The 10 Best Bass Fishing Tournaments

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Split shot of the man fishing on the lake with underwater view of the fish. Focus on the fish only

Bass fishing tournaments serve as a platform where anglers, who have put in hours of practice and effort to build their skill, can showcase their talent. While the competition is friendly most of the time, some fishermen make a career around this sport, taking home substantial cash prizes.

For sponsors, fishing tournaments are also becoming serious business. For instance, at the 2019 High School Fishing World Finals held on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama, the prize purse was reported to be $2.7 million. This makes the championship the world’s richest fishing tournament ever held.

So, what are the best bass fishing tournaments for those who want to get involved in the freshwater or saltwater fishing sport? We took some time to find out. The article starts by defining bass fishing and why it is popular. It provides a brief history of bass fishing and a general guide to fishing tournaments. 

What is Bass Fishing?

Rendering of a largemouth bass jumping out of the water

The bass in bass fishing refers to a species of aggressive, belligerent, and well-distributed game fish that can eat up big baits and adapt to both salt and fresh water. They are commonly called black bass, and the most prized catches are the smallmouth bass and largemouth bass.

Bass fishing is a sporting tournament, generally considered the number one freshwater sport, which involves angling for game fish. The idea of angling denotes a fishing technique that uses a fish hook (angle).

Why is Bass Fishing Popular?

The main reason why bass fishing is so popular is that this type of fish is easier to find. It also grows larger than most other specifies, attracting people who love to catch big fish. Also, bass fish have fewer bones, making them preferable for those who want to filet and eat.  

Another reason why bass fishing competitions are popular is that they provide fun for all age groups and skill levels.  

The History of Bass Fishing Tournaments  

Over the years, bass fishing has evolved as a sport. It was launched, through pole fishing, by the working class in the 19th Century. Various modifications to the artificial bait occurred until 1949 when the plastic worm lure was introduced and used throughout the century. This innovation became revolutionary to the emerging sport of bass fishing.

In the later 1900s, rapid development in bass fishing angling tools ensured good catches by anglers. It attracted more anglers to the sport.

The idea of a world-class sporting bass tournament was the brainchild of an Alabama salesperson. Ray Wilson Scott, Jnr founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) in 1967. His vision was to standardize the sport with rules and build a community of well-mannered anglers.

As the 20th Century progressed, the sport’s development was greatly stimulated by advancements in angling tools for bass that lead to more catches, attracting even more people into the sport. These developments have continued up to this day by introducing applications (apps) that make a sound that attracts fish.

The introduction of black bass in different parts of the world by government wildlife departments, fishers, and conservation groups has spurred the sport on in recent history. Add the huge prizes paid to winners in bass fishing tournaments, and you know you have a sport that will attract even more followers in the future.   

A Guide to Fishing Tournaments

Photo by: John Booth

Usually, to be part of a competitive bass fishing tournament, you need to join a local club in your area.

In bass fishing tournaments, there are different ways in which the participants are arranged into categories. Anglers fishing from someone else’s boat (called non-boaters) must submit to the owner’s control while fishing. They are usually expected to contribute to the expenses of running the boat during fishing tournaments.

As would be the case in any competition, you would want to go to a competitive bass fishing tournament with fishing tools that you are used to. You wouldn’t want to miss a grand prize because you tried to use complicated equipment you’re not familiar with during the competition.

In most bass fishing tournaments, your catch’s weight is not the only deciding factor for winning. The bass species and the total number of fish caught are contributing factors that decide the winner. The rules often penalize competitors who present dead or undersized fish. Anglers usually leave their catch in a “live well” on the boat until officials come to weigh and record.

If you want to be a registered professional bass angler, you must have a proven reputation gained through participating in and winning smaller bass fishing events.

The Ten Best Bass Fishing Tournaments

If you find all the information above interesting to the extent that you want to know the best fishing tournaments, we have taken some time to identify the best ten.

What criteria do we use to identify these tournaments? We look for the ones that have attracted the most attention from writers, webmasters, and editors. We believe that a great tournament is one that attracts the most links from different websites. We also looked for those that attract massive television audiences.    

1     Bass Pro Tour (Major League Fishing)

Major League Fishing (M.L.F.) is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. According to the M.L.F. “The advent of Major League Fishing can’t be described with one story from one group of people. It’s actually interwoven stories within two professional groups of people, each with a similar goal: present the sport of competitive professional bass fishing in a way that the viewing public has never seen it.”

Major League’s inaugural fishing event took place in 2011 at Lake Amistad, Texas. The organization describes it as an “instant success.” It also claims that the “M.L.F. now earns the highest ratings on the Outdoor Channel in the first two quarters of the year.”

2     Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Series  

2012 Bassmaster Classic, Day 1 Launch, created by Shreveport-Bossier: Louisiana’s Other Side, no changes made, shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

B.A.S.S. Nation Series encompasses various fishing club events of different categories of anglers, both in the locality and regions. It runs four main events – B.A.S.S. Nation, Bassmaster Opens, Bassmaster Elite Series, and Bassmaster Classic.

The organizers of the Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Series say that the “Bassmaster tournaments represent every level of fishing competition, from Junior and High School events all the way up to the Elite Series and the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.”

To participate in B.A.S.S. competitions, you have to join the society through the president of your resident state or the National Chapter. If none exist in your area, you can pioneer one. Find more information about how you can do this here.

3     F.L.W. Pro Circuit

F.L.W. is an abbreviation for Fishing League Worldwide. The F.L.W. was established as Operation Bass in Kentucky, 1979. It was renamed F.L.W. in 2001 to pay homage to the Ranger boat developer of the modern bass boat. The league operates as a subsidiary to M.L.F. since October 2019.

The F.L.W. Pro Circuit is a big fishing tournament, attracting around 150 anglers who congregate with the hope of winning the grand prize of $125,000. Payments reach down to the 75th position, with the minimum payout being $5,000.

It’s a four-day event, and the conventional format is a five-fish limit. It also features the catch, weigh, and release system.

4     Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series

All games in the Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series (A.B.T.T.S.) are team events; however, the competition allows individual competitors under certain conditions. Usually, all emerging winners in the tournament are subjected to an online polygraph exam (lie detector test) before prizes and awards are given.

According to the tournament organizers, all competitors accept to report any form of rule breach to the tournament director. The director solely decides the penalty (which is not subjected to an appeal) for any offense committed. If a participant is less than 18 years old, they must provide a parent or legal guardian’s signature to participate.

The A.B.T.T.S. reportedly generates almost $4 million in economic impact in Alabama yearly. The A.B.T.T.S. promises “$10,000 individual tournament first prize plus $37,400 top 40 places & $500 to big fish.” The grand championship prize is $50,000.  

5     The Big Bass Bash

The Big Bass Bash was founded in Oklahoma, 2006. The tournament describes itself as “one of the largest bass fishing tournaments in the nation.” The Big Bash holds events at Lake of the Ozarks/Truman Lake in Missouri and Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees in Oklahoma.

6     Bass Pro Shop Fishing Tours

To take part in Bass Pro Shop Fishing Tours, it is mandatory to be a member of the American Bass Anglers, located in Athens. Life membership costs $450, and a yearly subscription choice is also available.

The entry fee to Divisional Qualifying and Divisional Championships is $70 and $140, respectively.   

One of the famous competitions of the Bass Pro Shop Fishing Tours is the Top 150 Solo. In this competition, about 150 boaters compete, and the winner earns $20 000. The series offers anglers the chance to proceed to another Bass Pro Shop Fishing Tours event: the Ray Scott Championship.

7     Anglers in Action

The Anglers in Action is a tournament associated with the Big Bass Bash and is divided into four divisions. The game runs throughout the year. One of the exciting options of this tournament is the open division where competitors can make their timetable.

The entry fee in Anglers in Action tournaments is substituted with payment of a yearly membership fee. The winner of this grand final of the Tournament of Champions receives a brand new Ranger boat kit.  

8     Bassmaster Elite Series

The Bassmaster Elite Series organizers describe it as the “highest level of professional bass fishing tournaments.” The competition’s elite nature requires competitors to “qualify for the series through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens or the B.A.S.S.”

The Bassmaster Elite Series is open all season to give anglers a chance to gain the points used to determine the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. Points can also be used to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic

9     Bassmaster Opens 

The Bassmaster Opens is also held under the auspices of B.A.S.S. It serves as an avenue for novice anglers to transform into professionals. The tournament allows both boaters and non-boaters to take part. Winners of this series are promoted to the Elite Series.

10  Bassmaster Classic

The Bassmaster Classic is the biggest competition in the B.A.S.S. stable. It started in 1971 and is considered the ‘Super Bowl of fishing,’ where the winner goes home with $300,000. With over $1,000,000 in prize money, it’s understandable why the tournament is the fan-favorite.

The Bassmaster Classic is a three-day event involving up to about 60 anglers. The catch and release rule is observed, as weighing dead fish attracts penalties.

Communities hosting the Bassmaster Classic are sure of an economic return. For instance, the competition generates a financial windfall of $35.9 million for the host community of Birmingham, Alabama.

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