Fishing

Tournament fishing cranks up the intensity

Raise your hand if you love to fish.

Keep it raised if you enjoy winning.

Leave it up if you like money.

I’m guessing plenty of hands are still in the air. And if yours is, there’s a good chance tournament fishing is right in your wheelhouse.

For most people, fishing is a leisure activity. A place to relax, unwind and escape from the daily grind.

Tournament fishing is a different animal. It’s a pressure-packed adrenaline rush, a race to the finish where every fish counts — and one spit hook could mean the difference between winning some cash and going home empty-handed.

I’ve really enjoyed competing in the handful of tournaments I’ve joined. Most recently, my buddy Caleb and I hit the Boise Bass Busters Lake Lowell Open on April 16. The Bass Busters is a club that holds tournaments throughout the year (and throughout Southwest Idaho), but the Open is the only one that doesn’t require membership — which means all you need to sign up is a boat and an entry fee.

The Lake Lowell tournament (like many of the competitions run by local bass clubs) is a two-man, five-fish event. Teams compete to boat the heaviest five-fish limit they can.

So when the horn sounds at 7 a.m., priority No. 1 is to put five fish in the live well. Once you have a limit, you try to upgrade to heavier fish as the day wears on. Bass tournaments are catch-and-release, so the fish go back into the lake after weigh-in.

Thumbs up for sustainability.

This was our second year competing in the Open, and it’s been a blast both times. Cool temperatures, windy conditions and a bass population surprisingly light on big fish (the heaviest fish of the tournament have weighed 3.6 and 3.2 pounds, respectively) have made for quite a challenge, but we’ve loved the competition.

Caleb and I have yet to finish in the money, but, like I told him after this year’s weigh-in, the $100 entry fee is well worth having an excuse to fish all day.

If tournament fishing sounds like fun, contact one of the local bass clubs to get more info, or check out the Idaho Fish and Game website for a list of upcoming events. There are contests at Anderson Ranch, Brownlee Reservoir, Lake Lowell and Massacre Rocks State Park this weekend.

Or, if going all-in on a bass tournament sounds too intimidating, try easing into things with a more laid-back contest. There are plenty of family-friendly fishing derbies to choose from, including the Howdy’s Gas and Grub Fishing Derby this weekend at Lake Cascade. The entry fee is $8 — kids 13 and under are free — and cash prizes will be awarded to the heaviest trout and stringer of three perch. Last year’s winning trout was an 8.9-pound whopper.

So rustle up a few bucks, find a good teammate and give tournament fishing a try. It’s guaranteed to get your competitive juices flowing — and you might even come home with a big, fat check.

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors@idahostatesman.com.

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