Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

December 27th, 2004

Host Your Own Fishing Tournament
It's Easier Than You Think!
By Dave Micus

When you think of hosting a fishing tournament, you probably think of an organizational nightmare - large numbers of entrants, costly advertising, rented facilities, complex rules, and expensive prizes. But it doesn't have to be so. I hatched the idea of hosting a striped bass fly fishing tournament in the fall of 2002 during a slow day of striper fishing. I bounced ideas around for six months, finalized plans in June and hosted the first annual Eagle Hill River Striped Bass Fly Fishing Tournament in July. Following are some suggestions based on my experiences for hosting your own tournament. It really is a lot easier, less expensive and more fun than you might think. In discussing this with the LadyFisher she commented my tournment was a bit like a Fish-In.

Date, Time and Location:

You'll need to pick a day and time to hold your tournament. Having your tournament on a Saturday and avoiding peak fishing season will increase your turnout. Depending on the duration of your event, you want to schedule the fishing hours during a good tide (in the case of salt water) or at a likely time when fish would be feeding (in the case of fresh water). I avoided the fall and spring, when striper fishing is at its peak, picking a Saturday in July to provide some relief from the mid-summer doldrums. I checked the tide charts for a good tide; July 12, with a low tide of 8:35 am was perfect, so I set the hours from 5am to 11:30 am so that participants could fish on either side of the tide.

The location should be relatively close to where the after-tournament lunch is going to take place. I'd also suggest setting boundaries. This assures that everyone is fishing the same water (giving everyone an equal chance) and also lets participants meet and socialize on the water.

Picking the location was a no brainer in my case; I live on the Eagle Hill River (where it empties into Plum Island Sound) in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and my house would be the location of the luncheon. I required participants to fish in and around the Eagle Hill River, extending the boundaries out into Plum Island Sound. This water isn't considered a great fishery, and I figured that this would add to the non-competitive spirit I was trying for.

Rules:

You must either fish from shore or from a non-motorized personal watercraft (kayak, canoe, etc.). The designated fishing area is all water west of the Ipswich Yacht Club. You will need to log all fish caught on a 3X5 index card. Fishing time is between 5am and 11:30 am. Participants will then go to Eagle Hill Road for a bar-b-que and the selection of the winning fish.

Even an informal tournament needs some rules. Can participants use boats? How about motors? Or is only shore fishing allowed? Catch and release only? Do you want a one fly tournament? Or a fly lottery? How should participants record their fish? These are all things you have to consider.

I decided to only allow participants to fish from shore or from a non-motorized personal watercraft (kayak, canoe, float tube). This served as an equalizer, giving everyone the same opportunity to fish the same waters, and also eliminated the hassle of trailering boats and finding parking. Catch and release was a foregone conclusion. I asked that participants log their catch on a 3X5 index card, but I wasn't adamant about it. I didn't require participants to photograph their fish, but took their word on the size. As far as prizes, keep it simple. I awarded just one prize, a gag trophy for the biggest striped bass caught.

Food:

A gourmet meal will be offered free of charge to all participants after the tournament. If you are allergic to tube steaks or hamburgers, please plan on bringing your own lunch. Soft drinks will also be provided.

Serving a meal sends an important message; that you care enough about those you invite to break bread with them and that you want them to stay and socialize after the fishing is over. The meal can be as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be. Most fishermen would be happy to get together after a day's fishing and swap stories while eating hotdogs and chips.

It was my good fortune that my wife got as enthused about this as I was, and served lasagna, meatball subs, and antipasto (all of which she made ahead of time). For drinks I served soft drinks and bottled water, and used paper plates and plastic utensils. The meal was served buffet style, and, after filling their plates everyone retired to the lawn chairs I set up in the yard to have a leisurely lunch and a lot of laughs. The disposable plates and utensils made clean up easy.

Advertising:

The Eagle Hill River Striped Bass Fly Fishing Tournament is a serious competitive event that you, as a fly fishing enthusiast, have to attend. At least that's what you should tell your wife. Actually it's just an opportunity to fish and then get together and lie about it afterward.

Once you determine the logistics, you'll need to get the word out. Other than the actual event, this is the most fun. With a PC and internet access, it's extremely easy to produce a professional-looking brochure, complete with graphics, announcing the tournament and providing all of the necessary information. Make your brochure a three-fold, two-sided, self-mailer. Pick a name for your tournament, then search the internet for appropriate graphics (but make sure they are in the public domain) to be used on the cover. For our graphic, I made the obvious choice of an eagle holding a striped bass. It really came out quite well, and I saved the file to use for future tournaments.

Give the date, time and location on the cover; provide the rest of the information (rules, awards, lunch, etc.) on the inside. Make sure your brochure is consistent with the theme of the tournament. I wanted to develop a brochure that provided all of the information, but also captured the spirit of fun I was hoping would be the hallmark of the competition. While the cover of my brochure gave the appearance of being a formal invitation, the body of the invitation set the tone I wanted. The opening paragraph (see above) made it plain that the main purpose was to have fun. To illustrate the winner's trophy I used a picture of the Stanley Cup (see Part 2). No one receiving the invitation would mistake the Eagle Hill River Striped Bass Fly Fishing Tournament for anything but an opportunity to have a good time.

Who to invite:

When your invitation is ready, have a bunch copied. Determine who you want to invite. Hand them out to friends that you see regularly; mail them to those you don't. Keep some in your car in case you run into someone you'd like to invite. Ask a couple of fishermen new to the sport so they can meet others and join the fraternity.

Distribute the invitations about three weeks before the tournament. This gives participants plenty of time to free up the day, but not so much time that they forget. Remind them of your tournament when you see them to generate some enthusiasm.

I invited 20 striped bass fishermen, most of whom I knew from the water and from other, official, tournaments. I included a few friends from work, and some local fishermen new to the sport. Sixteen of the 20 invited joined us for the day of fishing.

Concluded next time! ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.


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