126 trophies per weekend gets expensive! Im guessing, that the pre-registration monetary incentives may be an attempt to help clubs from buying unneeded supplies and trophies. I agree, The late signup fee is pretty stiff and the newbie usually finds out about it too late. Maybe something else should be tried.
My personal opinion is that there are too many trophies in trials. I think the pro's /experts probably have enough and would prefer money (I know AIReS was a huge help this year) . I would only give trophies to the kids. Maybe if the NATC would make up inexpensive medallions and sell them to the clubs at cost and as needed for each event it would help reduce cost and waste. The overall championship/end of year "plaque" would be the main award. It could even display the individual medallions the top three had earned over the course of the year. . I know this wouldn't solve attendance problems, but maybe you could have more local clubs step up for "regional" nationals if they knew they wouldn't loose money.
The East/Midwest and West regional overall idea that Lineaway was suggesting seems like a good idea in conjunction with the lower cost model.