Beginning in 1975, organizers offering prizes or other inducements for the taking of sport fish in any California water were required to obtain a fishing contest permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Since 1985, organizers have been required to submit a “Fishing Contest Report” to CDFW detailing the results of each permitted contest.
On July 1, 2023, new regulations governing (Title 14 § 230) Issuance of Permits for Contests Offering Prizes for the Taking of Game Fish went into effect. These regulations redefined the previous contest permits types (Type A – Event and Type B – Annual) and added two new permit types (Type C – Catch & Release and Type D - Other).
Annual and Event type permits that were approved prior to July 1, 2023, but with contest dates occurring after this date are still valid. Permittees must abide by all permit stipulations; whereas “Annual” permits are for those contests offering prizes of $1,000 or less and with 50 or fewer participants, and “Event" permits are for contests with over 50 participants, or the total value of prizes exceed $1,000.
Questions about regulations for Game Fish Contests can be directed to email@example.com.
Participating in a Game Fish Contest
CDFW has a responsibility to approve or deny contest permits but is not involved in individual angler participation. If you are an angler interested in registering and participating in a fishing contest, you need to contact the sponsor of the contest directly. A good first step is to browse upcoming, approved contests at the Pending and Approved Contests(opens in new tab) where you can filter the results by specific locations, dates, sponsors, or species. If you find a contest you are interested in, you need to contact the listed sponsor for more specific information. CDFW does not provide sponsor contact information since not all contests are open to the public.
If you are new to bass fishing tournaments, please read Keeping Bass Alive (PDF)(opens in new tab) to ensure you are taking all appropriate measures to protect the resource and avoid tournament penalties for weighing dead fish. Good luck and tight lines!
Organizing a Game Fish Contest
There are four types of permits for game fish contests; Type A, B, C and D (see below for descriptions). Contest organizers seeking game fish contest permits must apply using form “Application for Permit to Offer Prizes for Taking of Game Fish (DFW 775) (PDF Form)Application for Permit to Offer Prizes for Taking of Game Fish (DFW 775) (PDF Form)(opens in new tab)”. In 2024, the application fee for DFW 775 is $80.34.
- Type A - Event: contests targeting black bass with more than 60 anglers. Type A contests may not exceed three days in duration and no more than one contest is allowed for any water on the same day.
- Type B - Annual: contests targeting black bass with 60 or fewer anglers. Type B contests may not exceed three days in duration and no more than three contests are allowed for any water on the same day.
- Type C - Catch & Release: contests targeting black bass in which anglers do not retain fish for a centralized weigh-in. These contests require the angler to immediately release all live fish caught after recording weight or measurement. Contests conducted under a Type C permit may exceed three days in duration and may be conducted on multiple water bodies concurrently. Type C permits do not limit the number of anglers.
- Type D - Other: contests not targeting black bass. Contests may exceed three days in duration and be conducted on multiple waters simultaneously.
Contest organizers need to review the Special Conditions for Contest Permits (PDF)(opens in new tab). Special conditions reduce impacts to natural resources and apply to all permit types and include measures for specific species. Contest organizers are responsible for ensuring that contests meet all these conditions and that participants are complying.
Contest organizers and participants must follow regulations governing the number of fish held by anglers during a fishing contest, which includes bag limits, and proper culling practices to ensure that bass are returned to the water in good condition.
Angling Regulation Exemptions for Black Bass Contests
To request exemption from typical fishing regulations (e.g. a slot limit or minimum length limit), organizers must complete an exemption form specific to that water and submit it with the application (links below). This does not guarantee exemption; approval must be given by CDFW.
Controlling Aquatic Invasive Species
Anglers can prevent spreading harmful invasive species by following procedures to Clean, Drain, and Dry their vessels and equipment before launching. For information on how to help stop the spread of invasive species, please see our Invasive Species Program.
Tournament organizers must use a self-inspection certification form “Aquatic Invasive Species Self-Inspection Certification for Game Fish Contests (DFW 777) (PDF Form)” with contests on waterbodies that do not have an inspection program, or if the inspection station is closed. The form must be completed by all contest participants prior to launching in the contest water and kept on the participant’s vessel throughout the duration of the contest.
Annual Initial Offering for Type A Contests
Every year, CDFW sponsors an Initial Offering to facilitate Type A game fish contests permits occurring the following year. For more information about the Initial Offering, please see details in the 2023 Initial Offering Announcement Letter (PDF)(opens in new tab). If you are planning fishing contests that will require a Type A - Event permit, we strongly recommend your attendance.
To apply for the initial Offering, you must submit the form “Initial Offering Application for “Type A” Game Fish Contests (DFW 774) (PDF Form)”.
Fishing Contests Reporting
Contest reports assist CDFW in monitoring the effects of tournament fishing pressure on public waters. Tournament organizers must submit a fishing contest report for all permit types within 30 days of completing a fishing contest.