The Tournament Trail began in 2003 when Captain Fred MacDonald approached 8 existing Big Lake Events with an idea of marketing and promoting them together as a circuit. Fred was a leading charter captain out of Manistee and for decades he ran successful trips on his boat "30 Pounder". Life on the Big Lake can certainly take its toll on a man and as Fred grew older he (and his knees) grew weary of spending day after day rocking and rolling on the water. While the physical challenge of running trips was catching up with him, his passion for Big Lake Fishing remained strong. He began thinking of ways he could stay close to, and have a positive impact on, this fishery that he loved so much.
Fred was already Director of the Manistee Salmon Splash and was working as a Tournament Consultant of sorts with other nearby events as well. His goal, of course, was to make the tournaments he worked with bigger and better every year. His plan to accomplish that was to market and promote a group of existing tournaments together as a circuit as opposed to individual events. Step 1 in the process was the creation of the Tournament Trail Magazine.
8 existing events agreed to take part in that first year. Add to the list Fred's own event in Manistee and the Tournament Trail is born! It's first-year schedule included 9 tournaments from St. Joe in the south to Frankfort in the north and 6 more stops in between. It's doubtful that anyone expected back then, that over a decade later the Trail would still be going strong!
The circuit grew quickly as other established events joined and brand new events staked out an annual weekend on the circuit. By 2005 it had nearly doubled in size to 16 events in 13 cities and 3 states. 2005 also marked the debut of the 333 Championship Series which turned out to be the "missing link" that converted this group of tournaments into an actual circuit. The Tournament Trail magazine did a great job at increasing awareness of and providing information for each coming season, but until 2005 it offered no real incentive for teams to travel and explore other ports. The 333 changed that by providing a consistent rule set and scoring system that allowed teams to compete against each other over the course of the entire season. In the 2006 issue of the magazine the first-ever circuit wide champions, Best Chance Too and Lucky Otter, were featured on the cover and that tradition still continues today.
The Trail itself also continues on with 16-18 annual tournament events. While they each feature the 333 Championship Series, they also each feature their own unique identity. You'll find a wide variety of divisions, rule sets, and event structures across the Tournament Trail and that means there literally is something for every type angler. Whether you're an established pro angler or a weekend warrior who only gets out a few times a year, there are tournament events designed for you. You can explore the current schedule of Tournament Trail events right here on this site, or pick up a copy of the latest Tournament Trail Magazine.
If you'd still like more information feel free to contact us with specific questions or suggestions. Thanks for your interest and we hope to see you on the Trail!