Join a Local Club
Joining a fishing club instantly gives you a group of fishermen to associate with and share knowledge and expenses with. You can find many different kinds of clubs, from those that target one species and hold tournaments for them, like bass clubs, to clubs that take trips to fish for whatever is biting at the time. Both kinds of clubs have their good and bad points, so you can chose the kind you like best — or join one of each.
Competition has long been an integral part of fishing and many friends have made bets on first fish, biggest fish, most fish, and other catches for years. In the late 1960s Ray Scott formed the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) and changed the way people fished. Tournament became a common way of fishing and professional bass fishermen earned a living fishing the tournament trails. Local clubs were started and federated with BASS to provide weekend bass fishermen the tournament experience.
Joining a bass club will give you access to knowledgeable bass fishermen, partners for tournaments, set times to go fishing, and a chance to try out tournament fishing. There are so many clubs in the United States that you probably aren't far from one. Most have low yearly dues and the tournaments typically cost $10 to $20 to enter. It's an inexpensive way to get started tournament bass fishing.
Walleye, striper, and catfish clubs have also been formed to fish tournaments for those species of fish. They operate in similar ways to bass clubs. There's now a professional walleye trail with prize money that rivals the bass tournaments. Joining one of these clubs gives you the same benefits as a bass club but for different kinds of fish.
You often have to join a national organization when you join a local club, but it's well worth it. You get a magazine with tips for that species as well as information about advances in equipment and technology. In fact, it's worth joining a national club even if you don't join a local one.
Many fishermen frown on tournament fishing, but it drives advances in the sport. Much of the technology and equipment developed over the past thirty years wouldn't be around if it were not for tournaments. There are many good things about tournament fishing: The tournament trails usually encourage sportsmanship; they endeavor to protect the environment; and they encourage youth to start fishing.
There are many kinds of saltwater fishing clubs, too. Some hold big tournaments for specific kinds of fish like mackerel, and others have tournaments for a variety of species. Those on the coast may have regular tournaments for members as well as open tournaments several times each year where anyone can enter. You can learn from them just as you can learn from freshwater clubs, and the other benefits are the same, too.
Different kinds of sportsman clubs have been around for many years. Some have regularly scheduled meetings where fishing as well as other outdoor activity information is shared. Fishing trips are scheduled for the group, and members often travel together to destinations far from home. Some even have their own land and lakes for members to use. Others have lots on big lakes where clubhouses, camping, and boat access is available to members.
Finding such a club it not as easy as finding and joining a tournament club. Sportsman clubs are often open to membership by invitation only, meaning you have to meet and get to know a member before you can join. And the expenses can be high, especially for clubs that own lakes, but access to a private lake is worth the money for many dedicated fishermen.
Clubs that fish salt water can often be found many miles from the coast. Members meet regularly and discuss tactics and equipment, and often have speakers to inform them about ways to fish, advances in equipment, or fishing opportunities. Those clubs often take several trips each year to a hot saltwater fishing spot, and the cost per member can be very reasonable when a large group goes.