One of the best things about fishing is that so many people enjoy it throughout the country. This love for being on the water is what leads to the establishing of fishing clubs, where local anglers in a given city can gather to discuss conservation, events, and hold tournaments. Fishing clubs attract seasoned veterans and newcomers alike, so when tournament season comes around, anglers at opposite ends of the fishing spectrum are often paired up in the same boat for a competition. This can be a rewarding experience, especially for the rookies, but if it’s your first tournament, you’ll want to prepare yourself to be an optimal boat partner. Here are a few tips to help make sure your first tournament isn’t a horrible experience.

As a tournament rookie, when you’re paired with a veteran, it’s best to start things off on the right foot. This entails being honest about your experience so there’s no miscommunication or false confidence placed in your knowledge. It’s better to say you’re new to tournaments rather than lie and mess things up later on. Agree on a meeting place and go through a checklist to decide on each of your responsibilities for tournament day. This means deciding who will bring food, lures, or other gear. Once all the details are handled, it’s a good idea to drive from your home to the meeting place to make sure you have the directions down. Being late because of a wrong turn is not a good way to start the tournament.

The rookie, you’ll most likely be the non-boater, meaning it will be your partner’s boat you’ll both be fishing from. As the non-boater, you’ll be expected to help out at the boat ramp by helping to launch the boat. As far as tackle goes, most boaters are willing to share some tackle, but it’s smart to bring your own for the day. Just be sure to bring only what you’ll need for the day and not your entire collection of tackle.

Non-boaters are usually limited to the back of the boat while the actual fishing is going on. In order to be a good partner, especially when fishing with a more experienced tournament angler, make sure to give your partner space while casting. Don’t cast ahead or beside him. Furthermore, don’t make stupid casts to areas where you’re likely to get hung up or snagged. Nothing will create tension and aggravation like constantly having to stop fishing to move the boat so you can dislodge your lure. Your partner will most likely have a few favorite spots in mind so while he’s picking apart the bank or lily pads, switch to a different lure and fish the deeper water on the opposite side of the boat.

The whole point of fishing clubs and tournaments is learning from each other and growing as an angler. That being said, back at the boat ramp at the end of the day, don’t be afraid to discuss the day with your partner and ask questions about what you can work on to prepare for the next tournament. Also, be sure to steer clear of any “honey holes” you may have fished with him, out of respect. This tarnishes trust and fishing someone else’s spots doesn’t help you grow as an angler at all. When fishing your first tournament, be sure to be punctual, be respectful, and pay attention on the water. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn simply by observing etiquette and just watching a veteran work.