I think anyone on any level will be quick to admit that making money at tournament fishing can be quite the uphill climb. So I am going to share some of my tips on things you can do to keep your expenses down based on my tournament fishing, specifically last year’s Great Lakes BFL season where I finished 7th in the points in my first season in that circuit.
So like I mentioned, you can apply this to most any circuit, but I like the alliteration of BFLs on a Budget! For me, most of my savings comes from my lodging decisions. When I can, I like to stay at campgrounds near where I am fishing and on the water if possible. The nicest campgrounds are usually much cheaper then the lowest end of motels, meaning I can usually camp for an entire practice and event for what many guys spend for one night at most motel/hotels. Not to mention the cost effective motels are often not the newest, cleanest or most secure. Campgrounds have awesome parking situations, plus I feel like they are pretty safe and secure, there are always exceptions, but for the most part, they are like communities where everyone watches each others stuff. Often you can call and get a pretty good rate at campgrounds when you let them know all you need is electric hookup & don’t need full RV hookup.
Some people like tents, but for the most part, I make a bed in the back of my SUV, that way I don’t have to get up early on tournament days to pack up and worry about airing out a dew covered tent when I get home. My bed consists of dense foam camping mat, paired with various layers of sleeping bags and blankets depending on weather. I also like the security of sleeping in a vehicle connected to my boat, like a built in alarm system for my gear. Basically, half my vehicle is a bed and the other half is gear storage for stuff that isn’t in my boat.
The next big piece is to plan ahead for your food. I have a big Igloo Yukon Cooler that I fill with drinks, food & ice before I leave home. I pair that with a brown grocery bag of bread and other dry goods and I am good for my trip. My cooler will last about 4-5 days without having to buy more ice. The ice keeps lunch meat, cheese, sausage sticks, yogurts and other items which keeps a nice variety. That paired with my dry goods, granola bars, nuts, jerky and other reasonably healthy snacks. This ends up being so much cheaper and healthier then fast food or gas station offerings.
Getting your food and drinks from grocery stores or a Walmart is much more cost-effective than buying single drinks or snacks on a daily basis from a convenience store. Just about any snack or drink is less than half the cost when bought in carton quantities. Walmart will probably be the best store for grabbing some snacks due to their low prices. Walmart also accepts coupons too, so people could always visit a website like https://www.raise.com/coupons/walmart to see if there are any deals that could be used to bring the total cost down.
The next biggest bucket of savings is doing what you can to be smart with your fuel usage, so if you can leave early enough that you can keep your tow speeds down that will save a chunk of cash. Also, putting in two sun up to sun down days on the water is way cheaper then 3-4 for days of just fishing 9hrs. One of my key components is too make sure my batteries last as much as 14 hours if needed and my Minnkota on board DC charger does that. It recharges my trolling motor batteries from my outboard once the starting battery has been topped off.
I also try to put together a pre-fishing game plan for the few days I have, so that I am being smart with the miles I put on the boat and SUV. Having a buddy to travel helps as well and often you can have each other’s backs as things come up.
Hope these tips are helpful or inspire some new thinking or ideas for some of you. Let’s face, unless you are one of the few anglers that wins an event in a season, cashing checks likely won’t cover your expenses if you are spending $90 a night on a hotel and another $30-40 a day on food for every practice and event day, the math just doesn’t work out.