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Ralph B. Spoerl

Tournament Fishing: Counting the Costs


I have lost more fishing partners because of the costs involved in tournament fishing than to anything else.  Almost all of us must consider the price of entering a tournament-- itís normally the first question Iím asked.  Everyone wants to fish, but few expect to pay whatís required.  Most of the anglers I know consider the cost over any potential winnings, or the joy of competitive fishing.  Thatís understandable given that 10%-20% of tournament people take home any winnings, and the costs can be considerable (which can squash some of that joy, if you know what I mean).

Letís look at some real figures (on average) to help you decide whether or not tournament fishing is for you.  From the boaterís perspective, weíll start with the entry fee.  That fee averages about $150 per tournament.  Now, letís put some gasoline in the tow vehicle.  Thatís usually around 41 gallons (including a couple of pre-fishing trips) at approximately $3.00 per gallon, which equals $123 (and thatís assuming you can get to and from the tournament on a tank of gas).  Then thereís gasoline for the boat (an 18-foot bass boat has about a 32 gallon tank).  Add another $96.  Weíre up to $369 and we havenít even left home yet.

Now on to basic traveling expensesÖ

Your average time away from home is about three days, and meal costs are normally around $40 per day (and thatís being conservative, and unfortunately does not include any tasty beverages).  Then there is the cost of lodging, usually around $200, if youíre lucky.  That brings us to a grand total of nearly $700 per tournament (on the Ďbudget planí), and we havenít calculated in any of the initial investment of lures, rods, and terminal tackle (to unique to the individual to be calculable here).  With a partner, you may be able to cut that cost in half, but you can still figure safely in the upper $300ís when all is said and done.

In most tournaments, in order to win back that investment (or just break even), youíd need to finish in or around eighth place.  That can be difficult.  So why do it?

Love of fishing and competition are probably the primary reasons.  If you are a true competitor, your approach is generally positive.  You want to be in the action.  You want to do your best.  In fact, you need to do your best!  And you expect that those with you and against you will be doing their best (thatís the fun part!).  Moreover, when you tally up the rewards versus the costs, the price seems small.  How much does the average weekend get-away cost (with NO chance of recouping your expenses)?

It does cost money to enter a fishing tournament.  There are costs involved in all hobbies.  And everyone has to decide individually how much they are able  to invest in their hobby.  But, in the end, itís tough to put a price on the thrill of competition and the spirit of comraderie that exists in tournament fishing.  At least thatís what I tell my potential partners.

The tournament receipts in the Tackle Box count the rewards, rather than the costs.  And for those that can, I hope youíll all join me!


 Ralph B. Spoerl is a freelance outdoor writer from Mukwonago, Wisconsin. He has been actively involved in tournament bass fishing and the professional bass fishing industry, both as participant and a writer, for more than 15 years. He currently fishes as a pro-angler on The Wisconsin Alliance of Bass Tournament Anglers Tour and contributes to,, Badger Sportsman Magazine and other fishing publications.