Ben Hudson – “Blue Collar Bassin’”
From the back of the boat
Why fishing Co-angler is more exciting and can make you a better angler


Earlier this week, a friend of mine and I were talking about fishing and all the local tournaments we had coming up this season on our home lakes. In all the small talk, an interesting question arose. He asked what my favorite event was in our area this year. A tough question, since we have some exciting events around our home lakes of Smith Mountain and Buggs Island, including the BPS Big Bass event (where you only have to catch one single giant bass), 200+ boat Anglers Choice Marine mega-tournaments, a “Bassquest” tournament trail that puts up a boat as its final tournament prize, and numerous local trails around the area. However, none of these tournaments came to mind when asked what my favorite event was. Without hesitation my answer was the BFL event on Smith Mountain Lake. This event normally only comes once every year in March or April.
With all these events going on, this might sound like a strange choice as my favorite event. But there is one aspect of this tournament that appeals to me every year, getting to fish my home lake with a random partner.
As a tournament angler, it’s always an amazing feeling to put together a pattern and then go out and execute it on tournament day. In both partner and non-partner events, it’s part of what makes fishing such a tough mental sport, because it’s all about the decisions you make out on the water that determine your results and you are the one in control of all those choices.
What if the situation and the decision making aren’t in your control anymore though? It throws a curveball into the sport, and leads to a unique and different type of challenge. Fishing as a co-angler is by far the most underrated and least talked about skill in tournament bass fishing today.
To me, fishing as a co-angler in an event such as a BFL or Costa event is such a unique experience. It forces you to fish in situations that might not always be ideal for you. It’s also exciting, because you have no idea who you’re going to be fishing with until late the night before and have no idea what technique they use to fish. The boater you draw may fish a completely different style than you are used to, and you must make adjustments and figure out a way to catch your needed limit or weight from the back of the boat.
I’ve talked to many people who are discouraged by this, saying they don’t like the risk of putting up money and not knowing where they’re going to be fishing or how they’re going to be fishing. While this is all true, it adds to the excitement for me. It’s a unique challenge trying to figure out the fish in a non-ideal situation, and then seeing where you stacked up against other anglers who were also in non-ideal situations on the back of the boat.
Aside from the unique challenge that fishing from the back of the boat presents, it’s probably the number one way to improve as a tournament angler and have a more successful tournament track record. Many of the best anglers in the world, both local and touring pros, started out on the back of the boat. Even if you aren’t catching a lot of fish yourself, just seeing the angler on the front catch bass is a valuable experience. Seeing what they were doing and how they caught those fish could be more useful than any check you could get on the co-angler side.
Inevitably, if you fish co-angler events enough, you might draw a talented partner that you can learn from. But, you may also draw an angler that may not teach you anything new and have a tough day on the back of the boat. While this can be discouraging, it’s not always a waste. It’s a part of the sport where you can learn what to do, but also get to see what does NOT work as well. Any different kind of experience seen on the water can be valuable some day in the future.
My friend who asked me about my favorite tournament also asked me why I would want to fish my home lake as a co-angler, when I could fish the boater side with local lake knowledge. It’s simple; it’s just a different experience. When I get that co-angler experience on my home lake, it’s the one tournament out of the year where anything goes. You get to see the way other people fish it, instead of doing the same thing you do every tournament there. Even if I don’t learn anything I could use in the future, just getting to see the way other anglers fish your lake can give you experience as to what works and what does not work. It makes for great experiences and stories, and also a great way to meet and become friends with many great anglers to create valuable connections for the future.
If you enjoy tournament fishing, I encourage you to consider fishing as a co-angler if an event such as a BFL is coming to your area. It may just help you get your fishing game to the next level or even cash a check. Either way, it’s going to be a unique experience that you just can’t get from being a regular weekend warrior angler. So check your schedules and if an event that has co-anglers is coming to a body of water near you, take a break from the normal tournament routine and try your hand at the most underrated and less talked about part of the sport, being the “under the radar” angler on the back of the boat.
Tight lines friends!

Ben Hudson
“Blue Collar Bassin’”