Can You Use a Fish Finder in a Bass 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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Fish finders are legal to use in almost every fishing trail and tournament organization found in the world.

A few groups don’t allow fish finders to be used by competitors, but these are usually organizations that specifically outline the fact that fish finders are not to be used. 

Many novice and beginner-level anglers are often hesitant to ask certain questions about fishing tournaments and the different gear and equipment they’re allowed to use in them. A common topic of discussion is fish finders and whether or not they are allowed to be used in most fishing tournaments. 

In this article, we’ll examine many of the typical rules and regulations found in most fishing tournaments and trails, as well as answer the question, “Can you use a fish finder in a tournament?” 

Are Fish Finders Legal in Fishing Tournaments? 

Fish finders provide an exceptional advantage to anglers who are willing to use them, but those who know how to employ their use might find a significant advantage over their competitors in any type of tournament setting. In decades past, fish finders were relatively simple and many anglers disputed with one another as to whether or not they actually worked. 

In recent years, certain brands in the fishing industry have made incredible strides in terms of the technology and software used in modern fish finders. Many of the newer fish finders give the user the ability to pinpoint fish within heavy cover or around areas where it would previously have been difficult to get an accurate reading. 

These modern, high-tech fish finders allow anglers to virtually ‘see’ the fish beneath and around their boat in an almost ‘live-stream’ style feed that is displayed on their monitor. It’s understandable that some new anglers might ask, “Is this really legal?”

Fish finders are permitted for use in the majority of fishing tournaments around the world.

Fish Finders and Professional Anglers 

Fish finders have become so commonplace in the world of professional fishing that it would almost be considered laughable or foolish for a competitor not to use one. Many of the top brands and companies in the fishing industry focus their efforts on producing the latest and greatest fish finders in order to give their angler the best advantage on the water. 

You’re allowed to use fish finders in the vast majority of different fishing competitions, including kayak fishing organizations. Not using one will put you at a severe disadvantage against anglers who have highly-advanced technology and it’s important that novice anglers become accustomed to using fish finders in their competitions. 

How to Use Fish FInders in a Tournament 

Many newcomers to the world of tournament fishing might wonder just how a fish finder would prove to be useful to them in certain situations. This is a subject that is often considered to be second-nature to most experienced anglers, but it’s a common question that we will explain briefly in the following sections. 

Keep Track of Depth 

One of the most important pieces of information you can have as an angler is knowledge of how deep the water beneath your boat is. Even if you’re fishing from the bank, it’s crucial to understand how even the slightest depth change might be a prime location for fish to congregate around at different times of the year. 

Depth changes allow most predatory fish to ambush their prey and provide them with an easy opportunity to camouflage themselves in with their surroundings. Sharp ledges, knolls, points, and other types of depth changes are key aspects of any angler’s winning strategy when it comes to tournament fishing. 

Using a fish finder will allow you to keep track of the depth of the water where you’re fishing, as well as where you might expect fish to be based on the known depth in a certain location. Most of the advanced fish finders on the market now allow anglers to access a detailed map of the lake, river or waterway they are fishing, complete with every small nook and cranny. By knowing and anticipating these depth changes, you can put together a solid fishing strategy, even on a lake or body of water that you’re largely unfamiliar with. 

Viewing Structure 

Another very useful aspect of having a fish finder when competing in a fishing tournament is the ability to ‘see’ the different types of underwater structure and cover that might be home to monster fish. Most species of game fish will closely relate to various types of cover like downed trees, rocks, brush piles, and other structures as it provides them with a place to blend in with their surroundings. 

Older types of fish finders don’t really allow anglers to view the kinds of structure or cover that might be below them and they mostly show the depth and any fish that might be in the water. However, new fish finder technology is surprisingly adept at giving anglers the full picture and they display the structure or cover in the water with extreme accuracy. 

Knowing just where a brush pile is or where the bottom is lined with stumps can be a game-changing aspect of any fishing strategy. Anglers who have expensive and very accurate fish finders can view this kind of information and make a better assessment as to where they should fish. 

fish finder viewing baitfish

Saving Waypoints and Data 

The final aspect of just why a fish finder allows anglers to have an exponentially greater advantage over their competitors is the fact that it allows them to save data and information inside the unit. Most advanced fish finders work like an on-board computer, storing and analyzing information that’s useful to the angler in developing a winning strategy. 

Many of the best fish finder units will actually be equipped with the ability to track the weather and to also store various bits of information about a specific location that will prove useful at a later date. For instance, you can usually save a waypoint in most fish finder units and also note the conditions, as well as what lures you used and just where and how each fish made a strike at your lure. 

Some of the most advanced fish finders will actually store up to 75,000 or more waypoints on a single device and they are capable of maintaining hundreds of thousands of data points on thousands of lakes and rivers at one time. Professional anglers who have fished in a particular lake many times are able to store and use this information to make an on-the-water assessment as to where they should go, what lure they should use and other items. 


The prospect of knowing just where fish are located in the water might seem like cheating to many anglers, but it has actually become commonplace in today’s fishing industry. If you’re planning to begin your own journey as a tournament angler, you’re going to need to become well-versed in the many different types of fish finders, as well as how to use them. Not using a fish finder is basically not an option in today’s fishing tournaments, so it’s best to begin familiarizing yourself with them if you’re going to be competitive in the sport. 

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