Official USA Fishing Trails Tournament Rules
The following rules apply to all USA Fishing Trails (USAFT) tournaments unless otherwise specified.
PLEASE READ CAREFULLY – THERE HAVE BEEN SOME KEY CHANGES TO THE RULES
MISSION: Our mission is to provide rules that keep all contestants safe, on a equal playing field, legal, and to prevent any contestant from having an unfair advantage over another contestant, while allowing our members to compete in a sportsmanlike, professional, unhindered and enjoyable manner. If you have any questions about the rules, then please contact us for clarification – Chris Davis, the Tournament Director for all events, can be reached by text or phone at 214-616-5693, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the event that a situation arises that tests a rule, its wording, arrangement, or the overall goal of the rule, then it is possible that a change to that rule, or its wording, may take place for future events. Any rule changes will be noted in the first section titled “RULE CHANGES.” It is the contestant’s responsibility to read and understand these rules.
- Added – “The use of mobile communication devices including, but not limited to, cellular phones, marine radios, walkie-talkies, CBs, private or public websites or forums, etc., to communicate fishing information during tournament hours is strictly prohibited” to the “FISH LOCATING AND INFORMATION” section.
- New for 2017 – All teams are required to check in on the morning of their first event of the year, but will be allowed to trailer after check in and for the remainder of the year (except championships). After your first event, you do not have to check in and can trailer once you have a boat number and fishing times for your event (available on the Early Entries page).
- New for 2017 – All regular season events have a $200 entry fee and optional $100 bonus payout entry. You decide how much you want to fish for.
REGISTRATION: There are three ways to register:
- Register by mail by downloading an entry form from www.usafishingtrails.com and mailing it to the address on the entry form. Please consider enough time for us to receive your entry by mail, and check the Early Entries page to confirm your entry as been received and you have been added to the list.
- Register with a credit card at www.usafishingtrails.com. All information is required for your first online entry, but only a few key pieces of information are required each time after that.
- Register the morning of the tournament beginning at 5:00 AM at the weigh in location posted on the Early Entries page on www.usafishingtrails.com. Contestants registering on the morning of the tournament are advised to be at the registration location no less than 30 minutes before sunrise.
Note: There is a $10 late registration fee when registering the morning of the tournament, and an online convenience fee when registering with a credit card (this fee is built in to the online shopping cart price). We encourage teams to register early.
POLYGRAPH: All events are scheduled to have a polygraph exam, and all contestants will be subject to a polygraph exam at each event. Contestants must pass the polygraph exam at the tournament site to receive prize money, awards, and points for the event. The Tournament Director (TD) reserves the right to waive any violation of these rules that are disclosed to them before the polygraph exam, in their sole and absolute discretion, without prejudice or favoritism. In the event of a rule violation, the TD may impose such sanctions as they deem appropriate, including, without limitation, disqualification, and forfeiture of prizes, entry fees, and prohibition from participation in subsequent tournaments. The decision of the TD is final.
UPDATED – TRAILERING: All USA Fishing Trails division tournaments will be trailering starts, except for South Louisiana (see special rule for South Louisiana). All teams are required to check in at the posted registration site on the morning of their first event of the year, and then will be allowed to trailer for all division tournaments. The Start Time (first cast) will be posted on the Early Entries list on the website. Trailering is allowed throughout the tournament. Contestants can only launch into water that is publicly accessible from the dam (the main lake). Private ramps, boat houses, or other private launch locations are okay to use as long as they provide access to the same legal fishing waters as the publicly accessible launch locations.
UPDATED – SOUTH LOUISIANA: All tournaments will be held out of Dorion’s Landing in Morgan City, unless otherwise specified. Teams must check in and have their live well checked the morning of each event at the posted location, and then can launch from either side (Basin or Verret). Times will be posted or given for each tournament as to when boats can leave the launch area, and when they can start fishing (first cast). The Stop Time (bait out of the water) and Weigh In Cutoff times (be in line with fish) will be posted on the Early Entries list on the website. Teams are allowed to fish any area they choose, as long as they can get there by boat and there is equal access to all contestants. Any private areas that do not allow public access to all contestants are strictly prohibited. Contestants must follow all local, state, and federal off limits and public fishing rules and laws. No gates or barriers that are normally closed or engaged to restrict public access can be purposefully opened to allow only a specific person or persons access to fishing areas.
UPDATED – CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFICATION & PROCEEDURES: Teams may qualify for the USAFT Championships in two ways:
- Teams or individuals that enter four of the five events in any one division.
- Teams or individuals that enter any combination of five Bud Light Trail or Bass-N-Bucks division tournaments or qualified special events (this is called the PICK 5 division).
All championships will be a numbered, flighted takeoff. The number of boats in each flight will be determined by the TD after final registration. The boat numbers will be assigned by a drawing. In the case of a two day championship, the boat/flight numbers will be reversed on the second day (the last boat number will start first the second day). The contestants may launch from any ramp but must be present at the registration/launch site at the start of the tournament. Safe light will be determined by the TD the morning of the tournament. In the case of bad weather, trailering may be allowed for the championships for safety reasons. Championships will have a special “OFF LIMITS” period, which will be posted on the event page for each championship.
START, STOP, AND WEIGH IN CUTOFF TIMES :The start, stop (bait/lure of out the water), and weigh in cut off times (be in line with your catch) will be posted the Early Entries page for each event. Official time will be set to match cell phone network time. We understand there can be a very small discrepancy between providers, but the amount of time fished will be the same. If you have any questions regarding official times, please contact the TD. Polygraph questions will be asked regarding start and stop fishing times.
PARTICIPATION AND ELIGIBILITY: Anyone that has been disqualified, forced to withdraw, or banned from any fishing tournament or organization must inform the TD before entering a USAFT tournament (this does not automatically prevent entry, but failure to inform the TD may result in disqualification). USAFT tournaments are open to all anglers except professional anglers. A professional angler is defined as any angler that has entered more than two bass tournaments that required an entry fee greater than $2,000 in the immediately preceding six months prior to the date of the USAFT tournament being entered. All contestants must have a valid fishing license. Participation in USAFT tournaments are open to contestants who are 16 years of age or older. A wavier must be signed by a parent or guardian for contestants under the age of 16. The TD will reserve the right to disqualify entries. During tournament hours, every boat must have Boat Liability Insurance with effective dates for the tournament date. There is no minimum, but you must have coverage. These will be polygraph questions.
UPDATED – MEMBERSHIPS, ENTRY FEES, AND BONUS PAYOUT POT: All contestants must have a USA Fishing Trails membership to compete in any USAFT tournament, unless otherwise specified. Memberships will be good for all USAFT tournaments for that calendar year. Each USAFT tournament requires a $200 entry fee per team, which must be paid in full before the tournament starts. USAFT also offers a $100 optional bonus payout pot for those that want to compete for more money. Membership fees, entry fees, bonus payout pots, and championship entry fees will be posted on the USAFT website, and are available for purchase by mail, online, or at registration.
UPDATED – PAYOUTS: USAFT guarantees a minimum $2,000 payout, regardless of entries, in all division tournaments, and guarantees $2,000 for first place starting at 20 paid entries. The $200 entry fee pays back 80% on one place per five entries scale, and the optional $100 Bonus Payout pays back 90% on a one place per five entries scale. The Big Bass payout is a combination of cash and a TFO rod, and two Big Bass places are paid out starting at 30 teams.
OFF LIMITS & PRE- FISHING: There is a strict off limits period for all USAFT tournaments from midnight on tournament day until the start of the tournament (trailering to your spot is allowed, but absolutely no fishing or lines in the water during this time). For teams that have registered and paid for an event before the Thursday before the event, there is no off limits period for that event, except from midnight until the start of the tournament. For teams that have not registered for an event, the off limits period begins at 12:00 AM on the Thursday before that event, and stays in effect until a team has registered for that event. Once a team (or individual) is registered, they are allowed to prefish/scout. There is no deadline for registration until the start of the event. Contestants are not allowed to be on the tournament lake for any reason during the off limits period unless they have registered and paid for that event, unless otherwise approved by the TD.
UPDATED – FISH LOCATING & INFORMATION: There is no rule against collecting information before the official tournament hours. Communication devices may be used in the event of an emergency or for reasons other than catching or locating bass. The use of mobile communication devices including, but not limited to, cellular phones, marine radios, walkie-talkies, CBs, private or public websites or forums, etc., to communicate fishing information during tournament hours is strictly prohibited. No one is permitted to “hole sit” for contestants.
ASSISTANCE: In the event of an emergency situation, competitors should call 911 first and then notify the Tournament Director at 214-616-5693. Teams are allowed to receive help on the water from anyone. Safety is always the first priority.
OFFICIAL DESIGNATED OBSERVER and OR FILM PERSON(S): USAFT may request that an observer, film crew, or filming device is allowed to follow or ride in a contestant’s boat during tournament hours. The contestant(s), by entering the tournament, agree to let USA Fishing Trails use any film, photos, audio, and written accounts of the activities during the USAFT event for reasons relevant to the USAFT program.
SAFETY and CANCELATION: Safe boat conduct must be observed at all times by tournament contestants. During tournament hours, each contestant is required to wear a Coast Guard approved life preserver any time the boat is on plane, but we advise all contestants to keep their life preserver on at all times while on the water. The preserver must be strapped, snapped or zippered securely and maintained in that condition while the boat is on plane. The TD may delay, cancel, and/or reschedule the tournament based on severe weather or other factors that might endanger the safety of the contestants. Contestants will be notified about tournament rescheduling on the USAFT web site, USAFT E-newsletter, and via social media. It is the contestant’s responsibility to check the web site and/or E-newsletter.
SPORTSMANSHIP, FISH ALTERATIONS OR CHEATING: Contestants are expected to follow high standards of sportsmanship, courtesy, safety, and conservation. Any infraction of these fundamental sporting principles may be deemed cause for disqualification. During all tournament/contest hours, no contestant shall use alcohol or drugs other than those prescribed by a physician. This will be grounds for immediate disqualification. Maximum courtesy must be practiced at all times, especially in the vicinity of any other boaters. Alteration of a fish from its natural state is prohibited during a contest. The adding of weights, modifying fish tails, or any other method used to alter fish length, stuffing foreign substance(s) into the fish, or other alterations, is strictly prohibited during a contest. It will be the contestant’s responsibility to notify the TD of hooks, weighted hooks, etc., left inside the fish before the fish is weighed, or they risk disqualification.
TACKLE, EQUIPMENT and LANDING FISH: Dip nets are allowed and team members may land each other’s catch. Vinyl or rubber coated nets are recommended. Only artificial lures may be used. No “live bait” or prepared bait will be permitted, with the exception of pork strips, rinds, etc. Only one rod and one reel may be used, with bait in the water, by each contestant at any one time. The “Alabama rig” is allowed. All bass must be caught live and in a conventional sporting manner. Anyone guilty of snatching or snagging visible fish will be disqualified. All visible or bedding fish must be hooked inside the mouth. No gaffing or grippers may be used to land fish. The use of any kind of cage to store fish is strictly prohibited. Having fish tied up or stored, in any manner, for the purpose of retrieving them later is strictly prohibited. No fish may be transferred between registered teams or from a non-contestant. During tournament hours, contestants cannot leave the boat to land a fish, but may leave the boat to retrieve a bait or for other necessary reasons. Contestants cannot leave their boat to make the boat more accessible to fishing waters.
BOAT, MOTOR and BREAKDOWNS: For the safety of all, boats must be equipped with some type of ignition kill switch. This device is required to be attached to the driver any time the boat is on plane, and we advise all contestants to keep it attached while the main engine is turned on. All boats must be 15 feet or more in length. Jet drive or air boats are prohibited. Raised platform or decks higher than the gunnels are prohibited. An electric trolling motor may be used for positioning only. Trolling for the purposes of fishing is prohibited. Only manufacturer approved gas tanks are permitted. Stick and tiller steering boats are prohibited. In the event of a break down, contestants may contact another contestant to bring their catch back to weigh in. One contestant from the disabled boat must accompany the catch back to the weigh in. Contestants may contact the TD by phone or wave down other boaters to ask for assistance. However, the contestant’s disabled boat catch must be brought back to the weigh in location by another tournament contestant’s boat, either trailered or by water, before the weigh in cut off time, unless otherwise authorized by the TD.
BASIC BOAT EQUIPMENT & HORSEPOWER REGULATIONS: Contestants’ boats must have all required safety equipment. In addition, it must have a functional bilge pump and live well space, properly aerated, to adequately maintain a limit catch of bass. No motors may exceed the maximum Coast Guard rating.
PERMITTED FISHING LOCATIONS: All contestants may only fish on the tournament lake or waters specified on their entry form. Contestants can only fish in tournament lake water that is accessible by boat from the dam (the main lake), or within the boundaries for that tournament, which will be posted on the USAFT website for the event. In cases where the body of water has dams or locks, the boundaries will be decided by the TD and/or posted at www.usafishingtrails.com for that event. Private waters that are not publicly accessible to all contestants are strictly prohibited. No fishing within 25 yards of another contestant’s boat which was first anchored or secured in a fixed position with the trolling motor out of the water. Contestants must be at least 25 yards away from all other tournament contestants when the trolling motor is down. All such boats are required to advise any other contestant of being too close. Contestants cannot use this rule in boat lanes or other narrow passages to block passage to commonly fished areas. All angling/fishing must be done from the contestant’s boat. Contestants cannot leave their boat to make the boat more accessible to fishing waters. Contestants must observe all posted local, state and federal off limits and no fishing areas.
CONTESTANT REFUNDS: Pre tournament refunds will be considered on a case by case basis. Once a tournament has begun, there will be no refunds for that tournament.
OFFICIAL REGISTRATION & WEIGH IN LOCATION: Official registration sites will be posted on the USAFT web site, and a tournament official will be there by 5:00 AM on the morning of every tournament. There will be only one official registration location, and only one official weigh in location. Boat numbers will be assigned by USAFT. Contestants will need their assigned boat numbers at the weigh in. If a contestant mailed, or submitted online, their paid entry, but are not posted on the USAFT Early Entries page before the tournament date, the contestants can call the TD to resolve the situation.
REMOTE OR OFF LAKE REGISTRATION AND WEIGH IN LOCATIONS: USAFT may use remote or off lake registration and weigh in sites for some tournaments. The same registration and weigh-in procedures will apply. The registration and weigh in site will be posted on the USAFT website.
FISH CARE: The contestants should weigh in, as soon as possible, upon returning to the weigh in site. To ensure live release of the fish, please do not wait to the last minute to enter the weigh in line. All fish will be put in Sure Life chemically treated, aerated tanks and returned to the tournament lake at the conclusion of the weigh in. Contestants may use their own weigh bags, or one will be provided by USAFT, at the weigh in location. Fish will be taken from the weigh bag, checked by a tournament official, and placed in a mesh bag to be weighed in.
SCORING AND DEAD FISH PENALTY: Angler of the Year standings (AOY Race) and final tournament winners will be determined by a “points plus weight” system. 200 points, plus the stringer weight, will be awarded to the winner. Second place will receive 199 points plus their weight, and so on until the last angler who weighed in fish. All teams that do not weigh in a fish will receive 10 points less than the last team that weighs in fish. Weights will be documented in decimal pounds, to the nearest one hundredth of a pound. Only Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass will be weighed. The limit shall be five (5) bass per day. At no time shall a team have more than five (5) bass in the live well. If more than five fish are put in the livewell, notify the TD immediately. Culling is allowed. Culling of a dead fish is not allowed. Length limits will vary by lake or body of water and it is the contestant’s responsibility to know the length limits. USAFT will clarify team limits for tournaments with special bag and length regulations. Fish are measured from closed mouth to squeezed tail by the TD or tournament official. Contestants will be allowed to check their fish on an official Prorule measuring board before weighing in. If a short or slot fish is measured by a tournament official at the weigh in, a five (5) pound penalty will be subtracted and the short or slot fish will not be weighed. There will be a .50 pound penalty for each dead fish presented at the weigh in.
TIES: In case of a tie, all cash money will be split between the contestants involved. In the event of a tie where a boat or other prize is awarded that cannot be split, the contestant(s) with the largest bass will be awarded the prize. If this is not possible, the TD may arrange a fish-off, if all tied teams can agree to the terms. If this is not possible, the TD will flip a coin and the winner will be awarded the prize.
PROTESTS: All protests must be signed and submitted in writing within 10 minutes of the final weigh in time.
PRIZES: All prizes and angler results will be posted on the USAFT website. Payout schedules and angler prizes are determined by the number of paid entries and sponsor participation. Contestants who are eligible for prize money should not leave the weigh in location before the weigh in is completed without notifying the TD. The prize money will be handed out at the conclusion of the weigh in and polygraph examinations.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Total YTD weight (AOY Race) and the number of division events fished only accumulate as a team, however, if one team member is unable to fish a tournament then either member may fish alone to represent the team. There are no substitute team members allowed for YTD accumulation; if a change in partner does occur, this represents a new team with a new YTD accumulation. Special circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis (partner moves out of state, becomes ill, military, etc.). Each team’s YTD accumulation and number of division events fished will be kept on file to allow all teams to maintain their YTD accumulation status in the event that teams reunite.
ANGLER OF THE YEAR (AOY): The team that has the most points at the conclusion of each USAFT team division will get free entries the following year in an equal number of division tournaments in the division they were awarded the AOY recognition. If a division has significant lake changes for the following year, then an AOY team may ask to use their AOY status in a different division.