The two sides of tournament fishing

The sport of tournament fishing offers many options of trails that an angler may participate in. But to fish more than one tournament trail is very draining, both mentally and physically. Most people think that bass fishing is a very relaxing sport. This might be true for the weekend warrior or all the crappie fishermen, but not for anglers that compete on a high level. There are times that tournaments seem to take all the fun out of fishing, as it turns into work. To be successful on any tournament trail, local or regional, you must be committed to time on the water. It’s just like any other sport…those that put in the extra time, are the ones that will be the most successful.

Tournament fishing takes a big toll on the body, especially after the age of 60. Based on my experience, it takes a little longer to recover from 5 or 6 straight days on the water. Even in good weather conditions with little to no wind, boat rides take their toll on the body. Some lakes are worse than others and present a big challenge even for the youngest of anglers. Lakes like Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn or Texoma (north of Dallas) take boating to a whole other level. Each lake is laid out differently, but for Toledo Bend a wind straight out of the south or north means 3- and 4-foot waves. At Toledo Bend we call this “right down the pipe,” a direction you don’t want to see, especially on tournament day. For Sam Rayburn, high winds out the southeast or northwest mean a rough ride and can be very hard on a boat. I’ve seen waves so bad that anglers have had their trolling motors or electronic units knocked completely off the bow. I’ve seen anglers break bones and dislocate joints, not to mention the number of back injuries I’ve seen. Shoulder and knee surgeries, inflamed elbows and wrist issues are just a few of injuries that are common among anglers.

Now let’s talk about the mental side of tournament fishing, which can be even tougher than the physical side. A lot of preparation goes into getting ready for an event. The internet has really created a great shortcut for information that’s important for each body of water. You can find previous tournament results, old and new fishing reports, and maps, not to mention the amount of info you can gain from YouTube videos. No one likes to brag more about their catch than bass fishermen and that’s where Google Earth, Facebook and YouTube videos will take your research to another level. Once on the water, you must apply what you’ve learned, but you can’t totally rely on this information to put you on the winning stringer. You must take this info and apply it to what you learn each day during your practice time. Very seldom can an angler repeat what another angler did to win an event. That’s why the sport is so mentally draining; you can’t always do what someone else has done. What the fish bite today, will not necessarily be what they’re biting tomorrow. Every day is a new day when it comes to bass fishing, but that’s what makes tournament fishing such a great sport. Most of the time, it’s unpredictable!

As you can see, tournament fishing is tough, but it can also be very rewarding, financially and emotionally. Nothing like the feeling of beating some of the best anglers in your region! Tournament fishermen are like a small cult or a band of gypsies…a group of anglers that have great respect for each other but can’t wait to kick the other’s butt at the next event. It’s a brotherhood of anglers who are stubborn, quirky, and intelligent, but most of all … competitive. To all my angling buddies, I look forward to the 2022 bass fishing season. Happy holidays everyone!

Steve Graf