By Steve Graf
If you’re a bass fisherman and looking for which circuit to follow, you’re in luck as there’s never been a greater variety. Texas especially is a tournament fishing mecca with more tournament trails to choose from than there are BBQ places. It’s getting to the point that anglers are now having to pick which one to follow because there are just not enough weekends in a month nor do anglers have an unlimited budget to fish everything. The time has come to choose!
All across the Ark-La-Tex, there’s a bass fishing circuit that will accommodate anglers on all levels. The most popular trails fall under the category of team trails. This is where you and a buddy can fish against other teams from your local area or on a regional level. Team trails are all the rage right now with a handful that continues to set the bar at a high level. Bass Champs, Texas Team Trail, Fishers of Men, and the new Brandon Belt Team Trail kicking off this year in Texas. There’s also Outlaw Outdoors Team Trail and TTO Pro Team Trail which is designed for anglers who want to pay higher entry fees in order to fish for a higher level of payback.
This is no exaggeration when we say our lakes are overcrowded! There’s not a single weekend from January thru October that there’s not a bass tournament, especially on Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. It is amazing how well these two lakes hold up and continue to put out five fish stringers weighing anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds depending on the time of year. Sam Rayburn just might be the most pressured lake in the country and yet it just keeps on cranking out big fish and high 20 pound five fish stringers on a weekly basis. It’s proof that the Texas Department of Wildlife and Fisheries knows how to manage a body of water.
There’s another organization that’s been around a long time called ABA (American Bass Anglers) which started out as a military bass fishing circuit but has now expanded beyond the military. Its primary focus is on the Open Series which is a pro/am type circuit where one angler is in control of the boat (boater/pro) while the other angler (co-angler/am) has to fish from the back of the boat.
ABA has recently introduced a new trail designed to focus on a boater-only circuit called the Solo 150 Tour. This is a trail where the boater/pro fishes by himself without a co-angler in the back. This trail is really taking off and becoming very popular due to the fact there are no co-anglers to deal with giving the boater/pro full control of the boat all day long. It also makes it a lot easier for a tournament director to run the circuit by not having to deal with enough co-anglers to pair up with the boaters/pros.
So how does an angler decide what he’s going to fish? First, he’ll probably look at the schedule. Where are each of the tournaments located and how far a drive is it? Will you have to stay the night or multiple nights and acquire accommodations? How much is the entry fee and what is the payback percentage? Is there an opportunity for advancement to a regional or a national championship? Of these two, most anglers look at where the regionals are located and most of the time that will determine whether they follow the circuit of not. Another determining factor for some anglers; is which circuit gives them the best opportunity to be competitive? No angler wants to sign up for a tournament knowing they don’t have a chance to at least collect a check.
It all boils down to what is convenient, and affordable and what lake or lakes the circuit is going to. One thing is clear, bass tournament anglers have no shortage of circuits to follow. Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget your sunscreen even in the wintertime.
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