By Ken Poor

Fishermen are, in general, a competitive group. Just about all fishing trips end with talk about who caught the biggest fish, the most fish or who had the big one on that got away. Ask any guy who has fished with his wife or girl friend and “allowed” her to catch the biggest or most fish and you will also find out that competition and bragging rights are not gender orientated.

There are basically two types of fishing clubs and they are local clubs and tournament affiliated clubs. Local clubs are a group of local folks that have a common interest in fishing, fishing education, organized outings, family events and getting involved with local environmental projects or issues.

Tournament clubs have an affiliation with a tournament organization such as B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society), FLW (Forest L. Woods – tournament series), PMTT (Professional Musky Tournament Trail) or MWC (Masters Walleye Circuit) – just to name a few. The main goal of the affiliated clubs is to qualify anglers for higher levels of tournament competition. Some of these tournament clubs also get involved with organized outings, family events and environmental projects just like other local clubs.

Local fishing clubs sponsor community events, such as teaching kids to fish, local tournaments and are often involved in local environmental issues.

Local fishing clubs often sponsor tournaments. Most are limited to competition among club members and others are against other fishing clubs. Generally, these tournaments are not qualifying events for higher-level tournaments, but they are a valuable learning experience for the beginner interested in tournament fishing. Additionally, local clubs will often be involved with environmental issues, outdoor education and promoting various outdoor events.

Typically fishing clubs meet once a month and they can be a great learning experience especially for the new inexperienced angler. Before making the decision to join a club, it is a good idea to attend a couple of meetings and then decide if the specific club is right for you.

For the tournament fishermen, bragging rights are nice, but the primary goal is qualifying for a higher-level tournament. The path for most tournament anglers starts with local tournaments, moves to regional tournaments and then the national tournaments. Each step along the way is an extremely intense learning period and at each level the investment in time and money increases exponentially.

Every fisherman has had visions of catching a limit of big bass in a professional tournament and walking away with a big check, maybe a new boat and sponsors ready to pick up the tab for expenses and the entry fee for the next event. Before you can fish a professional tournament you need to qualify and that is no easy task in itself. Local tournaments are the first step towards qualifying for a regional tournament and most weekends there is a fishing tournament or derby on one or more of the local lakes.

Tournaments for largemouth bass are the most popular, but in the north there are several highly competitive walleye and muskie tournaments held on a regular basis each year. Striped bass, catfish and crappie also have big money tournaments. In the north there are numerous ice fishing tournaments and ice fishing derbies held during the winter ice fishing season.

Anyone wondering about the quality of fishing available on their local lakes needs to attend a weigh-in at one of these tournaments. Seeing the numbers of fish caught, quality of the fish and the intense level of competition at these local tournaments is simply amazing and it will reassure you that there are plenty of fish for you to catch no matter what level you fish at.

If you want to get involved with tournament fishing here are some good tips. Review your equipment including the boat, trailer and tow vehicle to make sure they will qualify and handle the travel that tournament competition will put on them. Make sure your live-wells are in good working order. You will often travel a long distance for pre-fishing before the tournament. Nothing can ruin your tournament experience more than having equipment problems when you are trying to compete.

Some of the big lakes may be unsuitable for your boat. Your choice of lakes to compete on should be compatible with your equipment. For your first few tournaments, pick lakes you are familiar with and that are close to where you live. This will cut down on travel and costs. Don’t try to fish too many tournaments in the first year, set realistic goals and let the first few events be a learning experience.

Consider the different types of tournaments available to fish. The basic is a draw or individual tournament, where you fish on your own, even though you may be in another angler’s boat. There are team tournaments, where you pick a fishing partner and you work together to bring in a limit of fish.

In choosing an event you also need to consider what it will cost for you to fish the tournament. Entry fee, big fish pot, launch fees, special stickers and an out-of-state fishing license should be included. If you fish from another angler’s boat, expect to fish from the back seat, make sure you know what your share of the expenses are before the tournament and don’t bring every piece of fishing gear you own. Generally, the boat owner controls where and how you will fish and discussing strategies before the tournament starts can avoid hard feelings.

If you are not an aspiring tournament professional and would just like to get in on a little competitive angling, try fishing some of the local tournaments. Most will have relatively low entry fees and are a great learning experience. So come on out, fish with your son, daughter, spouse or friend and weigh in your catch on stage and enjoy the excitement of the moment.