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

A Path to Professional Tournament Bass Angling

Pro-staff Contributor: Rich Lindgren

Many enthusiastic anglers often see professional anglers on television and are intrigued by the potential of fishing as a career path.  At the same time, most people have no idea what it takes to be a professional bass tournament angler.  Beyond the long hours and thousands of miles of travel every year, it is not the easiest profession to break into.  For the major circuits, like FLW Tour and Bassmasters Elite Series, there are qualification requirements.

Fish your Way to the Top

Rich at TBF Tournament

Rich at TBF Tournament

The most important step to take on your way to professional angling is to get out on the water. Along with doing this outside of tournaments, participating as a co-angler in the FLW EverStart, FLW Tour or Opens is a great way to get exposure to new lakes and different fishing techniques from extremely good anglers. But with the reward, you also run the risk of running into a boater that will back boat you—meaning they position the boat in a way that makes it impossible for you to cast to a spot. With this in mind, when you fish as a co-angler you need to go into the tournament just looking to learn something new rather than looking to get the biggest bite.

For each tour there are different levels to start out at, but let’s assume you are just getting started.  And for simplicity let’s focus on the FLW Tour side of the sport.  The first tournament stepping stones for the FLW Tour would be hosted by your local TBF Bass Club and the BFL that have divisions all over the United States.  These are for the most part single-day weekend events. These tournaments can qualify you for regional and national events—ultimately helping you build a name for yourself and win money to invest in larger tournaments.  As an alternative, BASS comparable events are the Bassmaster Weekend Series and BASS Nation tournaments.

Once you succeed in these events, the next level tournaments are the FLW Everstart Series and Bassmaster Opens—these are comparable to Triple A baseball leagues.  Once you succeed at these levels, you can move onto the Tour level or the Majors. This is where the money and time commitment increase, as well as the level of competition.  At the tour level, entry fees and travel expenses can easily exceed $50,000 every year just to play.  Very few anglers do this all with their own money or make a living off tournament winnings alone.

Gain Sponsorship

The second half of the tournament fishing equation is sponsorship and marketing.  To have a long successful career you must be talented and marketing savvy. By combining these assets with your angling skills you’ll be able to form mutually beneficial relationships with sponsoring companies that can assist with tournament entry fees and other expenses along the way.  As part of these sponsorships, when you’re not fishing, you will often write articles and blogs or spend time on the road fulfilling sponsor obligations at sport shows and speaking engagements.

It can be a great life—who wouldn’t want to fish for a living, right?  But behind the fishing tournaments that you see on the television on Sunday afternoon, there is a lot of work and commitment.  If you are passionate about being a tournament angler, my best advice is to start fishing as much as possible!

If you’re interested in becoming a college tournament angler be sure to check out Michaela Anderson’s blog on how to get into the tournament scene.

Rich Lindgren is a tournament bass angler living in Lakeville, MN chasing bass all over Minnesota and its adjoining states. Bass blogger, podcaster and fishing promoter. You’ll see him fishing the Minnesota bass tournament scene representing krugerfarms.com and Dobyns Rods among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@HellaBass) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/bassinblog).

Rich at EverStart Central Division Tournament

Rich at EverStart Central Division Tournament