By Steve Graf
In the world of sports, they say competition makes everybody better. It brings out the best in an athlete who has a competitive fire trying to earn his spot on the team. But in the world of tournament bass fishing, this may not be the case. While having too many athletes is usually not a problem, having too many fishing circuits can be. Today, anglers are faced with a plethora of bass trails to follow. Let’s take a look at the factors that help an angler decide what they are going to fish and why.
In our part of the country, we call the Ark-La-Tex, the issue of what to fish has reared its ugly head. Anglers in this region have no shortage of tournament trails to choose from. But as we all know, there are basically only four weekends in a month and anglers are having to pick and choose what trails they want to follow. So just how many trails are there? At my last count, I came up with 17 different organizations, all of which offer great incentives to fish. So how do anglers today decide what trail or trails they are going to follow?
It usually comes down to economics and the costs involved. First, anglers look at what lakes the trail is going to. Next, they look at how far the destination is for each tournament. Are the tournaments close to home or will they have to travel hours for each event? What’s the entry fee for each event? Higher level tournament trails usually require higher entry fees. Fees can range from $200 up to $1500 depending on the circuit. Other factors include how much it will cost for hotel or private accommodations, food expenses, and gasoline costs for both the truck and the boat.
Then they look at how competitive do they think they can be in a particular circuit. Can they realistically compete with the anglers fishing a specific trail? This is a major factor since some trails draw a higher level of fishermen than others. Every angler just wants to be competitive or at least have a decent shot at collecting a check to help offset expenses.
With all this being said, there are presently 17 bass fishing tournament trails in this region and there are just not enough fishermen to go around. One thing that continues to set all tournament circuits apart is what is called “guaranteed” payback. This means that if a trail is offering $20,000 guaranteed for first place, anglers tend to flock to that kind of payback rather than a circuit that’s offering $20,000 based on the “number of boats” that show up. Guaranteed tournaments will always outdraw a tournament that has a payback based on the number of boats.
So, what circuits will probably survive out of the 17 offered? It’s hard to say because each one has its own dedicated group of anglers that will stay loyal. It’s not necessarily the tournament trail they’re loyal to, but rather it’s the tournament director. Tournament directors who take the time to get to know their anglers and build a relationship stand a greater chance of their circuit surviving. Anglers can be a very loyal bunch, but only if they enjoy the trail they are fishing and feel a connection to the director. However, one thing is clear. Not all 17 tournament trails will survive. There are simply just not enough weekends in a month for all of them to make it. Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget your sunscreen and good protective clothing.