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Bass Fishing Tournament Etiquette

Paul Bruessow

Bass fishing in tournaments doesn't seem like a sport in which "proper etiquette" really means much. I've fished many bass tournaments in Florida and found out through experience that it is very important.

Let's look at this bass tournament scenario. You get up early in the morning preparing for your fishing trip. You then drink a couple cups of coffee, light up a cigarette and take care the 3 s's before you hitch up your boat. Once on the road you have a nice conversation with your "draw" partner on where you're going to start and what you're gonna throw so you guys can catch loads of fish in your favorite honey hole.

By the end of the tournament, you weigh in your fish and manage to get 5th place! Lucky for you, the tournament had enough entries to pay all the way to 7th place. You are real happy until a few of the guys give you the "bird" and say some unpleasant things to you. Then you think, "What's their problem?"

It isn't until you partner says he's getting a ride home with someone else and starts taking his tackle out of your boat that you start thinking it maybe something you did.

Let's replay the tournament day.

Early that morning you get up a little late 'cause you forgot to set your alarm clock. Once on the road, you swing by to pick up your partner. He asks why you didn't call him telling him you would be a little late and you respond: "I didn't have time!" You also tell him that you're swinging by the gas station and he needs to fill up the boat and truck since you make the boat and insurance payments. You emphasize that it's normal for the "draw" partner to do this.

You finally get to the boat launch area and wait patiently in the line of trucks to launch your boat. You leave your lights on so anyone coming behind you will see you. When you get to the front of the line you and your partner exit the truck, and start boat launch preparation. You put in the drain plug, take off your transom saver, pull of your safety straps, put in your boat lights, etc, etc. About 10 minutes later, your partner finally start backing you and the boat down the ramp. The sky is starting to light up from the early morning sun. The two trucks behind you start to honk their horns! You shout back, "You shoulda got here earlier!"

The boat is finally launched, you beach the boat and pick up your partner. The tournament director had already started to call the boats' numbers out as many of them were already going down the lake. Your boat number had already been called, and there were about 20 other boats still waiting, so you quickly take off leaving a huge wake right in the middle of the waiting boats.

As you approach your fishing hole, you see another boat sitting right on your spot! The spot is a bulrush line which is loaded with bedding fish, but it's only about 30 yards long. You are real anxious so you don't get off plane until your right on the weedline. You quickly lower your trolling motor, pick up your bedding fish rig and start pitching the pockets and points along the bulrush patch. Your partner is doing the same thing, in fact he gets the 1st fish -- around 2 pounds -- and you tell him to swing it in like a "real" man.

The other boat doesn't have an anchor down nor have his trolling motor up so you edge to within 20 feet of his boat and as you do you get your 1st fish on. You yell at your partner to get the net and he quickly scoops up your nice 2 pound fish. You give him a high five for a nice netjob!

On the 1st pass, you noticed that the fish were getting spooked from their beds as you approached, so you decide to try to keep the boat outside of the weedline, with the nose of the boat pointing towards the weeds, and the back of the boat out in the main lake. You figure this tactic will keep 'em from spooking.

By about 10 AM, you have your limit and the tactic of keeping the back of the boat out of the weeds paid off. Your partner still only has one fish, but you think that he just doesn't know how to fish. He then asks you if he can share the front deck of the boat with you and you tell him no, there's no room and he'll mess up your hookset.

About noon, you've culled a few fish but can't seem to get a nice kicker fish. You see the other boat land a nice one, so you put your trolling motor on high and take the inside track in the bulrush patch right in front of the other boat. You're about 30 feet from the other boat, but buried up in the bulrush patch, scouting for bigger fish. You see a nice one -- about 4 pounds -- on a bed. The fish doen't seem to want anything as you toss just about everything in your tacklebox at it. Finally, you tie on a tube bait and "Wam" the 4 pounder hits, your partner quickly nets it and into the live well it goes.

You only have 30 minutes to go and to play it safe you decide to go. You fire up the big motor right in the middle of the weeds and take off, sending a nice wake into the other boat.

You get to the weigh-in with about 25 minutes left and beach it. You kick back waiting for the director while your partner takes off for the nearest restroom.

OK, so my story is a little extreme but lets look at the missing etiquette:

  1. Always leave on time. Your partner won't worry and you'll get to the ramp and not hold up anyone.
  2. Turn off your headlights while waiting in the launch line. Keep your parking lights on. This will prevent you from blinding the person that is backing the boat down the ramp!
  3. Prepare for boat lauch long before you get to the front of the line. This will speed up the entire launch process for everyone.
  4. Never plane right in the middle of a bunch of boats. You need to get beyond the last standing boat before you take off on plane.
  5. Always give some room to another boat even if they don't have their trolling motor up/anchor down especially if they are there first. In the scenario above, you should only respectfully fish the furthest bulrush from the boat that is there or maybe not even fish there at all until he leaves. At least ask if he minds if you do decide to share the spot with him. If he says yes, you are way better off in the long run to leave. Your day will come!
  6. Always net fish (if allowed by the tournament) and don't wait for the partner to ask you to get the net. If your partner prefers you not to net the fish, he'll tell you.
  7. Always be considerate of your partner's fishing position. In this scenarion, he didn't stand a chance because he was too far away to site fish! Offer him a chance at the front of the boat. In fact most tournaments (not the pro-ams) state they have 50% share in running the trolling motor. At least ask, and if he refuses because he's not comfortable running it then fine.
  8. Fish until the last possible minute with a slight safety factor unless you have a large limit of fish, especially if your draw partner isn't doing well. In this scenario, give your partner the full front of the boat and let him choose his spots.
  9. Draw partners should only pay 50% of the fuel bill for both the tow vehicle and boat. If they drove to the ramp themselves, then they need only pay 50% of the boat fuel.

If you follow these bass fishing tips, you'll have a better relationship with all the fishing community!

About The Author
20 years as a avid bass fisherman in Florida fishing local and club tournaments. Websites: and

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