There is a bass tournament on a Kawarthan lake every weekend throughout the summer.
Some are friendly 6-12 boat local bass club get-togethers, others are high-stakes Pro/Am events with over $50,000 on the line. If you love fishing AND have a competitive bone in your body you will very likely enjoy fishing bass tournaments. For more information on how to get involved and some tips, read on.
Do as I say, not an I do. My first bass tournament was on the Tri-Lakes and the blast off was at the Bridgenorth Causeway. I remember it well, and our plan was to run 50 kilometres to Big Bald Lake where I fished all my childhood years at our family cottage. Surely we would do well. In fact, the fishing was tough and we only caught one legal sized (12” or greater) bass and finished near the bottom of the 60 boat field. We basically threw away the $300 entry fee plus a rather large gas bill and boating expenses. Don’t do this! Instead start out small and work your way up. You will learn faster and have a lot more fun in the process.
The best way to get started in tournament bass fishing is to join your local fishing club.
Two that I belong to is the Kawartha Lakes Fishing Club in Little Britain (Fishing League Worldwide FLW affiliated) and the Peterborough Bassmasters (Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society BASS affiliated). You don’t have to join a club close to the lakes you want to fish, there are clubs throughout Ontario and it is best to join the one closest to your home. Through the local club, you will meet anglers new and experienced, and attend monthly meetings over the winter to talk fishing and make club decisions. As a newbie, it is best to join and fish the first couple years as a non-boater. Even if you have a beautiful new bass boat, don’t bring it. Being a non-boater means before each event you are randomly selected to fish with one of the experienced members out of their boat. You will learn more in one year of fishing out of the back of an experienced angler’s boat than you would fishing bass tournaments for 10 years. You learn simple things like what rods and reels to use, what fishing line and knots that are best, what lures to use for different situations, how to find fish, what kind of cover to look for to catch truly large bass, rules and edict of the sport and lots more. Fishing in the back of the boat is a great learning experience and a lot cheaper than spending thousands of dollars on tournament entry fees.
At a club, your costs for the year would be about $100 for a yearly membership and $50 or $60 for each club tournament you fish. Considering how expensive boats and gas are these days, this is a true bargain. Club tournaments are about having fun first, and competition second. It is 100% the best way to get started in tournament bass fishing.
Once you’ve spent a couple years fishing in the “back of the boat” and you feel you are ready to take on the big boys there are numerous options around the Kawarthas.
There are one-off “Open Style” tournaments held by bass clubs or by local organizations. Tournaments like the Peterborough Bassmasters Rice Lake Open held opening day weekend, the Joey Mansholt Open on Sturgeon Lake on Canada day weekend, the Emerald Isle Bass Tournament held mid-September, the Stoney Lake Combo held the weekend after Emerald Isle and many many more. Open tournaments allow you to get your feet wet without committing to a full circuit throughout the summer.
The other option is to fish a tournament circuit like the ones run by for-profit companies like the Competitive Sport Fishing League (CSFL), Top Bass or FLW Canada. These three companies run 50-100 boat tournaments with entry fees starting at $200 and going up to $1,000 depending on how serious you want to take this hobby. You typically fish a circuit and try to qualify for a year-end “classic” or “championship”. Money is held back all season from entry fees to pay a large purse at the year-end events. Winning the classic takes years of experience and dedication; something all long-term competitive anglers strive for.
And lastly, if you want more information on getting started fishing tournaments go visit your local tackle store owner. Frank Latham at Bridgenorth Sports & Marine answered all my questions when I was just starting out and gave me lots of helpful suggestions. Otherwise, contact the club or organizations listed below.
One word of caution; don’t think of this as a way to make a living winning bass tournaments. Very few can make that claim. Think of it more as your sport/hobby with the potential to pay you a few bucks once in a while if you have a good weekend.
Good luck and hope to see you on one or all the tournament trails someday!