Picking the right circuit to fish as a tournament angler is half the battle, maybe even more than half. But before you can pick the right circuit, you have to think about why you fish tournaments and what you want to get out of the sport of bass fishing.
Let's say you're not all that serious. Sure, you like to bass fish, but what you really want to do is have somewhere to go on Saturdays and hang out with your friends. There's nothing wrong with that. Different people fish for different reasons. That's the beauty of this sport. If that's your thing, all you need is a local lake or river where your friends fish as a group. It's about having a good time. Why worry about how big the fish are or how many you can catch. Find an affordable fruit jar club and go have some fun.
On the other hand, if you're looking to win (and maybe make a little money), you'll want to find a group that fishes a big lake within a reasonable driving distance of your home where there's a lot of opportunity. You can fish that circuit, learn the water, and then fish other tournaments on that same body of water. That's a good way to fish several tournaments a year and pick up a few dollars at the same time ... if you're good enough.
An excellent example of what I'm talking about is Kentucky Lake. You can fish a club or circuit on it that only goes there and then enter all kinds of other tournaments on it. I'm guessing there's a tournament every weekend on Kentucky Lake, 52 weeks a year. The same thing is true on any number of other big, legendary lakes around the country. If you want to travel and fish new water around the country, find a group that does that sort of thing and go for it. That's a great way to have fun and increase your fishing skills at the same time. Just don't think it's going to be profitable. It isn't.
For those of you looking towards a pro or semi-pro career, your choices are very different. You'll want to fish all kinds of water, during all the different seasons and weather conditions, and fish against the very best anglers you can find. You can fish at the serious amateur, semi-pro or pro level through the Federation Nation and other B.A.S.S. sanctioned events. You can also fish the Bassmaster Opens. Either choice will give you what you want.
Keep your eyes open when you do this, however. Your expectations should be realistic. There are lots of really good anglers out there. When you first start fishing at this level it'll be tough. You'll get beat a lot more often than you win. In return for that, however, you'll learn to fish. That's your goal, so you'll have no reason to complain. Take your medicine and move on.
I want to say something else about this fishing game at its highest levels. Be careful about fishing the same lake, river or part of the country all the time, winning a lot of tournaments and then thinking you're good. Anybody can learn one lake. The best can fish anywhere at any time. Don't forget that.
Next time we'll talk about how to break a new lake or river down into parts — one you've never seen, much less fished — that are manageable. It's an essential skill for any angler wanting to be competitive.
Editor's Note: Mark Davis is one of the great tournament strategists in professional bass fishing. He has excelled across hundreds of tournaments against the best bass fisherman at every level of competition. In our Master Series on Tournament Tactics, Davis will share his ideas, philosophies and strategies for putting together winning days on the water.