Monday, December 06, 2021

After the Tournament

(Note: I meant to post this early in November, but life has a way of getting in the way of things you intend to do. Here it is, to be followed shortly by my review of equipment, and my habitat report.)

Yes, I did take part in the Trails to Trout Tournament in Sparta, Wisconsin, in the Wisconsin Driftless Region, the second weekend of October. No, I did not win, place, or show. In fact, (as usual) I didn’t even catch any trout. But that does not mean that the experience wasn’t beneficial. Since I had never participated in a fishing tournament of any kind before October 9th, I really had no idea what to expect. I had exchanged some emails with the organizers at the Sparta Chamber of Commerce, and had not fully explored the Fish Donkey app through which the tourney was organized, so part of my diminished expectations have to be on me. I would, however, like to share some of the things I learned.

First of all, Fish Donkey is a great way to run an event like this. Virtual fishing tournaments are becoming more and more popular, and although this was my first experience with one, I can see where it makes organizing and putting on an event like this much easier. Essentially, you signed into and create an account, scroll through the list of tournaments, or enter a keyword such as “trout," select the tournament you want to enter from the list, fill out your information, pay whatever fee is required, and on the given date, go fishing. You do need to purchase a measuring board, either from Fish Donkey’s online store, or from another source, such as Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops. Then, when you catch a fish, you take a picture of it on the measuring board and a picture of you holding it, then release the fish back into the water it came from. The advantage of this for organizers is that they do not have to have someone at a measuring station for the duration of the event (this tournament was nine days long) as it is all compiled virtually. The disadvantage, at least to my point of view, is there is nobody available to answer questions should you need clarification. Although everything you need is contained in the app, such as maps, rules, and contacts, it takes some digging around and web savvy to find them. Also, the contact information in this particular instance was a very busy Chamber executive who was hard to get a hold of.

I want to put in a plug here for my friends at Trout Routes. ( (Full Disclosure: I am an Ambassador for them.) I use the TroutRoutes app almost every time I go fishing.  Having not fully figured out the Fish Donkey app the first morning I was there, Trout Routes saved the day with detailed maps and information, and even more so later, as the maps I did ultimately find did not have the stream information I needed. I have my Cogburn fat-bike set up so the phone with Trout Routes is right next to my Garmin GPS, for quick navigation. 

Incidentally, the winners of this very first Bikefishing tournament I’d ever heard of, were locals from within 30 miles or so of Sparta, and were able to fish most if not all of the nine days. I believe there were something like 40 entrants, although I only saw two or possibly three of them the weekend that I was able to be there, and only had a chance to speak with one of them.

Hopefully, we will be able to put on a similar tournament in Northwestern Wisconsin late next spring. I have wanted to have an event like this for several years, but the Covid pandemic has kept it from happening. Tentatively, the event would be centered on Drummond, Wisconsin, and include some really great trout fisheries. If the nonprofit that I want to support approves the plan, I will be looking for sponsors, swipe, and collaborators. Stay tuned, because there will be more information to come.