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Your Guide to Tournament Fishing, by a First Year Tournament Angler

Choices to be Made
Jerry Corbett

            How do you get started fishing tournaments in the great state of Oklahoma?  Get on the Internet?  Go to the boat show?  Just show up?  Actually, yes!  The great anglers in the state of Oklahoma are blessed with many great choices for tournaments.  One of the reasons is the fact we have beautiful and scenic lakes all around us.  Another reason, we have lots of people interested in fishing and everyone knows if there is a demand someone will eventually supply.  So lets start of by looking at how to choose what tournament will suit your personal needs.

            What kind of fisherman are you?  Do you want to enjoy the company of fellow anglers who just like to make it out to the lake to go fishing?  Are you looking to learn more about the sport of bass fishing?  Are you a seasoned angler looking for a new challenge?  Luckily for everyone there is a place for you here in our great tournament state.

            First, if you are looking to make it out to the lake and enjoy sometime on the water and wouldnít mind to raise the stakes a little, just in case you end up with a good days catch, you could always try a jackpot tournament.  Most lakes have jackpot tournaments during the weekdays starting in the early evening hours and ending at dark.  These tournaments normally have ten to twenty boats and maybe even as many as thirty boats, but it is much more laid back and more of a friendly competition style of bass fishing.

            If you are looking for a way to learn how to compete and what the rules for a tournament day are, you could always look into fishing as a co-angler or a non-boater.  Many tournament trails have a pro-am style format that allows a novice angler a chance to get a feel for what bass tournament competition is all about.  One of many of these type tournaments is the Walmart Bass Fishing League (BFL)<.  Entry fees for these types of tournaments are half of what the angler or boater pays.  The co-anglers fish against the co-anglers and the anglers fish against the anglers.  The co-angler fishes from the back of the boat and can concentrate on his or her fishing style and learn some important things from the angler in the front of the boat.  One of the downsides to this is the fact that fishing from the anglers boat the angler has all the control and makes the decisions of where to go and how to fish once you arrive.  Now, that may sound bad but the good thing about this is you donít have the pressure of making the decisions and you donít really have to worry about a bad day on the lake because you didnít call the shots.  Although, there should be some helpful hints passed along to the angler and they can decide from your information and the information that they have what to do.  But at the end of the day you canít hold the angler responsible for what happened because they wanted to catch fish just like you did, it just doesnít always turn out that way.  Thatís why the call it fishing and not catching.

            For you seasoned veterans out there that may have moved in from out of state or just laying low for a time, the competition is there if you can handle it!  You can choose from a team tournament trail, like the Jimmy Houston Outdoor Tournament Trail (JHOTT)<, or you can fish as an angler, boater, or pro, in one of the other great tournament trails out there.  The competition is intense and the anglers take a great deal of effort in pre-fishing and planning tournament day strategy.  Just an example of some of the competitors on the JHOTT this year; Tommy Biffle (2 time Bassmaster Classic Runner-up and FLW pro), Sam Newby (FLW pro and FLW $200,000 winner at Lake Champlain), and many other proís such as Harmon Davis, Allen Head, Jim Carnell and many, many more.  With great anglers like that the competition is sure to be tough and intense.    

            Finally, we cannot forget the grassroots of bass fishing, the bass clubs.  Oklahoma has many bass clubs to choose from, anything from a BASS federation club to a number of special interest fishing clubs or even private company fishing clubs.  Many of these clubs allow the members to not only fish a small tournament trail against other club members, but they also get involved in the community and provide support for young anglers that are needed for this great activity to continue.

            Now, how do you find all these tournament options that you can choose from?  You can go to the boat showís, held every year in many of the cities and towns across the state and just look around, they are everywhere.  Tournament fliers and announcements with the rules, payback and entry information just waiting to be dropped into the mail.  Is it really that simple you ask?  Yes, it is, all you have to do is fill out the appropriate information and send your membership dues and the entry fee for the tournaments that you want to participate in, and then just show up.  Most tournament trails now have pre-tournament meetings the night before the tournament so you may check to see if these are mandatory, but many give away draw prizes and explain possible rule changes and hand out flight numbers and boat numbers.  You can also get on the Internet and check out what the tournaments have to offer and compare which ones will work out the best for your situation.  OklahomaBassFishing.com has many of the tournaments available on the website, just scroll down and click on the Tournament Trails Index and the left side of your screen. 

            Here in Oklahoma we are blessed with some great opportunities to compete in bass tournaments.  The only question is, what tournament trail is going to suit the needs and wants of your competitive bass fishing fire?

Take it easy, and good fishing!

Jerry (okiebassin) Corbett