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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.