Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fishing Etiquette for the Non-Boater

As long as I can remember, fishing trips with my Dad have always instilled in me a set of unsung rules that every fisherman should abide by.  The setting and type of fishing may change slightly from day to day, but the basics should always be followed to create mutual respect between yourself and others you may come in contact with.  This doesn't just include a friendly wave as you pass by another fisherman...or moving to a different spot if your favorite spot is already taken...there is a lot more to it when fishing competitively.

Competitive fishing from the back of the boat is not something to take lightly.  In most instances, like in my case, you will get paired randomly with a new boater each tournament.  Other competitions are team based tournaments where you fish with the same guy every time, but again etiquette is not exactly treated the same in both instances.  

First and foremost, when you get paired up with a boater at the beginning of the tournament ALWAYS get ground rules squared away before you even hit the water.  Let him know how much equipment you are bringing and never put anything into their boat until they tell you where you can put it.  Treat their things as your own! Find out what their fishing game plan is beforehand so you can leave any gear at the dock that you won't be needing.  It is not the non-boaters privilege to dictate where and how you will be fishing for the day in most instances, so just be cautious of this before you take off.  But in the same respect, let him know what you found during practice because it will help both of you solidify a game plan before you even leave the launch. After you get all of your equipment and a game plan set then it is time to get the boat in the water ready for launch!

If you have never backed up a boat before...you need to learn!  Learning to back up a boat and park a boat and trailer is one of the biggest things that you can do to help out your boater.  I had no idea how to back up a boat the correct way the first tournament I was in, so find a buddy that you know that can back up a boat or kindly ask the boater to get you close to the water so you can back in the rest of the way.  Don't be shy to tell your boater if you don't know how to do it...and if they know you have a hard time with it...some will actually allow you to take the driver's seat and guide you so you do learn.  Trial by fire is sometimes the best way to learn in a pinch.  When pulling the trailer away from the boat always wait until your boater gives you a go ahead signal...the last thing you would ever want to do is take off too soon and damage their boat.  If you aren't comfortable parking a boat and trailer always park in a farther spot away from others...and always take wide turns when swinging in a trailer!  A lot of this is probably not new to most of you...but you would be surprised how many people just can't figure it out.

^^^ Great how-to video to get you started ^^^

When you finally park the trailer and truck, always follow the boater's request as to where to put the keys.  Some leave it behind the flap of the gas tank, and some might want to have them back on the boat....irregardless DO NOT lose them!  You wouldn't believe the stories I have heard of non-boaters forgetting they had the keys...went down to mess with their tackle box and had the keys fall out of their pocket and into the water...DOH!  So always give them back to the boater or put them in a safe compartment...so at least if the boater drops them in the water it doesn't come back on you.  

After getting in the boat take some time before the launch to spark up some conversation.  It will make the day a lot more enjoyable if you can establish some common ground with your boater, and it might even allow you the opportunity to eventually have more free reign of their boat.  Once you come up to your first fishing spot there are some things that you need to abide by and be aware of to keep the peace at first between you and your boater.

1) Never put a line in the water until your boater puts his line in the water.
2) If you are flipping or fishing perpendicular to the shore you should not cast any further then the center of the boat.  If you are paralleling the shore with a crankbait or spinnerbait you should never cast in front of the boaters last cast.
3) Never fish off the front of the boat unless the boater invites you to the front of the boat...same goes for working the trolling motor.
4) If a boater misses a hook set on a fish abide by rule 2...
5) If you get hung up or snagged it isn't the responsibility of the boater to get you unstuck, but 9 times out of 10 they will give you a chance to get your bait back...but don't expect them to drop everything that they are doing and do it right away.
6) If a fish is hooked and a net is on the boat, always be prepared to net the fish for your boater...the courtesy should be reciprocated then back to you if you catch a fish.
7) Make sure all of your gear and tackle remains out of the aisle and is put away before the boater even sits down at the steering wheel so you can leave quickly from a spot to go elsewhere
8) Realize the fact that the boater is not your fishing guide, they are not required to put you on fish...you need to learn to adapt and fish the most effective way according to how they position their boat.

Some boaters are different then others so you just have to feel them out, but the rules above are always a necessary starting point.  Don't be shy to ask questions on what he is using or how to do what he is doing if he is catching fish...most guys are more than happy to teach you a thing or two.  If your boater though constantly positions you poorly let him know about it, you have just as much right to get a clear shot of water as they do even though they are running the show.  The main thing though as a non-boater is to learn, once you get a few tournaments under your belt these types of things will become routine...so soak in as much as you can!

At the end of the day it is always good practice to have the the non-boater go and get the boat and trailer.  After you get everything settled in the parking lot always offer to help clean up the boat and wipe it down...especially cleaning up your own mess.  You really don't realize how much extra time it takes to take care of a boat, so a little help on your part can go a long way.  Always talk about your day afterwards and re-cap what you did right or wrong...it always helps to keep yourself informed for next time.

The last thing you always want to do is give your boater some money.  The minimum amount of money should always be half of the gas used up during the tournament...but I usually give them a couple extra bucks in case we burned up oil or used any of his lures or ate any of his food.  Always make the effort to give them at least that...some guys won't take your money but it is better to offer it instead of not at all.

Being respectful of your boater will only do good things for you. Word travels fast in those small groups of fishermen so the last thing you need is to be pegged as an a**hole...it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

That's all I got so if you want to read more on the topic and some other pointers to keep in mind here is where I found most of my information beforehand...

Thanks for reading, and tight lines!



  1. Great write up on this and you provide some helpful tips for folks. Following these rules will help the newbie get invited for another trip. Well done.

    1. Thank you for the feedback! It definitely helps having this info beforehand...especially for a newbie. I am glad to hear that this will be helpful for others!