by Justin Bamberger
Tournament season has started! I’d like to share while I was writing this article, winter decided to finally start in Missouri. So, while looking at the pictures of the Kissimmee Open Tournament and the FLW pro circuit on Sam Rayburn I might have shed a tear or two. We have the BFL tournaments starting at the end of February on Table Rock, and I doubt I will look like Gerald Swindle in flip flops with my pant legs rolled up.
I wanted to write about the tournaments that have happened the last few weeks but after a few edits, I decided to scrap it and write an article about upcoming tournaments that anyone could fish. I met an angler a few months back on Truman lake in Warsaw Missouri during the Miliken Fishing SlaunchMaster Classic who traveled all the way from New Mexico to fish this one-day tournament. Not only was that a major commitment to travel that far, but it was also his first tournament. I was thinking about him traveling that far for that tournament the other day. He only knew about that tournament because he watched Miliken’s YouTube channel. He had no idea what he was getting into.
The conditions for the tournament were rough. The water was the dirtier than I’ve ever seen it, we just received our first cold snap of the year, hundreds of locals entered, and it’s a sketchy lake to run. What if he knew about other tournaments that are a little less forgiving than a 5 fish limit? An easier way to break into the tournament scene and not be put off completely by a devastating lost after a 2-day drive to a lake that you’ve never fished before. I thought about this all last week, and because I was inspired by his dedication to the sport, I decided to talk about a couple tournaments that I feel are amazing ways to start off in and have a great time doing it as well. These tournaments are known to many anglers but also a lot of anglers do not know what all is available. We all get into fishing different ways and it’s easy to miss out on all that is offered. So, here are the tournaments that I have fished that I feel are great ways to get involved in tournament fishing. Also, I want to preface this by saying that I’m not sponsored by these trails or am I being compensated in any fashion for this.
ANGLERS IN ACTION / BIG BASS BASH. This is by far my favorite tournament and one that I feel is your best chance at winning a life-changing amount of money while not being a professional. The format is easy to get the hang of and its extremely well ran. I’ve been fishing these tournaments for 7 years, and every year it gets better. They hold four of them a year, two of which are on the Lake of the Ozarks, with the other two on Grand Lake in Oklahoma and one on Pickwick in Alabama. The two on Lake of the Ozark now pay out $100,000 to the angler who brings in the biggest fish of the two days. That is an incredible payday to any amateur angler. The Pickwick payout is $30,000 and the Grand lake payout is up to $50,000 now. The big payout is always the dream, but the hourly payouts make this tournament much more interesting. With 35 places being paid out every 2 hours throughout both days the odds of winning are in everyone’s favor. Every year it’s amazing to see how the big fish is caught. It’s never the same spot on the lake or with the same bait. The best part about these tournaments are the time spent with your friends and loved ones. Every year my friends Stewart, Rich, and I rent a place together. We spend the days fishing and the nights preparing our tackle for the next day. We talk about what we were fishing, how we were catching them, and if we were lucky enough to weigh a money fish in, we joke the entire night about being a professional.
They have a children’s division as well. Which is amazing. The kids can fish for any type of species and are presented with trophies at the awards ceremony. Every year they also have an insane number of gifts that they give to all the children in attendance. The gifts range from bicycles to fishing tackle. The dedication to the young anglers is beyond approach. They also have a lady angler division that pays extra for the biggest bass weighed in by a female angler. Which I might add out fishes most of the men in the tournament.
If you don’t weigh in a fish, or if you weigh in a fish that gets bumped out of a paying slot, you still have a chance at walking away a winner. If you sign up for the early bird, then you are in a drawing to win $500. My buddy Roy Stewart weighed in a fish one year and got a $150 check. During the weigh-in ceremony his name was also drawn for the early bird, adding $500 to his winnings. They also have an exact weight bonus. Every fish that is weighed in at exactly 3 or 4 pounds gets an extra $500 on top of whatever they placed during the hourly weigh-in. A few years back I benefited from this. I weighed in a 4 pounder on the dot and added $500 to my time slot payout.
They also have a great set up at the main weigh in with different tackle vendors and free food. At the weigh-in ceremony they have a guest speaker that is always good to listen too. We’ve had Dion Hibdon, Marcus Sykora, James Watson, and Casey Scanlon to name a few. Running the weigh-in and keeping the crowd entertained is Big Al, not only is he fun to watch but he is also, alongside Donny Wilson, part-owner of Elite Anglr.
All in all, it’s an absolute blast to be a part of. This year I am going to travel to the other lakes and try my hand at that elusive big fish payday.
You can click the link above for more information. This tournament is run similarly to the Big Bass Bash with a few differences. The overall winner of the event wins a new Nitro Z19 along with a cash prize for the hourly slot. There are 11 tournaments in this series that span all around America. These events run 3 days long. Friday through Sunday. You can weigh in one fish every hour. Every hour they pay out 10 slots. The biggest fish of the event takes home a new Nitro Z19. If you fish the event on Table Rock lake you are in for a treat as KVD himself is usually at the weigh-in. If you opt-in for text message service, then they will send you a text on the hour updating you on what the biggest fish of that hour is. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how the fishing is going for you that day. This tournament series is just as much fun to fish but doesn’t have that personal touch as the Big Bass Bash offers. However, if one is in your area or if you are willing to travel then it’s definitely worth attending. You get to try your hand at winning a little bit of money and a brand-new boat. Plus, three days on the water never hurt anyone.
If you do a little digging, you can find more big bass tournaments out there. The Sealey Big Bass Splash is another one I have fished but it's mostly in Texas. They have pretty interesting payouts as well. Some of those tournaments award the angler with the biggest fish weighed in a new boat, truck, and camper. Regardless of where you are located, there is probably a big bass tournament in that area. If not, then I invite you out to one of the ones I listed above. Grab yourself some Eltie Anglr gear and head out to one of these tournaments. I promise you will have a good time and will meet other anglers that share the same passion you have. I’ve met other anglers that have introduced me to other tournaments that I never knew existed. You will make amazing connections with other anglers and if you’re lucky enough, you can walk away with a check for $100,000 or a new boat. Not bad for a few days of fishing.