Swapping teammates

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B.A.S.S.

“The camaraderie in these events seems intensified by the competition, and vice versa.”

Fifty years ago, when B.A.S.S. began conducting tournaments, some people opposed them, saying, “Fishing ought to be contemplative, not competitive.”

Those people never fished a tournament like I’m about to describe.

Over the past five years, I have been enjoying a form of competition that gets the juices flowing for me more than any other. It’s a tournament among close friends that is patterned after the old MegaBucks tournaments, and it’s one anyone can enjoy.

Here’s how our version works: Six friends gather to spend a couple of days fishing on a small, well-stocked lake. We fish as teammates, two to a boat. The lake is divided into three sections, and the tournament is divided into six sessions. We swap partners after each session so that everyone fishes with everyone else at least once.

Just before “blastoff” for each session, we draw numbers out of a hat, with Team 1 getting first pick of the three holes. We weigh each bass, record its weight and release it. At the end of each three-hour session, each team tallies its five heaviest bass and announces the score at a “weigh-in” back at the dock.

The team with the heaviest five bass gets 3 points, the second heaviest total earns 2 points and third place gets 1. Then we rotate teammates and draw to pick our next fishing holes.

Records are kept of each person’s finishes. If I am part of teams that get two firsts, three seconds and one third, my final score will be 13. Someone else might get three firsts and three seconds for 15 points.

You can fish for money, prizes or just a traveling trophy that the winner keeps until next year’s tournament.

The format works great on a small lake, but it can be adapted easily to sections of a large public lake, too.

Fishing as a teammate with one of your friends adds to the fun. You celebrate your partner’s catches, even though you know he’ll be competing against you later in the day. The outcome is determined to some extent by each individual’s fishing skills, but the choice of holes has a lot to do with it. In previous years, less-experienced anglers have come out on top.

Most of the people reading this column have never fished a tournament, and only a couple of the guys in my group are tournament anglers. But, trust me, you’ll never fish harder or smarter in an average fishing outing than you will in one of these teammate-swapping derbies.

I’m blessed to have been able to fish some of the finest lakes in the country, and I’ve lucked into some banner days over the years. But I’ve never had more fun than I do in these annual tournaments, even when the fish aren’t cooperating the way they should.

The camaraderie in these events seems intensified by the competition, and vice versa. We have become extremely close friends over the years.

Others in my group feel the same way I do. One of them underwent major surgery a few months ago and was driven to get better in time for our upcoming tournament. The thought of missing our annual derby was more painful than anything he might endure in rehab.

I’m sure there are other ways to add the competitive element to our favorite sport. If you’ve tried another format, I’d love to hear about it. Email me at editorial@bassmaster.com and share your insights.