by Marc Shea, Founder
For many of us, both recreational and tournament fishing can be a struggle to blend into our every day lives. In a perfect world, we would all live lakeside with covered boat slips. The ideal angler lifestyle would allow us to generate a partial or livable income by fishing. At the very least, we would all have a schedule that allows us to fish all the time and still pay the bills. As bass fishermen, we accept these challenges as just one more feat to conquer to put five in the box.
Aside from the obvious financial obstacles presented to the everyday angler, we also encounter other obstacles that may prevent us from putting bass in the boat. These concerns can effect the recreational angler and the tournament fisherman alike. Although it might seem obvious, maintaining your rig and gear are essential tasks that will yield future success. Tackling those trailer troubles or bilge pump problems sooner than later will alleviate both your mental stress on the water, and physical strain on your most prized possession. By being a responsible boat owner, we can eliminate many variables that will make our time on the water much more manageable, and also keep those resale values high.
The driving force behind this blog post, and the next concern brought to the table, might be one that is met with substantial resistance. The issue discussed impacts the type of angler entering the tournament scene, and I feel as though it is good material for discussion. In a previous post, I discussed the importance of attracting young anglers to the sport. I personally feel this is of the utmost importance for the preservation of bass fishing. With that being said, there is something that could potentially deter young, working people to entering the world of competitive fishing.
In many trails and clubs, we know our predetermined tournament dates months in advance. Any good tournament angler will take this information and begin to develop an approach based on past experiences and current ecological conditions. This allows each angler to develop his or her own strengths pertaining to a given lake. As the tournament date approaches, like in the Elite Series and FLW, there is a cutoff date for practicing at the lake. This keeps the competitive spirit of the upcoming bout ripe for all anglers. It ensures an equal playing field for all persons involved. However, I have received feedback from anglers throughout the country that their trails do not possess cutoff dates prior to their tournaments.
This issue could be viewed as potentially hazardous to us anglers who work full time, and especially young anglers trying to break into competitive bass fishing. There are certain trails out there who herald themselves as the ideal trail for the weekend warriors – this sounds great and attractive to young, rookie fishermen. However, these trails also allow fishing on tournament waters only hours up to and before the tournament. Is this providing us newbies with fertile ground for competition? Is this helping spread the possibility of success to all experience levels? These are certainly questions for discussion.
For people who work all week, the last possible time to pre-fish their tournament location would be the previous weekend. This is rather common for most tourney anglers out there. However, some people have the distinct advantage to be either retired or self-employed, and could literally spend Monday through Saturday pre-fishing for a tournament on Sunday. And not to mention if the tournament is held during the spawn period, behavior preceding the tournament can evolve from unsavory to unsportsmanlike pretty easily.
Now, I’m not taking a stand whether or not we should have cutoffs. I’m sure there are guys out there that are both for and against them, and I can see both sides of the argument. I am relatively new to tournament fishing, and I certainly can’t provide a resolution to the debate. But I do think this topic is worth discussing. It seems the more I talk to my generation of anglers throughout the country, guys love to fish first – and tournaments come second. Attracting more people to fishing tournaments should be a priority for club presidents and tournament directors everywhere. And if getting new people involved comes at the price of changing some old rules and regulations, maybe that is something that we should consider.