Nothing is as rewarding as seeing your kid pull up their first fish. The joy you share at that moment, the pride you and your kid both feel, is what often sparks a lifelong love of angling. Still, your youngster can only learn so much from you (no matter how good of an angler you are). This is where kids’ fishing tournaments come in.
Youth fishing tournaments are an ideal opportunity for your kid to have fun and develop their angling skills, as well as make new friends. They’ll also learn a lot about conservation and the environment. Heck, they may even win a prize or two along the way. With that in mind, we gathered up a list of the best fishing tournaments for kids in the US.
With all due respect to competitions like state Bass fishing leagues, we’ll focus on the tournaments primarily geared towards getting youngsters into fishing for the first time, as well as helping the local angling communities.
Mountain Music Kids Fishing Tournament, Douglas Lake, TN
When: The last Saturday in July
Where: Douglas Dam, 1680 Boat Launch Road, Sevierville, TN
Fee: $30 per Adult & Child team
Age: 16 and under
Located on Douglas Lake just outside of Sevierville, Tennessee, the Mountain Music Kids Fishing Tournament is the largest kids’ fishing tournament in the state. The event has been running strong for almost 30 years now, and is a prime example of how the community can gather around a noble cause.
Each year, local businesses donate meals and refreshments for the 400 participating kids. One of the coolest things about this event is that 100% of all proceeds go to the children. Every child who tries their luck in the tournament receives an award and a photo with their catch, and those with the top 100 catches get cash prizes, too!
All youngsters under the age of 16 are welcome to participate, but should be accompanied by an adult.
Kids Catch-all Fishing Tournament, Rehoboth Beach, DE
When: June 26 and 27
Where: Indian River Marina, 39415 Inlet Rd, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Fee: $25 per child or $150 per boat
The Kids Catch-all Fishing Tournament is hosted by the Indian River Marina and the Lyme Disease Association of Delmarva, Inc. The purpose of the tournament is to raise funds to provide educational resources on Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. It also serves as an ideal gateway for kids to enter the sport of fishing.
Thanks to its prime location on the Indian River Bay, the Kids Catch-all offers kids a rare opportunity to catch a wide variety of game fish. One look at the tournament divisions says it all: Bluefish, Croaker, Flounder, Mackerel, Mahi, Rockfish, Sea Bass, Shark, Spot, Triggerfish, Trout and Tuna are all here for the taking. A list like that will get most adults excited, so its no wonder that families return here year after year.
Kids can fish from the jetty, the beach, a charter boat, or even a private vessel. One of the coolest things about this tournament is that everybody wins. Each participant gets a tournament T-shirt, a “goodie-bag,” and a gift from the local Hook ‘Em and Cook ‘Em Outfitters.
After the weigh-ins are over on Saturday and Sunday, everybody will be able to enjoy an all-you-can-eat dinner, where registered youngsters eat for free.
Kids Fishing Slam, Madeira Beach, FL
When: May 2, or the second day of the Spring King of the Beach Tournament
Where: 200 Rex Pl, Madeira Beach, FL
The Kids Fishing Slam is part of one of the largest Kingfish tournaments in the country: the 26-year-old Spring King of the Beach. Running for four years now, this is the perfect opportunity for parents and kids to test their skills.
The organizers will provide kids with all the bait and tackle they need, as well as fishing rods for the first 500 kids on the field. Each child will also have a seasoned mentor to show them the ropes. Kids will be divided into two heats and four age groups: under 5, 6–9, 10–13, and 14–17. The best three placing youngsters out of each age group are set to receive an award.
The event is organized by the Old Salt Foundation, one of the oldest anglers’ organizations in the Tampa area. Over the past decade alone, these people have helped raise over $1 million for local deserving charities. Should you decide to compete yourself, you’ll not only be in for a lot of fun, but you’ll also contribute to saving one of Florida’s premier fisheries.
Update April 2021: Due to Covid-19, the Kids Fishing Slam has been canceled for spring 2021 and will reopen in fall 2021.
Assateague State Park Youth Fishing Derby, Berlin, MD
When: June 10
Where: Assateague State Park, 7307 Stephen Decatur Hwy, Berlin, MD
Age: 16 and under
Located in Maryland’s only oceanfront park, the Assateague State Park Youth Fishing Derby is an ideal vacation stop for families. This place isn’t just a tournament venue. Between the 2 miles of ocean beaches, picturesque marshes, and lots of exciting wildlife, the park will definitely make you want to stick around.
Register your kid for free, and let the expert anglers from the Assateague Mobile Sportsfishermen’s Association (AMSA) teach them all the fishing techniques they need to get started.
The organizers will provide the fishing gear, but in limited quantity, so bring your own if you can. Once the reeling is done, AMSA will hand out prizes to the best of the young anglers. The organizers will also serve hot dogs to the kids, and show them around the nature exhibits around the park.
Update April 2021: Due to Covid-19, the Assateague State Park Youth Fishing Derby has been postponed (new date TBD).
Young Anglers’ Tournament, San Diego, CA
When: August 10
Where: 1776 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA
Located in one of San Diego’s most prolific fishing neighborhoods, the Young Anglers’ Tournament provides kids with the opportunity to catch some of the West Coast’s most exciting game fish. With catches ranging from Pacific Mackerel and Halibut to Bass and Rockfish, the youngsters will definitely have their hands full.
Supported by the IGFA and a number of local fishing organizations, the tournament is dedicated to promoting catch and release fishing. As such, the competition will feature a points system, where the youngsters with the most catches will be proclaimed winners of their respective age category.
The best young anglers will receive cool prizes like fishing rods, reels, and charter fishing trips with some of San Diego’s very best fishermen.
Update April 2021: Due to Covid-19, the Young Anglers’ Tournament has been postponed.
Lake Julian Park Kids Fishing Tournament, Arden, NC
When: May 18/September 14
Where: 406 Overlook Road Extension, Arden, NC
Age: 15 and under
The Lake Julian Park fishing tournament is a cool, catch-and-release competition, where kids can have fun and win awesome prizes. There are lots of opportunities to win, with categories like Biggest Fish, Smallest Fish, Most Fish Caught, and Most Accurate Casting Skills.
The competitors will be able to fish anywhere within the park limits, but they will need to be accompanied by an adult at all times. Before they make their first cast, the kids will receive a bucket, bait, and snacks for the three-hour event. After the reeling is over, the official weigh-ins will start, after which there will be hot dogs for everyone.
Update April 2021: Due to Covid-19, the Lake Julian Park Kids Fishing Tournament has been postponed.
Kid Fishing Tournament, Cedar Hill, TX
Where: 2850 Park Ridge Drive, Cedar Hill, TX
Age: 4 –16
The Kid Fishing Tournament is a free competition set in the beautiful Valley Ridge Park. Boasting a number of baseball, football, and soccer fields, the 165-acre park is a popular weekend spot for local families.
Sponsored by the Dallas Bass Hookers Club, the event is regularly visited by Texan angling families. The Club provides bait and tackle for all the kids, as well as a number of rods and reels for the ones who get in early.
Before dropping the first lines, the kids will learn everything they need about baiting the hooks and casting. The three best fishermen in each of the four age categories will be awarded for their angling prowess. In addition, all the competitors will enter a draw for a chance to win a brand new tackle box, a lawn chair, or a cool watch, courtesy of the Dallas Bass Hookers Club.
Plenty More to Explore
If you’re a parent looking to get your kid into angling, youth fishing tournaments are the perfect way to get them hooked. Luckily, with more and more youngsters trying fishing for the first time, kids’ fishing tournaments are starting to sprout all over the country.
Always cheerful and exciting, the tourneys teach kids about fishing in a fun and playful way. More importantly, they allow the young ones to learn how to be competitive and respectful, how to respect the environment, and ultimately, make them fall in love with the sport.
What are some of the kids’ fishing tournaments you think we might have missed? What’s the best thing about a fishing tournament for kids in your mind? Let us know in the comments below.