So you have been catching a lot of bass and think you might like to test your skills against others. The only problem is you don’t have 60,000 dollars for a boat, and equipment there is a way to fish tournaments for much less money and still have success. First off, find a local club with fees that fit your budget, or find some like-minded friends to start your own club. Starting by fishing 100 boat shows is probably not going to give you the success you will need to keep you motivated to continue. Getting yourself in a financial hole can derail a fishing career before it has a chance to start so you will need to make smart decisions on what equipment is necessary and what you can do without. This will vary from angler to angler but here are some suggestions.
When setting your budget keep in mind you will need the support of your friends and family so don’t overdo it. You can adjust it after you have some success. Even high-dollar operations with lots of sponsor money have to make sacrifices so be prepared to do the same. Saving some money for a rainy day is a good idea, there will be repairs and other surprise expenses its best to be ready for that. Remember to enjoy the experience win lose or draw even Kevin doesn’t win every time. Learn from every experience of yours and others don’t be afraid to share with others so they might share info with you. Being a nice guy is a good way to get ahead without it costing much. Be helpful around the ramp and weigh-ins. experienced fisherman are much more likely to tell you helpful stories if you treat them with respect. Don’t be a jerk even if you win you won’t be attractive to sponsors without being good with people. Let’s talk about your equipment.
Boat: This will be your biggest expense and most important decision. Choosing a club that fishes smaller lakes can be a good way to keep this expense in check as a smaller slower boat won’t handicap you too much if the lakes are small. An economical choice is a 14 foot flat bottom on lakes under a couple thousand acres, and they can be very functional. You might even be able to get to water others are not willing to take their 50,000 dollars boats into. I have won many tournaments this very way. If you are choosing to fish big water a used boat might be the way to go. Plan to start looking long before you need the boat as to get the best price. Boat maintenance is not a place to skimp it will often come back to bite you at the worst time if you neglect your boat. There is a big trend towards green tournaments with electric motors only and these can be a good way to get the experience at a much lower cost. There is also a big sense of accomplishment beating the big rigs with your little dingy it happens more than you might think. Don’t overlook a used fish and ski as they tend to sell at a lower price, and the price might be better accepted by your family if you can show them some fun once in a while.
Motors: A used motor can serve you well for many years but you must be careful. It is very risky to buy without seeing a motor run, don’t take the chance without some kind of guarantee. Be wary of motors that need repair often a repair cost more than the motor itself. The best value seems to be when someone upgrades as they need to get rid of the old unit fast to cover the cost of their new one. Again start your search early and in the off season when prices can be 50% less than in the middle of summer. Learning to do basic repairs and maintenance yourself can save a lot since boat mechanics are expensive and always seem to be busy when you need one. Now let’s talk trolling motors this is where you will spend most of your time as the electric motor will be running much more than the gas one. This is where size really does matter if you don’t have enough power fishing will become a chore. Used electrics are fine as long as you have the power you need this will vary depending on current, wind and size of the boat. A used motor that is big enough is better than a new underpowered unit.
Electronics: Though not entirely essential electronics are a very helpful tool. When money is a concern there are many units that do all the needed functions at a low price. Many of the really higher-priced units have features you won’t use anyway. Even at the $100 to $200 price range you get all that you need and more. Depth and temp are probably what I use most but, if you fish deep and vertical a higher priced unit might be in order A low-priced computer is a good way to start as you can easily sell it to upgrade if you decide to later.
Rods: this is an area that you can save a lot of money without having to sacrifice much in performance. Though there are many off brands that may work there are some solid pieces that will surely serve you well for a long time at very affordable prices with names you can trust. Berkley has been making the lightning rods for a long time, and they always do a good job for the money even under the abuse of tournament fishing. A newer player in the affordable rod market is Okuma, we have tried several and have been impressed with the value. Personally, I would rather have 3 lightning rods than have to rely on one more expensive rod because if you break a rod during a tournament you can’t just run to the store to replace it. If your budget is really tight you will find you get better performance from a cheaper spinning rig than you can from a cheap baitcasting rig. Again, I would have to say off season sales can give you a chance to upgrade BPS store brand sales offer quality equipment at a price that is hard to beat. At the very least buying a rod in the $35 to $65 will give you a good idea of what action and size of rod you might want to put on your dream rod list.
Reels: If your preference leans toward spinning gear you can get more bang for your buck than baitcasting, but at some point you will want both. Shimano offers some decent spinning combos for as little as $20. I have bought several of these for first timers to use when they visit with good success. In the $100 range you can often find some very nice spinning reels, but on the other hand we have found that with baitcasting reels to get the best value they start near $100. If you plan on fishing a few times a week baitcasters priced much under that didn’t last very well. We did a $100 reel shoot-out and there were a couple of clear favorites the BPS Pro qualifier was first with the Pflueger Trion second. Try to get your friends to let you try their reels to give you a better idea of what you’re going to want.
Lures: This is where the store brands really can save a lot. From spinner baits to plastic worms you are likely to find a store brand that is pretty close to many of the big-name lure makers at a lower price. It might not be a good idea to buy from the clearance rack unless it is something that you were looking for anyway. Save the space in your box and budget for things you are certain to use. A sure good value in crankbaits are offered by Cotton Cordell the rattle spot is one of my favorites at any price, and it is only $3. BPS has many of the classic hard and soft lures that are good quality at a savings
There may be many ways to save money when tournament fishing but the key has to be looking for good value. Anything that is bought and not used is a waste of money as is anything that breaks when you need it most. Remember it’s not what you have as much as what you do with what you have. For 2 years I fished out of a 14-foot boat with a used motor and won team of the year and one of my biggest wins I left my box in the truck and only had a handful of lures to use. If you don’t try to fish tournaments you will never know how you might do so get your gear together and give it a try you might just be the next KVD.
- 55lb Thrust Minn Kota & Humminbird PiranhaMax 150 – $530
- 2012 Tracker Topper 1542 LW Rivited Jon – $1,100
- Used 25hp – $1,000
- Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier – $100
- Berkley Lightning Rod – $50
- Shimano Spinning Kit – $20
- Line for Baitcasting – $10
- Tackle – $75 w/ box
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