two. However, why should you stop there? There are plenty of bass fishing competitions that let you put your skills to the test, earn some bragging rights, and engage with the community.
Most people tend to think that competitions are more for sponsored anglers on a professional circuit, but the truth is, the vast majority of competitions are open to people just like you, and it’s an extremely accessible hobby.
If you’ve never enrolled in a fishing competition, or you’re a little worried about wasting your time on one, this is the guide for you. We’re going to go over eleven bass fishing competitions tips on how you can get involved, what to do to participate properly, and tips you can use to come out ahead.
1: Getting Involved and Finding Competitions
You might not have tried a competition just because you haven’t seen any notices or announcements that they’re even happening near you. However, that’s usually because you don’t know where to look.
Almost every state regularly has bass fishing competitions from the municipality level all the way up to the state level. There are also nationwide tournaments that are open to everyone, but it’s typically better to sign up for one that is a bit more localized unless you’re experienced.
To find them, the best way is to simply look online. You can also regularly check your local billboards in the spring and summer for the very small, town-based, competitions that are perfect for kids or first-timers to get a feel for it.
However, there are a few things you should consider.
First, always make sure you look up the requirements for a tournament, and if there is a fee required, make sure you have the funds to pay it on time. Some competitions are free, but others do require anywhere from a small $15 fee to fees exceeding $200 even for the casual sport fishing audience. The price typically reflects the size of the tournament and the quality of the prizes available.
2: Maintain Proper Fishing Etiquette
Once you’re signed up and it’s time to participate, one of the most important things you can do is remember your fishing etiquette. Some competitions are fairly small and don’t garner large crowds, but almost every competition will bring a much larger influx of anglers into the same area as you.
It might be tempting to cast into a highly productive spot and try to grab the win, but it’s more important not to sneak into someone else’s space, respect the other anglers, and overall, show good sportsmanship.
Respectful casting and positioning, keeping your noise level down, not trashing out the area, and basic key points of etiquette are all more important now than they are when you’re just casually fishing.
These competitions can get fairly tense, and the last thing you want to do is step on everyone's toes and become the talk of the community in the wrong way.
3: Know the Gear Guidelines
Almost every competition will have gear guidelines, and your gear will be checked at some point during or after the competition to ensure your catch was legal and according to competition standards.
This goes along with our first tip, but you should look up these requirements beforehand and build your kit around them.
Some competitions will be very flexible and allow for practically any rod and reel setup you can think of, but they typically have some restrictions regarding the number of rods, hooks, lure types, and more that you’ll need to abide by.
4: Focus on Technique
In the majority of competitions, you’re not just trying to catch the biggest fish. You’re also trying to catch it properly.
Many competitions will disqualify great catches because of things such as the hook set not being proper. It’s usually required that you get a traditional lip hook set in the corner of the mouth for you to claim the fish. Hooks that get gutted, stuck through the fish’s head, and other gnarly things can cause a disqualification for the fish.
This is something the average fisherman tries to do in the first place, but mistakes do happen. The trick is to really focus on your hook set, choosing appropriate hooks, and actively avoiding rigs that increase your chances of making illegal hook sets.
5: Know the Win Conditions
One big beginner mistake is assuming that competitions are based solely on catching the biggest fish. There are some straightforward competitions like that, but many of them actually allow you to present multiple fish to reach the highest combined weight, length, etc.
It's important that you know those win conditions and formulate your strategy around them. If you need to get the best-combined weight with a set number of fish, you should be picky about the fish you keep, but also be willing to keep smaller fish and rotate them out as bigger ones are caught. If the competition is strictly for catching the biggest fish, you can focus more on landing that big one that blows everyone else out of the water and ignores any attempts at average-sized bass.
6: Watch the Competition
In competitions that are held in person on a set date, like most of them are, you need to pay close attention to what the competition is doing.
You’ll notice that other anglers are bunching up in one area and pulling in bass, you might see people packing in early or shifting their positions, or you might get other types of information just by paying attention.
How you’ll want to respond to that information will vary, and we’ll talk about that later. However, it is important to maintain your sportsmanship. As we said earlier, don’t hop into a spot just because you see three other anglers pulling in bass. Crossing lines or becoming a nuisance is not a good way to compete.
The main bit of information you’ll want to look for is how big their catches are. If you have a five-pounder in your well, and you see someone pull out a massive hog, you can get an idea of what you need to do to win. Of course, it’s not possible to watch everyone, but take advantage of anything you can see.
7: Take Advantage of the Opposition’s Positioning
As we said above, one of the key bits of information you’ll get from paying attention is you’ll see where the competition is moving. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to follow the crowd while maintaining a respectful distance, but with the help of some electronic aids, you might want to go the opposite direction and find a more secluded spot the others ignored just to play “follow the leader” all over the lake.
Doing this can get you into low-pressure areas that are highly productive.
8: Use an Electronic Aid
When you’re fishing for a prize, you don’t want to rely solely on gut instinct and luck. We understand not scanning the area electronically every time you go out for an afternoon of fishing fun, but when you’re participating in a timed competition, you really need to leverage any tool you can.
When you pull up, don’t immediately start casting, put your boat’s sonar to work. If you don’t have a proper sonar unit, invest in one of the various bobber-style sonar units on the market. These will let you cast the sonar just like you would a rig and then readings are sent to your phone or a dedicated receiver.
This will let you know where you should fish instead of letting you waste time on unproductive spots just because they look good. This will also automatically give you a major advantage over anglers who aren’t leveraging technology in their favor.
9: Be Mindful of the Time
Every competition is timed. Most amateur competitions are simple one-day affairs that take place for a set number of hours, and there are some multi-day or even multi-week competitions that get a bit more complicated.
Whatever the case is, you need to be very aware of the time you have to land your catch. This is even more important for one-day events because you’re far more limited by the time constraint.
Make sure you keep track of the time and start bringing your boat in with time to spare. You need to be at the meet-up point by the end of the competition’s time.
10: Manage Time Effectively
You don’t just need to get back to the dock on time. You also need to make the most of the time you have.
Let’s say you have a five-hour period to land your catch and get it back to the meeting point. If you spend too much time scanning for fish, or if you spend too much time using ineffective tactics, you can easily end up with a lackluster turn-in.
When you first get to the water, take no longer than ten minutes to get an idea of where the fish are. You need a lure in the water immediately. As you move spots, make sure you limit how much time you perform subsequent scans, too. This will make sure you’re getting a good idea of where the fish are without spending all your time just scanning the water.
When you’re fishing, try one lure for 15 minutes or so. If you’re not getting bites, cycle through your lures. You might be a minor color change away from landing a massive bass, or the bass might not be into the jig you’re throwing. It should be your goal to identify the most effective method at your disposal and start leveraging it for its maximum effect as quickly as possible.
This also means not staying in one spot for too long. You might have experience on the lake and feel comfortable in your favorite spot, but if you’re not catching something after 20 or 30 minutes of casting, it’s time to move on. You’re on a timer, and you don’t have time to wait for bass to move around the water and find your lure. You have to find them.
11: Don’t Be a Stranger
If you participate in competitions regularly, you’ll start to notice familiar faces. It’s a bit addicting once you start competing, and you’ll frequently see the same people traveling from competition to competition. This is true for amateurs and pros alike.
It’s important not to be a stranger or overly competitive at these events. If you can make some friends, you can get some great information or even land a new fishing buddy.
Of course, fishermen are notorious for not giving out details about their favorite lures and spots, and they’re also pretty famous for exaggerating their accomplishments, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get valuable information from your peers and try it out.
This is especially true if you’re newer. Some of the other anglers have likely been to several other competitions, and if you get friendly with them, they might be willing to help you out.
It can also be useful to avoid the cheating allegations that run rampant in competitions. Actual cheating happens occasionally, but it’s also common for people to make accusations just because you won. Having some friends can help lend you credibility and avoid that mess.
Get the BassForecast Fishing App
Congratulations, now you're equipped with 11 expert tips for participating and winning in bass fishing competitions. But wait, there is more! We have a bonus tip for you. One of the best ways to increase your chances of winning is to know the spot inside and out before you go to compete. The BassForecast fishing app can help with that.
On BassForecast, you’ll find detailed maps, tips, community notes, species lists, and more for every waterway in the US. You’ll also find a plethora of real-time environmental data such as temperature, barometric pressure, and more. Having that information at your disposal before you go can help you plan your strategy and be a far more effective competitor.