Catfish tournaments are gaining popularity among sport fishermen throughout the US and are steadily progressing in recent years. Anglers have become conscientious about the resource and practice catch and release and promote the sport through catfishing tournaments. If you like to catfish and have a little bit of a competitive edge, catfishing tournaments may be just what you’re looking for.
1st step is to find a tournament in your area or region. You can accomplish this a few different ways.
1. Google (catfishing tournaments in your state or region)
2. USCA has active and up to date information by state. Find local events in your state.
3. American Procatters has up to date information on regional and national events.
Once you have found a tournament that may interest you, call the tournament coordinator and get a feel for the type of tournament they will be conducting. There are three types of tournaments that you can find in most states throughout the US. Depending on your level of interest, there is a tournament for you.
1. Local buddy tournaments/ throw togethers: These tournaments are often started by a group of local guys that like to fish tournaments but there was nothing in their area to fish.
The local buddy tournaments are pretty laid back, when you arrive at the tournament location you may be just looking for a couple guys standing around there truck or boat with clip boards taking registrations. These tournaments are great starter tournaments but can be just as challenging and competitive as any other tournaments. The entry fee on these tournaments is usually under 100.00 and can be a great learning experience if you plan on stepping up a notch. Depending on the interest in your area, these local tournaments you can expect 10 to 30 participants or boats.
2. Regional and annual events: Once you arrive at the tournament destination you will probably notice that other anglers are showing up also, look for a place to park your rig and begin looking for the registration location. Most well run regional tournaments will have a very noticeable designated area with a table set up along with sponsor banners for registration and information. These tournaments are generally ran by organized clubs that are actively promoting the sport of catfishing and holding events on several bodies of water throughout a certain region. Members will follow a regional trail to compete for points to recognize top anglers for angler of the year bragging rights. A good regional trail will draw 20-50 boats or more and the entry fee can exceed 100.00
3. National tournaments: you approach these well organized catfishing tournaments a little differently than the other tournaments. The concept is the same as any tournament, but the registration and entry is handled a different way because of the large number of anglers that will follow the trail from one area of the country to another on several bodies of water throughout the US.
National trails will require some travel time, hotel time, and some practice time for those who haven’t ever seen the tournament waters. Anglers fishing these national events will start pulling in to these towns 2-3 days before the tournament to get familiar with the body of water and find a pattern or method that will catch quality catfish that will allow them to compete with some of the best cat anglers in the nation. Entry fees for these events can exceed 200.00 and can be pre paid with a check or credit card in advance, however they will accept entries the night before the event at the mandatory captains meeting at a designated site, generally it will take place at the host hotel.
It will not matter which type of tournament you fish, all tournaments large or small will have a waiver attached to the entry form exempting them from any mishaps that may occur during tournament hours. This waiver must be signed when registering.
After registering you will receive a boat number, this number will indicate the position in which you will take off. The number you received will indicate the number in which you registered. First come first served. The tournament director will call out numbers for the tournament morning blast off in a timed order from number one to whatever, until all the boats are released. When your number is called your free to go fishing.
Live well check: Once you’re registered in local and regional tournament you will need to get a live well check, which most all tournaments will require this before you launch your boat, a flag or sticker will be placed on your boat as a confirmed check. Be sure you have one. This just keeps everybody on the up and up. The national trails will very seldom require a live well check because they will give polygraph test to the top finishers along with some ransoms.
Live well requirements: most all catfishing tournaments are catch and release.
Whether they are at a local or national level, they will require all fish to be alive at the time of the weigh-in. a proper live tank is essential to maintain five healthy fish for a long period of time.
Your live tank should be able to accommodate the size fish you will be catching. example … if your fishing in waters that just support channel cats you can get away with a 40-60 gallon live tank, if your fishing in waters that trophy blues inhabit you will need a much bigger live tank, 80-125 gallons. The live tank should be equipped with a recirculation pump and a spray bar for aeration, other products on the market that go above and beyond a spray bar, sporting features such as filtration, purification and aeration.
Once you’re registered and have had your live well checked, you’re ready to launch your boat. Anglers will be hovering around the launch site awaiting their number to be called at the official tournament start time. You are free to go fishing when your number is called.
Just as there is an official start time there is also an official stop time also. Anglers must be in the weigh-in line or launch site by a certain time to avoid disqualification. All fish to be weighed must be alive and is compliant with all state and local laws, meaning size limits. When it’s your turn to weigh your fish, tell the tournament director your boat number and start off loading your catch in the designated weighing containers provided. In most local and regional tournaments the weight is documented and the fish are returned back to your live tank to be taken back to the body of water and released. The national tournament trails will have someone to return the fish for you. Once the last angler weigh’s in, the weights are reviewed and a winner is determined by the most weight.