Prepping for a Bass Tournament: A Checklist of Items to Have On the Boat

When you’re going to be headed out on the water for a tournament, you want to be sure that you have everything you need. But what exactly does that entail? What items do you have to have with you?

For a Bass Tournament, you want to be sure that you have everything from a digital scale to toilet paper. It varies on each person what they like to have in the boat, but with this article, we’re going to tell you what’s out there and what others have suggested you take with you.

So come along, and let’s prepare for this tournament together. Keep reading and we’ll have our boats ready to go out into the great waters before you know it.

Reels, Rods, and Hooks

When you’re headed out on a fishing trip or tournament, obviously you’re going to want to be sure that you have your rod, reels, and hooks. Otherwise, you might not have the best time when you’re looking to cast out into the water for your fish.

You want to make sure that everything is organized before you take off. Pull out the rods that you’re planning on using throughout the day and make sure that the hooks are sharp and fresh, and you’re going to be able to get to new ones in case something is to go wrong.

It’s important that you know what rods and reels you’re going to go in with because you don’t want to start off the tournament with a rod and reel that you’re just breaking in that you got the night before. Use one that you’re used to and that you trust. That’s the most important.

One fisherman recalled a time when he was given the advice to pack extra reels by an older fisherman when he had accidentally had a birds nest get tangled into his rod. Instead of having to sit there and untangle the mess, he was simply able to switch his reel and get back to fishing.

When you’re going out, you don’t want to take all the rods that you own, because that’s just plain stupid. Take the ones that work best for you, and try to keep them to a minimum. Only take the ones that you need.

You can bring two or three rods that are rigged with what you’re going to throw and then a couple of universal rods. This will allow you to be able to adapt and work through things if the first rods aren’t working out the best.


Moving on, it’s definitely important that you bring lures. Always bring your hook and weight box, that’s something that you can never risk not taking when you’re out for a tournament. When you’re going to bring some soft plastic lures along, be sure that you’ve done some research before.

Find out what colors work well on that body of water and bring some other lures in that color as well. Bring some natural colors if it’s going to be clear skies, and darker colors if it’s going to be cloudy.

A lot of people talk about how you can catch more fish with certain colors but don’t be afraid to try different colors and different things. You never know what’s going to be able to get you that winning fish, it might be something that you didn’t expect in the slightest.

Another thing that’s important is that you label your lures so that you can grab the specific kind that you want quickly and easily without having to rummage through a whole thing of lures hoping that you’ve got the right one.

Cull Tags

Cull tags are tags that you use to mark your fish. Usually, when you’re in a tournament they allow usually five bass to be held in your livewell, so when you catch the sixth, it’s time to see if that fish outranks any that you have in your livewell. If so, switch the tags and let that fish go.

They used to use puncturing cull tags that would puncture a hole in the bottom jaw of the fish, but due to the ethical uneasiness, fishers didn’t really want to risk causing infection for the fish. So now, they have come out with these non-puncturing cull tags that simply hook onto the bottom lip of the fish without puncturing it.

Usually, with these tags, there are floats that are attached that are of different colors. That way when you’re looking for a specific fish in your livewell, you just have to look for the float of that color, and you’re able to locate them easier than you would without those flotation devices.

These are very helpful because you can number the flotation devices and by so doing, keep track of your biggest fish and smallest. That, in turn, will help you as you continue to go about fishing and release ones that may not have been up to par with those that you previously or currently caught.

Measuring Board

Obviously having a measuring board on your boat would be a good idea as well when you’re catching the fish. That way you can have an accurate measurement of what you’re catching, and you can keep track. Be sure that you put the board in a compartment after you’re finished using it though.

There are times when fishermen talk about how they watched as their measuring board fell into the water when they were headed to another spot. Although they aren’t expensive, it’s going to make the rest of your time on the water a bit more difficult when you’re trying to measure fish.

This is honestly one of the best tools that you can have on your boat, especially when you’re in a tournament. You have to be sure that your fish are up to length with your license as well as with the tournament, so don’t be afraid to bring more than one in case you happen to lose the first one.

Good Pliers

One thing that you might not think of when you’re headed out onto the water is that you might need to have some pliers along for the trip. There are times when the hook will become so embedded in the fish, it’s not even worth it trying to dig around with your fingers.

When you pull the fish into the boat, you want to be sure that you’re not keeping it out of water for too long before you place it in the livewell. It’s a good idea to keep more than one pair on your boat, especially if you’re going to be fishing with someone else on your boat.

You have to make sure that it’s a GOOD pair of pliers, you don’t want some that you think are going to work okay, you want to be sure that you’ve got what you need, and you’re going to be able to do what you need to do in order to get the hook out from the fish.

Operating Livewell

This is probably one of the most important things that you need to have on your boat. If you’re using an older boat, be sure and check that nothing has broken and that you’re going to be okay with everything that you’re doing. This means that you should check to make sure the pumps aren’t making some obscene sound when you turn them on.

There can be times when your recirculate pumps aren’t working and there’s really nothing that you can do about that except for head back to shore and head home to get those fixed. If you’re out there without these pumps, the fish will die, and that’s not really what you want to have happen when you’re out on the water.

Sometimes your pumps may not be working, so that’s when you might have to manually fill your livewells. Those pumps are different than the recirculating pumps, it’s not fun to have to fill those by hand, but it could just be something that you have to do if you really want to keep fishing.


This is something that is really important. In order to keep yourself and your partner happy, it’s important that you have food. There will be times when the fishing is slow and your stomach will growl, and you’ll know that it’s that time of the day. But what’s going to happen if you’re out and about with no food?

Can you imagine being on a boat all day, in the sun, rain, whatever elements you’re in and then realizing you don’t have food? That’s the worst feeling. Don’t try to tough it out. Grab some snacks and bring them along. Pack a lunch as well. It’s not a bad thing. It’s going to help you stay sharp and help you to keep going through the day.

First Aid Kit/ Toilet Paper

These are also pretty basic things that you should already have with you before you head out on the water. You never know when you’re going to have an accident with a hook and you need to have some anti-bac stuff present.

I remember there was one time that I was fishing, and I went to cast, and somehow I ended up catching the hook on my middle finger. It was painful for sure, but luckily we had a first aid kit, so I was able to take care of the damage that was caused before it was something worse.

You really never know when something can go wrong. There could be the slip of a knife, hook, really there can be anything that can happen so it’s important to be able to know that you’re prepared in case of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, toilet paper is also a good thing to have. There will be a time when you’re out on the water, sitting there having a good chat with your friend, and all of a sudden, it’s there. That urge, that shaking feeling. You have to go to the bathroom.

Having the toilet paper is one of the best options that you’ve got. But you should also make sure that you have some sort of portable toilet. This isn’t about hanging over the edge of the boat and just letting go. That’s disgusting and wrong. Be sure to have a little toilet with you, you can even get one that allows for a little more privacy, which is always a good thing when you’re sitting in a boat in the middle of a body of water.

Life Jackets

This is something that is always important. No matter where you go. Personal flotation devices are necessary when you’re headed out on a boat. You may think that you’re fine and that you can swim in case anything was to go wrong and you were in the water.

But can you swim when you’re unconscious? The reason that we have these devices isn’t that we think that people can’t swim. It’s to protect you during the times when you aren’t capable of swimming due to your muscles being tired, or when something has happened and you’re not mentally there, or you’re even unconscious.

There are times when your state could even require you to have a life vest on your person when you’re out on a boat, so be sure that you’re checking what’s going on and what your state requires so you can be sure that you’re abiding by the state and tournament rules.

Your family would want you back home, so make sure that you’re taking the necessary steps to be sure that you can do that.

A “Can Do” Attitude

When you’re out on the boat, it can get a little frustrating at times if you don’t have anything biting, or you’re burning up in the sun, but the important thing to remember is that you’re out in nature. You’re able to enjoy the beauty that’s around you, even if there are other boats that are just around you. You have a friend with you, food, water, and the world all at your fingertips.

Don’t be afraid to go into the tournament confident. Having that confidence can help in the long run in keeping your spirits up. Most important when you’re out fishing, be sure that you’re having a good time. Being in a bass tournament isn’t supposed to be a tedious thing. You’re supposed to enjoy the thrill of the catch and the fresh air.

So be sure that you’re doing what you can to find that comfortable pace out on the water, and be sure that you’re being safe so you can get back to your family at the end of the night.

If this is your first time heading out to a bass tournament and this article made you stress a little more about this whole process, that’s understandable. There’s a lot of things that you have to do in order to prepare for going out on the water.

But in reality, it’s better to over prepare than to under prepare. Even if you’re going to be on someone else’s boat, help them by letting them know what things to bring and what to prepare for. Check the weather. Don’t rely on them to bring you your own life jacket. Bring one that fits you and allows you that safety that you need.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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