Is Fishing an Olympic Sport?


Growing up in Montana, fishing was always a common pastime. For me, it was just a leisurely activity, but I began wondering if fishing was competitive at an Olympic level. So I did some research to find out.

So, is fishing an Olympic Sport? Currently, fishing is not an Olympic Sport. While there are many tournaments and competitions, the  Olympic Community has yet to recognize fishing at the “Olympian  level.” Many have argued that the skill it requires to master fishing qualifies for the prestige of an Olympic Sport.

In 2016, the fishing community began the process of requesting the coveted Olympic Status. In fact, there have been rumors that the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, might provide the venue for the first competitive Olympic fishing event in history.

It’s still unclear, but the idea has been around for a while.

Competitive Fishing

While fishing is not (yet) an Olympic Sport, there are many ways in which fishing has already been made into a competitive sport.

Competitions range from junior lake tournaments to off-shore expert only events. I myself participated in one or two competitions growing up and can attest that even at the most junior level, there is a great amount of skill needed to succeed.

As for the professional competitions, fishermen often train for months if not years with specific rods, tackle, and bait, as well as tested to see which techniques best work to catch specific types of fish.

Over 300 boats full of fisherman attended an off-shore competition in Ocean City, Maryland in 2015. To raise the appeal of the competition, a total of about 3.9 million dollars were awarded as prizes to the winners.

The top winner went home with 1.1 million dollars in prize money.

This just shows that excellent fishing skills are valued highly and that it takes great skill and dedication to compete at higher levels.

Other prestigious fishing competitions include:

  • Lizard Island
  • Black Marlin Tournament
  • Bass Master Elite
  • Summit Select
  • Countless smaller competitions at the local or state levels

A common fish seen in competition is the bass. Competitions featuring the bass first arose in the 1960s and have since spread from just North American competitions to tournaments in Asia.

The popularity of these competitions has led to lines of fishing gear, clothes, bait, and even boats all specifically designed to aid in the catching of a bass.

Overall, bass fishing in competition has grown from an uncommon occurrence to a multi-million dollar industry featuring many different competitions and companies.

If you have fished leisurely, are interested in getting involves, or just have the desire to try out a competition, look into some small local competitions to get started and go from there. If you enjoy the thrill and the rush to catch the largest fish, then stick with it.

Fishing can make a great hobby, even if it’s not done competitively. Regardless of the monetary rewards, it is a wonderful skill to pass down through the generations.

If competitive fishing isn’t for you, I highly suggest finding a quiet spot on the lake or river and just fishing for fun!

How is Olympic Status Obtained

Before a sport can be officially recognized and featured in the Olympics there are a number of steps they must first complete.

First, a sport must seek recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). To achieve this high status, the International Olympic Committee requires that an international non-governmental organization is the head of administration for that sport and has adopted the “Olympic Movement for Anti-Doping Code.

While I am not sure if doping is a large problem when it comes to the fishing community, the International Olympic Committee holds these international nongovernmental organizations to the expectation that they will conduct frequent and effective drug tests for all competitors.

Even after accomplishing each of these tasks, the sport may only be recognized at an IF status, or the international sports federation. The IF must then petition for the sport to be included in the Olympic Games.

If the International Olympic Committee deems the sports acceptable for the games, it can be admitted as a sport, a discipline, or an event.

To raise the stakes the International Sports Committee requires that to be admitted a sport must be practiced by men in 75 different countries on 4 different continents, and by women in 40 different countries on 3 different continents.

Hosting the Olympics is an expensive event that leads to the need for merging the events with larger businesses and corporations. Sponsorships are very important for modern Olympic competitors.

For this reason, the International Olympic Committee requires that in order for a sport to be added, it must add appeal to the games.

After all, if the sport does not increase ticket sales and viewer outreach, then why spend the money necessary to feature it in the Olympic Games?

The fishing community has been working on applying for this status since 2016 and has pressured the International Olympic Committee to grant them admittance into the Tokyo 2020 games with at least one event.

The event would be a catch and release event and would feature angling.

Angling is commonly practiced across the world and was therefore chosen to be the first fishing Olympic Event requested in the games. However, no official decision has been made yet.

Current Olympic Sports

While fishing has not yet made it into the Summer or Winter Olympics (ice fishing is a thing!), there are still a plethora of other events that are featured at each of the games.

Summer Sports Include:

  • Archery
  • Artistic Swimming
  • Athletics
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Boxing
  • Canoe Slalom
  • Canoe Sprint
  • Cycling BMX
  • Cycling Mountain Bike
  • Cycling Road
  • Cycling Track
  • Diving
  • Equestrian/Dressage
  • Equestrian Eventing
  • Equestrian Jumping
  • Fencing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics Artistic
  • Gymnastics Rhythmic
  • Handball
  • Hockey
  • Judo
  • Marathon Swimming
  • Modern Pentathlon
  • Rowing
  • Rugby
  • Sailing
  • Shooting
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Tennis
  • Trampoline
  • Triathlon
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Weightlifting
  • Wrestling Freestyle
  • Wrestling Greco-Roman

The Winter Sports Include:

  • Alpine Skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Bobsleigh
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Curling
  • Figure Skating
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Ice Hockey
  • Luge
  • Nordic Combined
  • Short Track
  • Skeleton
  • Ski Jumping
  • Snowboard
  • Speed Skating

So as you can see, while there has yet to be a fishing competition featured in the Olympics, there are a plethora of other sports that you can view.

You can even listen to them while you fish on a river bank or kick back in a boat on a lake, just to show the desire for Olympic Fishing.

Discontinued Olympic Sports

Every once in a while, the International Olympic Committee reviews each of the games to see if it is in fact still “popular” enough to remain. Since the games restarted in 1896 many sports have been removed from the games, such as:

  • Cricket
  • Lacrosse
  • Polo
  • Power boating
  • Rackets
  • Water skiing
  • Tug O’ War

If I am completely honest, some of those sports I had never even heard of prior to doing this research. Some of them I certainly never would have considered taking place at the Olympic level.

However, I for one would love to see Tug O’ War at the Olympics and am quite saddened that it did not bring in enough “crowd appeal” to continue in the games.

Related Questions:

Is Fishing in the 2020 Summer Olympics? While the Confederation Internationale de la Peche (the International Confederation of Fishing) in France has appealed for angling to be included in the games, there have been claims that fishing includes too much luck to receive Olympic status.

What new sports will be featured in the 2020 Olympic Games? The Tokyo games are set to feature five new sports on top of the 28 previously included ones. These new sports include skateboarding, surfing, climbing, karate, and baseball/softball. Luckily, the addition of these sports did not result in the discontinuation of any others.

Is fishing even a real sport? While fishing provides a nice leisurely hobby for many, it does, in fact, require a great deal of skill. Especially when harder environments and more advanced types of fish are involved. Fisherman can train their whole life to catch one specific kind of fish and never succeed, just as a runner could train to get a 4-minute mile.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Stripped Bass.

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