I am still confused on search phase. ... What about if I have no cards on hand with search or scan? Do I get 2 free scans no matter what?
Yeah, I speculate that the issue some have (including myself when I first played the game), is with how the phase is named. Many games name their phases based on what the players do during the phase... i.e., the things that can be done are always enabled.
But that's not the case with 'Tournament Fishing'. With TF, the "Search" phase doesn't indicate that you get to scan a Lake Spot, but rather if you are able to scan, then this phase is the time to do it! And there's nothing wrong with that just as long as players understand that you have to possess a "Search" effect card in order to participate in the phase. And quite frankly, the rulebook does make this clear. The opening sentence of the "Search Phase" section (pg 2) pretty much says it all.
Still, as I alluded to above, I too missed this nuance the first time I played. I assumed as the OP that being able to scan a Lake Spot was an automatic action enabled by the phase. I think that it was holding the assumption itself is why I overlooked the actual rule.
I guess the only thing that could've been done differently is to make it just a bit clearer in the rules, such as adding the same wording to the Search Phase section as is found in the Cast Phase section. The opening sentence of the Cast Phase says, "The Cast Phase is optional". If that same wording is used to open the "Search Phase" section, then I think newbies would "get it" a bit sooner.