No one has been too quick to advertise statistics on the matter, but even a casual look at team tournament attendance would suggest that participation is down roughly 60 percent from two, and certainly, from three years ago. It’s a huge drop-off.

But while I would laud the organizations (well, it’s probably just one) that average the highest attendance, I’m not quick to criticize all the others. I know there are a lot of good directors who are not seeing the results they would have hoped for.  But we’ll all have to face it: only four of 10 teams are still in the game.

We know a primary cause of this decline in participation. Economics. But even with recovery, I don’t think everyone understands the long-term consequences of the current financial situation. One I see looming is a change in the  interests of those anglers if they stay away very long.

Once they get used to being on the water–perhaps even more frequently–without the extra $100 to $200 surcharges of entry fees and options–they are likely to keep that routine. Like a diet that lets you eat fatburgers and gravy–and still lose weight–there will be no reason to switch.

Also, the age of participants is going to play a factor in team fishing–actually all fishing–when the “seniors/veterans” (and their boats) step away.  A 30-something thinks nothing of kicking out the tire stops, muscling the trailer in line,  jacking it up and dropping it on the towing ball. But that routine–in the morning and again at the end of the day–loses its glamor–as does the travel.

Also, looking at “the numbers” of the most successful team circuits compared to the others–I think there is a ceiling. If we consider 50 boats a good number now, recognize that 20 of those teams typically vie for the top 10 “money” spots. Over time, the “21-50 club” will fade out, rather than continue “to donate.”

That’s where capitalism kicks in and those fishermen will likely migrate to other circuits, but it won’t alter the total number of players. That growth will take much longer.

In any event, given two or three more years of this current participation trend (and human behavior being what it is) it’s unlikely those big team fields of the past will ever return.

So the tournament industry better prepare.


10 Responses to “Team tournaments: State of Disunion address”


Nailed it GK –
I’ve banged my ahead against the wall – and many other heads along with mine trying to find a way to get the anglers on board. Either its not possible or I simply can’t figure it out.

The CBC Solo is looking good for 2011 – I think the change in venues and shifting the regions around is working well – but, the teams this season were terrible – We still have 2 qualifiers left and then the championship and I am pretty sure this will be the last of our “teams” events. I just hope the anglers continue to support the solo CBC Championship.

Great read as always George!

Good post George. We’re seeing the exact same thing here in the Midwest. I’ve tracked the average team tourney participation in our state going back to around 2000, and our largest circuits are off 50-60% from their highs.

It’s actually been kind of a vicious circle. When participants started dropping off, circuits raised their entry fees slightly to make up for lost payouts. I think that priced a few of the teams out of the market, which combined with the normal loss to make things slide faster. Then the economy tanked a couple years back, and that kind of sealed the deal.

Only thing holding ground at the moment are these smaller sub-circuits of larger organizations like USA Bassin, etc. Here I thnk it is because entry fees are cheap, tourneys are very localized, and Classic qualification is based on fishing ‘X’ number of tourneys or accumulating ‘X’ number of points. Basically a situation that regardless of performance (within reason), everyone gets in. I believe these smaller circuits are benefitting from the guys who have dropped from the larger statwide circuits due to costs/expenses and qualification cuts, but that still want to fish competitively.

GK – you are (IMHO) spot on regarding the economics component; it’s pervavsive and yet underestimated. It’s likely that as we recover, economic growth in the future will be slow and unspectacular and that of course will affect our hobbies and for some – career fanatsies – like bass fishing. For 30 years we were told that tax cuts and cheap credit were the answer – and now here we are. And you’re right, take a team circuit dominated by a few teams (and especially if they share info)and it ceases to be competitive and becomes a guild – who needs that? But there’s always the aesthetic aspect of bass fishing which trumps everything and seems buried these days under tournament hoo hah and branding dogma – but then again aren’t aesthetics for sissies? NO!

People are competitive by nature. That is why, yes there may be fewer teams, there will always be events and the ones that do the homework will be successful. The anglers do need a break between the fishoffs and the first of the year and the holidays from the start of the new season. When spring comes, and the fish are shallow and stupid, the teams will be back to better fields because we all have the “I can beat them” mentality in our blood. We are Bassfishermen.

When the fish get “shallow and stupid”–I will want to fish a tournament, too. But I won’t be chasing any circuit. 🙂

Yeah the super high gas hurts… Around here their are just so many differnt “trails”….Might be 3 or more at the same ramp….then every body has all these 1 day “Hero or Zero” fun raisers in the spring….and can’t nobody get the numbers of boats they used to. Still have 100 boats fish’n but they are divided by 5 events. I glad I “got over” the tournament stuff…LOL

This is my take on this topic. When we had 80 teams and 180 “Pro’s” at the events (in California) this is what was going on. We had money to spend!!!!!!! Most guy’s are making the same amount of money (or less) but have higher cost of living. Gas, food, mortgage/rent, boat/truck payments, utility bills, credit card bills; ect. They are all up but the amount of money coming into a household did not come up with the “needed” expenses that a family has. This, along with the amount of org’s now has diluted the tournament pool. Some org’s have way too many regions!! NBW has is right. It’s simple and done well. The right amount of regions and a TOC at a very good/fun lake that everyone seems to like to go to. Call me crazy but another org that’s coming on strong is AC Inland Empire/Socal with Brian Linehan as the TD. He is raising the bar as to what a TD needs to do. His regions will increase this year and develop into the highest turnouts before long in this area because of the hard work he’s been doing for his anglers. NBW is the top dog in team events for SoCal as of now but if they want to continue as the “champs” they will have to step up their game!!!

by Derrek Stewart

Tournament anglers finance their own sport. Tournament organizations can re-slice the pie all they want, it will not have a huge impact until the economy not only recovers but becomes strong again. Even then I forecast that it will never be what it was.

Exposure is a great thing, it can prevent misconceptions and lead to new understandings. In these economic times many anglers have been exposed to life without tournaments. Most importantly they have been exposed to the harsh reality that this passion to fish and compete is for 95 percent of us highly economically unsound.

There has always been talk of bringing new blood into the sport. Translated, some of us are getting older. With age we see things differently and we should be assessing risk differently as well. There is no such thing as disposable cash, not even for the wealthy.

This current recession has been much worse than the last one during the late 80’s and early 90’s. It has shown us that nothing is guaranteed , not your pension, your retirement, your savings, nor your job. If your future is in the hands of corporate America watch out. Whether we work directly for ‘corps’ (pun intended) or not the fallouts and bailouts have shown us that none of us can escape their economic footprint.

I am taking this opportunity to announce a new tournament circuit, Million Dollar Bass. Bring your portfolio, it is mandatory. There will be caviar and Champaign during sign ups. No average Joes, and certainly no working stiffs. Only those who can truly afford to play and not complain about the obvious. The rest of you get back to work and get busy, your life is moving by and the final weigh in is approaching.

It has been said many times that the only certain thing in life is change. As always and right on cue change is here. What does that mean for tournament organizations. I see many sinking ships and no one wants to be the last rat off.

There is a reason they call it ‘Living the Dream’.

lets make it a 200 dollar entry, 20,000 first place, 100 team average.