Tournament Etiquette

Unwritten rules of the game

By Jerry Drazer


Through the years we’ve all had a variety of partners in tournaments, some good and some not so good. But, whether you fish team tournaments or draw tournaments, one common denominator that would apply to both formats would be etiquette. As boaters and/or non-boaters it’s our responsibility to enforce the "unwritten rules" or "code of ethics" of the sport, on and off the water. These "unwritten rules" apply to ALL boaters, non-boaters, and tournament fishermen. Rules involving tournament etiquette aren’t mentioned in the rules that govern the tournament usually. Tournament directors don’t enforce most rules concerning tournament etiquette so it’s up to the anglers to know the dos and don’ts.

Tournament etiquette is pretty straightforward, but let’s put the "unwritten rules" in writing to create awareness for people new to the sport and as a refresher for the veterans.



Rules for boaters? Even though you own the boat you aren’t exempt from the "unwritten rules".

Be on time, when meeting your partner.

Start the day by making your cooler, storage, and other conveniences available to your non-boater/partner, and make them feel comfortable in your boat.

Think about your partner when running. Boat drivers have a steering wheel to hold onto and can brace for rough water. Non-boaters are unable to brace and absorb the shocks as well as a boat driver.

Next is boat positioning. You have to give the guy in the back of the boat fair treatment, don’t attempt to tournament block him/her. Either keep the boat parallel to the bank or have your partner come up front with you. This is the nice thing about fishing expansive grass beds, because the advantage of boat position isn’t as critical to catching.

Even as a boater, listen to your non-boating partner and give them some time on their water if they want it. Don’t forget they’re entitled to equal time on their water and time in the front, if they invoke the privilege. If you feel you’re on "dead-water" you still need to be congenial and work together with a give and take approach, even though the catch is separated at the end of the day.



Be on time when meeting your partner.

Try to agree on some reasonable compensation for fuel expenses and pay your partner by the end of the day. Anymore, being a boater is extremely expensive.

Treat the boat like it was your own "brand new boat" and try to avoid getting mud, spilling pop, fish scents, etc… on the interior of the boat. Be mindful of visible objects that could scratch the exterior of the boat like piers, standing trees, etc… try to prevent the boat from touching these objects if you when possible.

If the boater has a big deck and invites you up front to fish do it, this is the easiest and fairest way to maneuver the boat and at the same time catch fish. Get up there!

Try to downsize extremely bulky tackle boxes and use tackle boxes that fit into storage compartments easier. This helps both of you, because the boxes won’t be underfoot while battling and/or netting fish.

At the end of the day clean up. Don’t leave line, discarded plastic worms, food wrappers, or cans in the boat. Take them to the trash.



These apply to ALL tournament fishermen. There are a lot of these "unwritten rules" involving tournament etiquette, let’s look at just a few.

If you’re fishing in a tournament and your partner misses a fish on a plastic worm don’t throw in immediately where he missed the fish and attempt to catch it. Let your partner adjust his/her plastic worm, and allow them to cast back at the fish a second time.

When using a net don’t take wild jabs into the water at the fish, most fishermen prefer to lead the fish to the net. While other anglers would rather net or lip the fish themselves. Try to come to an agreement on net handling and lipping fish before you take-off in the morning.

If your previous day’s partner caught fish from an area don’t go back to his areas trying to catch the fish he’d located. Maybe fish their pattern, but find a new area of the lake.

When someone takes you out practicing don’t tell other competitors what, where, and how the fish were caught.

When someone invokes the anchor rule, tied rule, or any distance rule respect it. However, if they allow another competitor to fish inside the distance, all bets are off.

When sight-fishing for bedding bass try to mutually agree on a set a number of casts per angler then alternate these casts to the bed.

Don’t cut off another competitor by pulling in on a bank and fishing in front of them.

Lastly, if you’re leaving an area to go to another area, don’t prop wash and/or disturb the area in an attempt to mess up another competitor.

Communication and a little mutual respect can go a long way in most situations involving etiquette or the "unwritten rules" of the game.

If you’re concerned about violating tournament etiquette? You can test the situation, before you act. How? Simply ask yourself: Would I like for that to be done to me?

You’ll have your answer.

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