What Should I Bring to a Bass Fishing Tournament?

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Written By Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler with more than 20 years of fishing experience and a writer whose work has been featured in magazines for over a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States. He also fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.


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For a bass fishing tournament, bring essential gear such as rods, reels, tackle, and a variety of lures. Include safety items like life jackets, first aid kit, and a whistle. Carry navigational aids, fish finders, a fully charged phone, snacks, water, and weather-appropriate clothing to ensure a successful experience.

If you’re like most anglers, you’re probably going to spend hours on end preparing for an upcoming fishing tournament in order to give yourself the best chance of winning. Meticulous planning is part of any successful effort to win a fishing tournament, but what if you’re a beginner in the world of competitive angling and aren’t sure just what to bring?

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important items you’ll need to bring to a fishing tournament. If you’re just getting started in fishing tournaments, this article can serve as a check list of the must-have gear and equipment you’ll need. 

This article is part of my Complete Guide to Bass Fishing series that you might be interested in.

Make a List 

The following items should be on every angler’s check-list of gear and equipment they’ll need. I’ve tried to include 10 of the important items that most often get overlooked or forgotten. Be sure to have all of these things packed in your truck or boat before hitting the road. 

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

The most important thing any angler can bring with them on any fishing trip or to any tournament is a life jacket. Forgetting this item is not something that should be brushed aside as it could be the difference between life or death. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, there is a high level of risk you incur when you’re on the water. 

First-Aid Kit 

In the same sense that at PFD is one of the must-have items you need to bring along to any fishing tournament, a first-aid kit is another one. You never know what might happen while you’re fishing and things can become serious in an instant if you have any sort of accident. 

Being on a lake immediately puts you at a disadvantage from getting proper medical care in the event of emergencies as you’ll have to spend extra time getting to the boat dock before you can be on your way to any hospital. If you have a first-aid kit on board your boat, you can be well-prepared to deal with the unexpected. 

Fishing License 

Taking a trip to another state to fish in a new lake is one of the more exciting parts of competing in a fishing tournament. However, it can be easy to forget to purchase the proper fishing license you should have in each state. Be sure that you get your license squared-away and also that you’re following any other rules and regulations pertaining to fishing for the species you’re hoping to catch. This includes your boat registration. 

Tournament Rules & Regulations 

Another item that’s just as important as your fishing license is adhering to the rules set forth by the organization or group that you’re fishing with. It’s never good to get caught failing to follow the rules and you don’t want your hard-earned catch and effort to be wasted if you make the mistake of being unaware of certain rules that could disqualify you from the competition. 

Digital Scales 

This is one of the more obvious items that most experienced anglers already have in their boat or tackle box, but it’s important that you check to make sure your scales are working properly. The best option you can have is a set of digital scales that allow you to cull some of the fish you catch. If you’re going to be fishing in some more prominent tournaments, be sure to pack a backup scale in case the one you’re using breaks or malfunctions. 

Culling Clips 

These are just as important as the culling scales you should have in your boat. The last thing you want to do is have to over-handle the fish in your livewell because you aren’t sure which one is which in terms of the keepers and their weights. By having a set of culling clips, you can quickly and easily identify the smallest fish in your bag and cull it without wasting any time having to weigh fish again. 

Live Well or Aeration System 

One of the easiest things to overlook when you’re preparing for a fishing tournament is making sure your livewell is operating as it should. Most anglers don’t check this until they catch their first fish, which is a huge risk that seasoned experts should never take. If you make sure your livewell is functioning properly, you’ll ensure that your fish will stay alive and well long enough for you to release them. 


For anglers like myself, sunscreen is a must-have item on any outdoor adventure, no matter what the weather forecast looks like. Going without sunscreen isn’t going to make you look or seem ‘tough,’ it’s only going to result in painful sunburns and lasting damage to your skin. Even if you’re an angler who sports a darker tan, you can still rack up plenty of damaging UV rays that might lead to deadly skin cancer down the road. 

Protective Clothing 

Whether you’re fishing in the sweltering heat of summer or the teeth-chattering cold of winter, be sure to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. By having the right clothing, you can ensure that you are more comfortable on the water, which helps facilitate a better mental state and lets you focus on catching fish. 

I always prefer to keep a jacket and waders stashed in my boat in case I get caught in a downpour, which lets me avoid being soaked and keeps me bone dry. Having the right clothing also protects from sunburn and windburn, which can sneak up on you while you’re laser-focused on finding and catching fish. 

Polarized Sunglasses 

Most tournament anglers already have a quality pair of polarized shades, but it’s wise to pack a backup just in case you happen to lose or break your favorite pair. For anglers who want to leverage the advantage that polarized sunglasses gives you, pack an assortment of different color lenses that will work in different situations. 

Yellow lenses are ideal for early morning when the sun is just peeking over the treeline or horizon. Red or copper lenses are great for days when you’ll be fishing in both sunny and cloudy weather and dark or even mirror lenses are best for days when the sun is especially bright. 


There are many more items that we could add to this list, but these 10 items should make up the basic, must-have gear and equipment any angler needs to bring along on their fishing tournaments. If you’re an avid tournament angler, you probably already know that it’s better to over-prepare than it is to under-prepare. If you have these 10 essential gear items for fishing tournaments, you’ll have a much better chance of success at any level of competition. 

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