When I decided to become a professional angler, there weren't any classes I could take or coaches I could hire to help me learn the craft. I was destined to sink or swim by trial and error while I got my education on the water trying to compete against the best of the best.
Without a doubt tournament fishing changed my life for the better. I wouldn't be where I am today without the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat that are part of the competitive fishing world. I'm often asked how and why I continue to do it. My answer is simple: How can I not be a tournament fisherman?
There are just about as many reasons to get involved in competitive angling as there are jigs in my boat, and that's a lot. But I have a few favorite reasons why tournament fishing makes so much sense for everyone from the novice to the advanced.
We are never too old to learn something new. Tournament fishing keeps me on the cutting edge of new tactics and new products. You also learn a great deal about fish behavior when you have to be on the water in all sorts of conditions at all times of the year.
The competitive scene also forces an angler to expand his or her comfort zone. You'll find yourself analyzing new bodies of water and applying the experience you've already gained. You'll be forced to hunt for fish instead of diving into the pack with everyone else on the same old lake or river.
You'll also find yourself trying new baits and new presentations or anything that might give you an edge over the competition. You'll see where the top finishing anglers are fishing, and you'll usually hear why and how, as well.
One of the greatest benefits of tournament fishing is the friendships you form. Most of my best friends have come from the tournament arena and I’m certain there are more to follow!!!
And, of course, there is that competitive fire that burns within. Tournament fishing has given me an opportunity to fan that fire and validate myself.
These days, there are dozens of opportunities to join the tournament scene.
You might start as a co-angler on the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour , FLW or BASS where you are paired with a different professional each day of the event.
When you're ready to take the next step, many smaller local and regional events feature divisions for adults, youth, men and women. From there, there's no better circuit for learning the secrets of the Mississippi River than the Walleye Anglers Trail .
The Masters Walleye Circuit and the Crappie Masters are big league tournament trails for two-person teams. AIM is a great venue with the CRR (Catch-Record-Release) format that allows a tournament to be held on bodies of water that most circuits don’t travel to. The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour is the big leagues with big prize money at stake.
It's true that most tournaments come with entry fees. Once you are established, maybe you can pursue some sponsorship. In the meantime, look at it as an investment in your education. Actually, the tuition is pretty cheap.
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