Ready to Participate in a Fishing Tournament?

Fishing Tournament popularity has exploded in recent years. And why not! It’s a great place to meet friends, have some friendly competition doing something many love to do, and maybe even win some money.

**Note: Before leaving a waterway infested with quagga mussels and other aquatic invasive species, clean and dry, and remove the plug and drain.

Clean & dry – Remove all mud, plants and mussels from your boat or equipment. This includes hull, anchor and chain/ lines, stern attachments, engine and trailer. Allow your boat and equipment to dry the best extent possible before transporting. For more specific protocols see Director’s Order #3

Remove plug and drain – Completely drain all water from bilge, live wells, ballast tanks and other compartments prior to transport. If applicable drain water from lower engine unit.

collaboration with the Arizona game and fish department

The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not issue permits for fishing tournaments.  Fishing tournaments are permitted by the land management agency where the tournament is being held. The Department is however very interested in:

  • building relationships with tournament organizations and promoters
  • working with permitting agencies like the National Forests, Arizona State Parks and the National Park Service to ensure fishing tournaments are not having negative impacts to fish populations and are emphasizing public safety
  • promoting safe fish handling practices
  • utilizing fish data from fishing tournaments to better inform fisheries management.

Participate in a tournament or organize one

If you would like to participate in a tournament, or wish to organize a fishing tournament, the Department has developed several short, one page recommendation documents that are a compilation of best practices for tournament anglers and tournament organizers.  

Tournament Fishing – Fish care

Bass tournament organizers

Largemouth bass tournaments are the most popular type of tournament, but many other fish type tournaments happen as well.  Non bass tournament recommendations are included here:

Non bass tournaments

For more information about fish handling and fish care during a tournament go to: OR

Popular fishing tournament waters and tournament permitting agencies

Fish handling

  • Land the fish as quickly as possible and keep them in the air for as little time as possible. 
  • Wet your hands before handling the fish being careful not to remove the protective slime or damage the gills. 
  • Don’t “boat flip” your bass onto the deck.
  • Anglers should be especially careful when handling big bass so as not to damage the jaw. If the jaw is damaged, it is likely the bass will no longer be able to feed, leading to higher rates of mortality.
  • Hold the bass in a fully vertical position or use two hands to support the body. Using a single hand to hold a bass without proper weight distribution can damage or dislocate the jaw.

deep caught fish

Returning largemouth bass back into the lake to be caught again another day is the basis behind catch-and-release fishing. This is especially true among bass tournament anglers today that practice catch and release.

However, catching bass at depths of 60, 40 even 30 feet of water causes the swim bladders to expand rapidly and results in bass floating belly-up on the surface, unable to swim back to the depths after the weigh-in. Tried and true methods exist to help anglers minimize mortality when catching deep water bass.  Article summarizing these deep caught bass methods.

Proper Catch-and-release Methods

Fishing regulations, page 60


  • Use appropriate hooks and quick hook sets: Avoid letting fish swallow hooks by paying attention to your line and using an appropriate hook size and type. Single hooks are more easily removed versus multi-point hooks. 
  • Hook type: Barbless hooks are easier to remove and result in less injury to fish and shorter handling times during hook removal. 
  • Appropriate tackle: The use of artificial flies and lures generally hook fish more superficially than those using live bait. 
  • Quick retrieve: Exhaustion stress can be fatal, the longer you play a fish, the more stress it endures. 
  • Soft mesh nets: The use of soft mesh nets, if nets are necessary, will help keep their protective slime on and will avoid entanglement. 
  • Wet hands and a gentle touch: Handling fish with wet hands will help keep their protective slime from coming off. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible: It is best to unhook the fish while it is still in the water and avoid holding the fish out of the water for pictures for more than a few seconds.


  • Avoid forcefully removing swallowed hooks: If the hook is embedded down the throat, harvesting the fish may be the best option, if not, clip the line as close to the eye of the hook as possible and avoid attempting to remove the hook which may result in bleeding and injury. Hooks will dissolve over time. A fish hooked deeply has a better chance of survival if the line is cut than if its organs are torn in the unhooking process. 
  • Avoid touching the gills or eyes: Holding a fish by the gills can be lethal; these are extremely sensitive and easily damaged organs. 
  • Avoid A Firm Grip: Fish are slippery and wiggly. Make sure to support the fish properly while holding it. Instinct will lead an angler to tighten their grip on the fish, and potentially crush its internal organs with force.

Fish are a valuable resource, and fishing for them is a fun and exciting recreational experience.  By limiting your harvest, and practicing good catch-and-release techniques, you can help preserve a fishery and ensure that angling opportunity remains for another day. Currently, native trout fishing opportunities can only exist from anglers using these techniques.

Want to Go Fishing around the State?

Find ways to experience fishing all over the state, including community waters.

buy your fishing license

If you need a fishing license, a combo hunt & fish license, or a short-term license, read about them here.

buy now

find a community lake to fish

There are 50+ community lakes in Arizona. Make a memory fishing with the family!

lake locations

Subscribe to our Newsletter