The first week of June is National Fishing Week — a perfect time to drop anchor with David Kinney, author of The Big One (davidkinney.net), a new book on tournament fishing that has been optioned by DreamWorks. Kinney, with Tim Smight for USA TODAY, shares his list of 10 best places to competitively bait a hook.
$150,000 Ice Fishing ExtravaganzaBrainerd, Minn.
For a reason unfathomable to summer anglers, Minnesotans love their winter ice fishing. The Brainerd Jaycees say that 20,000 holes are drilled in the ice for their annual three-hour contest, scheduled for Jan. 23 at Gull Lake. "This claims to be the largest ice-fishing tournament anywhere in the world," Kinney says, "and no one disputes that. More than 9,000 bundled-up anglers brave the freezing weather each year for a shot at a pickup and other prizes." 800-950-9461, icefishing.org
Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin TournamentCabo San Lucas, Mexico
"This one is billed as the richest fishing tournament in the world," Kinney says. "A single crew took home a check for almost $4 million one year. It's a wild scene, too, with colorful contestants, super-expensive boats and lavish parties." This year's event will run from Oct. 20-24. 714-393-6107, bisbees.com
Big Rock Blue Marlin TournamentMorehead City, N.C.
There are several big-money ocean fishing tournaments on the East Coast, but this event — Saturday through June 13 this year — is one of the most notable. More than 150 boats convene on the "Crystal Coast" of North Carolina to try for $1.8 million in prizes. "Even if you don't fish, it's worth cruising down to the waterfront in Morehead City to see the boats come in and watch the fish get weighed to the crowd's applause," Kinney says. 252-247-3575, thebigrock.com
S. Tokunaga Store Ulua Challenge Hilo, Hawaii
The Ulua Challenge, Thursday through June 14, has one especially unique feature among ocean-fishing tournaments: All participants must fish from shore. "There are three other reasons I'd like to fish this one someday," Kinney says. "It takes place in Hawaii, the weigh-in and award ceremony goes down in a lively joint called Aunty Sally Kaleohano's Lu'au Hale, and the quarry is the ulua — aka the giant trevally — which can top 100 pounds." 808-935-6965, tokunagastore.com
Okie Noodling TournamentPauls Valley, Okla.
Entrants in this contest, set for July 11, don't need any fishing gear at all. "Noodling" is a local term for bare-handed catfishing. Participants prowl the lakeshores and riverbanks in search of catfish holes, then reach in and try to pull the fish out. "The hand-to-gill combat guarantees that fishermen will end up scratched and scraped," Kinney says. "But there's also the risk of something worse: There could be a giant catfish in that hole — or even a snapping turtle." 405-238-6491, okienoodling.com
Alabama Deep Sea Fishing RodeoMobile, Ala.
"This one (July 17-19) is worth the trip just because it's probably the oldest ongoing fishing tournament in the country," Kinney says. "The contest was started back in 1929 by a Mobile businessmen trying to drum up tourism. Today more than 3,000 contestants fish it every July, chasing tarpon, king mackerel, amberjack and two dozen other kinds of sport fish." At stake: $400,000 in prizes. 251-471-0025, adsfr.com
Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Held during the region's annual fall fish migration, this month-long fishing tourney (Sept. 14-Oct. 18 this year) is a near-religious experience for its devotees, says Kinney, who used it as the subject for his book. "Fishing enthusiasts get to spend five weeks chasing stripers and bluefish while competing for more than $250,000 in cash and prizes. To a Vineyarder, winning the derby is like slipping on the green jacket at the Masters." mvderby.com
Operation: Catch FishBaghdad
"This contest grew out of the Baghdad Anglers Club and School of Fly Fishing, founded in 2005 by Navy officer Joel Stewart to spread his love of the sport," Kinney says. The site of the annual tournament (next year's date is not yet set) is "Z Lake," next to one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. "The quarry is asp, carp or whatever else turns up. Last year's top prize was a big-screen TV." baghdadflyfishing.com
The Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Fly TournamentIslamorada, Fla.
"Catching a tarpon on the fly is a breathtakingly awesome experience," Kinney says. "That's one reason this annual five-day tourney has attracted such notable contestants, including the late Ted Williams. It isn't cheap — the entry fee for the five-day event (June 7-11, 2010) is nearly $1,200. There's also a long waiting list to join the 25-angler field. But once you make the cut, you'll be part of a truly legendary event." 305-942-0428, donhawleyfoundation.org
FLW Forrest Wood CupPittsburgh
The Bassmaster Classic is the original and, thanks to ESPN, the best-known freshwater bass-fishing championship. But the winner of the Walmart FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup — July 30-Aug. 2 this year — will claim the sport's richest haul: $1 million. "The Cup is the crown jewel of a nationwide bass-fishing series held each year," Kinney says. "But it's not limited to the pros you see on TV. Just as a good amateur golfer can qualify for the U.S. Open, weekend anglers can work their way toward the Cup by advancing through local feeder competitions." 270-252-1000, flw.flwoutdoors.com