If you watched ESPN last weekend the first major Bass tournament (the Bassmaster Classic) is in the books and if you follow walleye fishing you know that the first major walleye tournament of the year (MWC Spring Valley) starts later this month. If the coverage of either event seems even a bit exciting you should think about entering a fishing tournament this year.
Since you do not need a boat, Ice Fishing tournaments make a great starting point in competitive fishing. Some of these tournaments (like the recent Evergreen Lake Derby) do not require more than a license plus a rod, line, and lure.
This time of year, though, look towards the local Bass and Walleye Clubs (coloradoTBF.com, coloradobassmasters.com, cowalleye.com) for an excellent jump into smaller tournaments. These clubs can align non-boaters with boaters, have lower entry fees, and a offer a very social way to enter the sport. These clubs also offer a few meetings a year with guest speakers, banquets, dinners, and other events to help anglers learn while having fun. Entry fees start at $50 and go up to $200 or more per team per event. This may sound like a large number when compared to a regular “free” day of fishing but when compared to a round of golf, a ski day, or other weekend activity these fees seem like a bargain.
The big tournament groups (flw.com, bassmaster.com , aimfishing.com, nationalwalleyetour.com, masterswalleyecircuit.com) cost more to enter ($650+) but also offer larger payouts ($20k+). The Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) came to Pueblo Reservoir last year and had a great turnout of local and regional boats in an event that was televised on the NBC Sports Channel (http://masterswalleyecircuit.com/2012-mwc-videos/). Until this tournament Colorado and the West was largely skipped over for major events. The Pueblo Tournament for 2013 has been set for May 17-19 and offers an outstanding chance to see the best in action and jump into the sport without driving 900 miles east or west.
If you think you are a good angler do your homework and enter a few events this year. Local angler Eric Ewing did just that and finished in the top 15 of two events last year on the old FLW Walleye tour putting his smiling face on TV multiple times and earning enough to pay for much more than just travel expenses.
What do you learn by entering a tournament? Well, you have a chance to compare your skills to the best on the lake for that day. This pressure and excitement exposes weakness in your abilities and can really motivate a team to learn new skills. Suddenly boat control, hooksets and netting become vastly more important than a casual day on the water. Putting that fish into the livewell and later on the scale and eventually the leaderboard offers its own thrill as well. In the end, you are part of the drama not just watching it.
As for me, I’m pairing with Nathan Zelinsky to enter two MWC events, Spring Valley and Pueblo. We leave this weekend for the Illinois river while Pueblo is May 17-19. You can follow the results on Facebook through Tightline Outdoors and at http://tightlineoutdoors.com/.
Eric Ewing at the 2012 FLW Walleye weigh-in at Lake Oahe.