A Short Guide for First Time ABT Non-Boaters

After speaking with several new guys recently,
I have noticed that a lot of them are either unsure or too nervous to
ask what is expected of them and what they need when attending at a
Bass Pro Tournament for the first time.

They are unclear of the rules
as they relate to non-boaters, what gear/equipment is required and
issues of etiquette.
What follows is a basic but thorough checklist
of details which I have based on my own experiences as a non-boater,
which may be used by others as a guide.

Each angler however should find their own way in most instances with details from what gear to take, to how you treat your Pro (Boater). Etiquette is generally learned by the individual, but I can offer you at least a guide of where you should start, after that it is up to you.

You must be a current financial ABT Member to compete in any ABT sanctioned event. ABT Membership Forms are available at www.australianbass.com.au or in a Tournament Angler Guide which is available at newsagents.

You need to be fully conversant with the rules as they apply to the ABT Tournaments. These are readily available to view or download at www.australianbass.com.au

Entry Fees:

Non-Boaters are responsible for their own entry fees which are currently (2007) $80.00 for all BASS events. ABT Entry Forms at available at www.australianbass.com.au

All competitors must possess the relevant permits required by the waterway being fished. All anglers should bring these permits to the briefing for inspection by ABT Staff.
Stocked Impoundment Permits are available online from www.smartservice.qld.gov.au/AQ/selectItem?formID=3
NSW Recreational Fishing Permits are available online from

You are responsible for making your own accommodation arrangements prior to leaving for any event. All of the Dams fished have either caravan parks or camping grounds nearby and with few exceptions; bookings for these needs be made in advance.

All anglers are required to attend at the briefing on the Friday Night prior to the competition commencing except in extreme circumstances. At the briefing ABT Staff often advise on session times, specific no go zones for that dam and most importantly, you are allocated your boaters for the event. You will be given the opportunity to speak with your boaters for both days and discuss what they plan to do during the competition.

Take the opportunity, and talk to both boaters as it will indicate what gear you need to bring, arrange where you will meet in the morning prior to the event as most of these events begin in the dark and it is often difficult to locate your boater in the dark, unless you know what to look for.

I can assure you that your boater will not be very impressed if they miss their starting position because of you.

You will fish a total of three sessions as a non-boater. Two sessions are on the Saturday, and another on Sunday morning. Session times will be announced at the briefing.

Basic Gear:
PFD: You are responsible for bringing your own life jacket:

Tackle Box/Bag: This has to be big enough to hold all of your tackle, yet small enough for you to carry.

Wet Weather Gear: Buy the best you can afford as there is nothing worse than standing in freezing rain for several hours.

Cold Weather Gear: Anywhere up to 70 miles an hour, up the Dam at five in the morning. I’ve never been so cold in my life.

Sunglasses: Generally polarized are the go, but whatever you wear.

Tools: Pair of long nose pliers, is the bare minimum, but take what you need. A Ruler and scales also come in pretty handy.

Plastic Bags: I always throw a couple of these in my kit so I can take any rubbish away with me.

Hats: Note I said plural, I always keep at least one spare as I’ve now lost count of the hats that have been blown overboard.

Sunscreen: Slip, Slop, Slap and all that.

Fishing Gear:
Rods: I began with one spin rod, one baitcaster and one fly rod, however how many of each is totally up to you. Just remember that you will have to lug all your gear every day, and your boater will have limited space available.

With respect of rod types, I choose to use high modulus graphite fast tapered rods as I like their crisp action. There are many quality rod manufacturers around nowadays, just remember to shop around for the best deal.

Reels: I recommend you purchase the best quality fishing reels you can afford. There are a lot of lower quality reels on the market with seriously inferior components to some of the more recognized brands.

Line: The majority, but not all, circuit anglers are now using braid on all their reels. All use varying breaking strains but as a very rough guide, Spin Reels for soft plastics range from 2-8lb, and for Baitcasting Reels for edge work anywhere from 14-20lb.

There are, of course variations of this with some of the new lures on the market and it is not uncommon for some to rig heavier spinning gear or lighter baitcasting gear for different situations. Hopping Jackalls in deep water is a perfect example.

(Note:) If using braided line for the first time, you will need to place mono line underneath the braid on the spool of your reel. If you don’t and are fishing in the rain the line will spin on the spool.

Leaders: You should have a selection of leader material matched to the line class you are using, e.g. 6lb braid 8, 10, 12lb leader. Monofilament or Fluorocarbon make up most of the leader market.

Lures: You will need to research the dam you are fishing and choose tackle you are confident using. Remember that all events are cast and retrieve only so leave those trolling lures at home.

The kit I took to my first competition had:
4 packets soft plastics
Jigheads in 1/4oz, 1/2oz and 5/8oz
6 Spinnerbaits
10 Flies (Bass Vampires)

I would now include two or three Jackall TN60’s and Jackall Mask Vib 60’s or similar as a bare minimum.
I urge you to at least consider taking lures for both edge fishing and deep fishing as there is nothing worse than turning up fully prepared for an edge bite and having a boater who uses a technique you are not prepared for.

More information about working techniques is readily available through QFM magazine articles and tournament results which are available at www.australianbass.com.au and on the forum at www.fishingmonthly.com.au/_bb_/index.php
My advice is research what is working, and use that as a starting point.

Other Items: Other Items you could consider would be:

Marker Pens
Tags or Rubber Bands. (identifying fish where there is no divided livewell)
Food, Drink
Sun safe clothing
Scales (digital are better)
My last piece of advice is to look after your gear. No matter what country you live in fishing gear is expensive to purchase, repair or replace.

Etiquette: Etiquette in a tournament situation for the non-boater is a personal thing. I can tell you how I interpret etiquette where others will tell you something else. How you decide to act and behave whilst enjoying somebody else’s experience and equipment is up to you but several things will help you on your way.

Don’t Be Shy: When at the briefing, and out fishing, don’t be afraid to ask questions of others involved in the Tournament. The “who shares wins” philosophy has been well and truly adopted by most tournament anglers and you will find that they are a wealth of knowledge and information.

Be On Time: If you say you will be somewhere at a certain time, be there. I can’t think of a quicker way you could insult your boater than to make him miss his starting position.

Help: Offering to assist in launching and retrieving the boat, fuel expenses, buying lunch, netting fish, getting snagged lines back and anything else you can think of that could assist is the best way to help a boater. Most boaters are grateful for this consideration.

Respect: Give the boater and his equipment your respect. By this I mean treat him and his gear/boat the way you would want to be treated or would want your gear to be treated. Oh, and don’t forget to thank him/her when the days over. Always tidy up before leaving a boat at the end of a session.

Be Open Minded: A lot of what you experience fishing, you may not agree with; however you will be surprised, as I was, with the techniques others use and who knows, you may even learn something. Speaking your mind and asking why could help you to identify a way of fishing you probably hadn’t even thought of.

Weigh-In: Most non-boaters automatically take responsibility for the key tag. As the key-tag and weigh-in areas are generally shallow and crowded the boater needs to maintain their seat to control the motor. Jump out and replace the key tag on the board and join the line at the weigh-in tent

As I stated earlier, this is a rough and fairly basic guide only. The system I have described above has managed to get me through for the past few years of non-boating at Bass Pro Events.
Above all else you should value the experience and knowledge that is passed on to you from the boater.

I still fondly remember my first event as a non-boater. I learnt more from my boater, Mike Connelly on that first day than I had in years of trying to do it on my own. I have continued to learn as a non-boater each and every time I have entered as such. If you take such an approach I sure you will enjoy your entry into tournament fishing….

Jami Kanowski