How to Become a College Tournament Angler

Pro-staff Contributor: Michaela Anderson

There are many ways to get started fishing college tournaments. The best way is to start before you enter college by competing in small and local tournaments.  Your first tournaments should focus on lakes that you are already comfortable fishing and know well. This will allow you to remain confident while using your knowledge of different spots on the lake to adapt your strategy during the tournament—because the fish always seem to change their patterns on tournament days. Local clubs and youth programs are also a great way to start.

Michaela with her mentor, Mark Fisher.

Michaela with her mentor, Mark Fisher.

Youth & High School Fishing

For kids, youth programs offer an amazing learning experience. Now some states even have high school fishing as a varsity sport! There are a few different organizations that have state tournaments that provide kids with the opportunity to fish in regional and national tournaments in other states. The best way to find these organizations is to look for information on your DNR page, or the FLW and BASS pages, or of course you could just Google it! One other option you have is to email your local TBF contact to find out where the nearest youth club opportunities are located.

Youth tournaments provide a lot of opportunities such as college scholarships and experience traveling to fish in other states. During youth tournaments you do not need to provide your own boat—you just need to show up with a life jacket, rod and reel. The boaters become amazing mentors and help teach kids during the day out on the water. You are able to make many new friends and many connections for the future. Unfortunately, at 18 you become too old to fish the youth tournaments and you must move to adult and college tournaments.

Stepping up to College Tournament Angling

College tournaments provide a great opportunity to travel to many different lakes across the country and learn a lot about other types of fisheries. Many schools have clubs, which allow you to fish in the FLW, BASS, and Boat USA college tournaments. There are also a few schools that have bass fishing teams and some offer scholarships for fishing! Each tournament trail is run a little differently but the basic format is that you fish in the qualifying events in hopes of making it to the National Championship. These tournaments take your angling to a whole new level and test your skills on lakes across the country. It is a great way to make new friends and to establish a strong network.

Becoming a Professional

Once you graduate you have a few choices. In Minnesota, and most states I have traveled to, they have many local tournaments— you could fish a tournament every weekend if you wanted to. If you want to take a step up to another level, check out Rich Lindgren’s blog about getting started in the BASS and FLW leagues.  These tournaments will test your skills against some of the best anglers in the country—so it will give you a good idea of your competitive skill level.

One key reminder I would give you is that the best way to learn is to be out on the water. The more you get out fishing the more you will learn. Force yourself to learn new techniques and practice even the basic skills like casting. If you work hard at building your skill level, and take advantage of the resources and links I mentioned earlier—you can have a fun and rewarding experience as a college tournament angler like I have. It’s definitely worth the effort!

Michaela Anderson is a college angler fishing the FLW, B.A.S.S. College Circuits and select FLW Walmart Tour events representing krugerfarms.com, Trigger X and the University of St. Thomas. You can follow her on Twitter (@MichaelaFishing) and like her on Facebook (facebook.com/MichaelaAndersonFishing.

Michaela and her team mate, Brian, at the 2012 B.A.S.S. National Championship

Michaela and her teammate, Brian, at the 2012 B.A.S.S. National Championship

Lake of the Ozarks FLW College Tour Recap

Michaela with a bass she caught while pre-fishing Lake of the Ozarks.

Michaela with a bass she caught while pre-fishing Lake of the Ozarks.

Pro-staff Contributor: Michaela Anderson

Last weekend I competed in the first FLW College Central division qualifier on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. The field was limited to 50 college teams from the Midwest. It was a tough tournament to say the least! It took four fish, totaling 12.14 pounds, for Missouri University of Science and Tech’s team to take the win. To be in the top 15, which qualifies you for the Central Invitational in July, you needed 4.07 pounds. Unfortunately my partner and I tied for 26th because we were not able to find any keeper bass that measured at least 15 inches.

Pre-Fishing

Tournament waters go off limits the Monday before the event; so in order to prepare, we fished the waters during a long weekend prior to the event and had a lot of success. The weather was in the 50’s with water temps in the high 30’s to low 40’s in some spots. On Friday, we spent most of our time fishing secondary points with jerk baits. Later in the day I caught our biggest fish with a ghost colored, size 10, X-Rap on a brush pile in about five feet of water. This made us think that the fish may have been shallower than we expected. On Saturday, we started to key in more on this pattern. We were able to catch a limit of keepers fishing pea gravel banks around brush piles and docks. We were a little surprised to have found so many keepers on these banks because they are normally where the fish will go to spawn, but the water temps seemed too cold for that. There was a down pour all morning on Sunday, but we fished for a few hours before we had to head back home in order to make it to our classes on Monday. Even with the rain, we were able to catch three keepers in about four hours on new pea gravel banks so we were feeling pretty confident in our pattern by the time we left the lake.

Tournament

The weather leading up to the tournament was consistently in the high 60s and even reached 83 on Friday. We figured that the sunshine meant that the brush piles and banks we had found successful during the previous weekend would still be productive.  A cold front blew in on Saturday, bringing the temps down to 40 and dropping, but I was still super excited when we got to the ramp; full of optimism that we would be able to have a good day on the water. We started the day at 7:30am—hitting all the spots in which we had previously caught fish. But we soon found that we were not getting bites in these locations. We only caught two short fish out of eight key spots. We threw the same X-Rap that had worked so well in the past, as well as jigs and flutter worms around the key brush piles with no luck. After we determined that our key pattern did not stick through the week, we made a change to some steeper chunk rock banks where we had graphed huge schools of shad. We were able to catch five short fish off of these banks but could never connect with anything over 15 inches.

Unfortunately, we ended the tournament with an empty bag. But we’re looking forward to the next qualifier on May 4th at Pickwick Lake in Alabama. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress!

Michaela Anderson is a college angler fishing the FLW, B.A.S.S. College Circuits and select FLW Walmart Tour events representing krugerfarms.com, Trigger X and the University of St. Thomas. You can follow her on Twitter (@MichaelaFishing) and like her on Facebook (facebook.com/MichaelaAndersonFishing).