Bass tournaments on public water may have outgrown themselves; which would be a disaster for the sport of tournament bass fishing. With bass tournaments on public water, spectators can drive their boats right up close and personal and watch the professional anglers of our sport perform their bass catching abilities. Without these anglers spectating, companies would see no benefit in supporting the anglers. Without companies supporting these anglers, the anglers would not be able to fish tournaments. Without anglers to fish tournaments, spectators have no one to watch and learn. See the circle here?
Bass Tournaments on Public Water
Unfortunately, enthusiastic spectators who move in on a professional angler and start fishing damage the professional angler’s ability to catch bass. These encroaching anglers claim public water as the reason the professional angler has no right to complain. Legally this is true. I know of no fish and game regulations stating a minimum distance rule when fishing.
The recreational angler can go both ways on the subject of fishing too close. One will not care at all. This angler wouldn’t mind if someone tied up to his boat and had a great conversation all while enjoying some fishing. Another recreational angler might get very upset if another boat gets to close to him, he found the spot, may have even built it, his efforts are not for anyone else to enjoy. This angler believes others need to find or create a fishing spot far away from his.
A professional angler, fishing a tournament, has a very specific view on this subject. This view is, fishing is how they make a living. Fishing is how a professional angler feeds their family and keeps a roof over their heads. Poor results at the scales, not only means a poor check from the event, but it also hurts future support from companies to help pay the costs of living. For a professional angler, bass fishing is a job, up early every morning, long days in the heat or cold, rain or sun, highs and lows; all things any working man goes through. The life of a professional angler is not as glamorous as most think, it truly is a job. And yes they chose it just like we chose ours.
The anglers claiming public water, generally don’t care how someone else pays the bills. “It’s not my fault they fish for a living.” This angler would be correct. This angler had no influence in KVD or Ike deciding to become a professional angler. So why should this recreational angler suffer because there is a tournament on their lake?
Before all of the anglers who believe we should keep our distance from the professional anglers get fired up, think about a couple of things. We’ll use Toledo Bend Lake as an example. The primary employment of anglers around the lake is the oil or logging industry. These anglers work hard and have very limited time off. It may not be this angler deliberately cuts off a professional angler because he saw the professional angler there. It may be this angler has only one day to fish this month and has been dreaming day and night about fishing a specific stretch of bank. When he gets there, a professional angler is working it. Can we expect this angler simply to go someplace else? If you had one day off every month, what would you do?
The region around Toledo Bend used to be booming with oil field money, logging money, and Toledo Bend money. In the 80’s thousands migrated to Toledo Bend to fish it. Marinas, camps, tackle stores abound were making money. All these jobs and money are not the case anymore; there are a lot of poor folks “living off the lake”. These people need the fish they catch to feed their families, not for a paycheck, but for the table. Should these folks go hungry because a professional angler is fishing their most productive bank line? Obviously, this guy won’t show up in a $50k bass boat, but he might show up in a 15-year-old Ranger bass boat he bought and paid for when times were good.
All this said, more often than not, an encroaching angler is looking to prove he’s as good as a professional angler. Then, sometimes its anglers struggling to catch bass, these anglers look for the professional anglers thinking, “if KVD is fishing here then the bass must be biting.” However, the most common reason anglers move in on professional anglers is learning. For example, I am very weak at catching bass on deep crankbaits. I’ve got KVD right in front of me catching giant bass doing this very thing. KVD moves to a new location. I move in and duplicate what KVD just taught me. Seems harmless, but KVD will need this area to replenish so he can use it later in the event.
The cause and effects go back and forth. Is the professional angler or local angler right? Personally, I think it comes down to common courtesy. If fishing the lake to catch a few bass, don’t spot-jump anyone, professional or not. If at the lake to be a spectator, then spectate, leave the rods at home. Every professional angler I’ve talked to has no problems with spectators who keep their distance. In fact, most enjoy the support. These professionals don’t care if spectators save these bass producing spots on their GPS for after the event. I’ve been told by several professional anglers this same quote when asked about spectators marking the locations they’ve found and fishing them throughout the year, “Lakes change year to year, bass change locations and habits with it, so what’s hot right now, can’t be counted on next year.”
Professional bass tournaments have brought many improvements to bass fishing, it is impossible to list them all here. Everything from safety in our equipment to improving our ability to catch a bass to ensuring our sport is here for everyone to enjoy for years to come. I’m specifically talking about kill switches, the tackle we use, and livewells in boats. However, the list of benefits brought to fishing is quite long if given some thought. Fish finders, GPS, power poles, more sensitive rods, longer lasting reels, inflatable lifejackets, the list, is very long.
Professional bass fishing is responsible for the tackle, equipment, and boats we enjoy today. It takes money to pay for technology. Companies make money when we buy products. Products helping anglers win tournaments sell and it’s turned into advancements. The bass fishing industry as a whole provides thousands of U.S. based jobs, from building boats, to power poles, to many tackle products. Yes, I know it also provides overseas jobs.
Then there are the research and development departments. Professional anglers are given products to field test, non-effective products scrapped, productive products improved. Think of it in terms of NASCAR, some of the fuel efficiency products we use every day on our personal vehicles were developed in cars driving in endless circles.
There has to be a balance made. A balance allowing professional anglers to do their jobs, yet allow the recreational angler to enjoy the waterways at the same time. Bass fishing has grown large in popularity. With this growth, a line of ownership is drawn in the water between professional and recreational bass fishing.
What’s the answer? If professional bass anglers want to compete free of recreational anglers, they will have to fish on private waters. Tournament organizations cannot expect recreational anglers to give up fishing a lake for 7-10 days while the professionals scout and then compete on a public body of water. If tournament organizations move to private waterways, the spectator side of the sport is lost. I believe advances in products will also be lost. Fishing in private waters will mean fishing in managed waterways, which means bass are genetically controlled, bigger, and easier to catch. At first, it will be impressive, however, soon anglers will quit watching because anyone could catch bass in such a situation and there is nothing to learn. When anglers quit spectating, anglers quit buying products they’ve watched work. When anglers quit buying products, companies lose money and cannot support the professional anglers. When the professional anglers are not supported, they can’t fish tournaments. See the circle here?
When a professional bass tournament shows up to compete, it’s a good thing for the local economy around the lake. Gas, restaurant, and hotel/cabin sales go up. Not only do these business owners see a profit, but the local economy gets a shot in the arm with tax revenues. Everything associated with a bass tournament, all the way down to a pack of worms, has an additional recreational tax of some sort on it. Don’t forget the fishing license the professionals have to buy. It’s out of state and expensive and goes directly back into the fisheries.
When I look at the entire picture of professional tournament bass fishing I see jobs, businesses making money, and communities benefiting from increased revenues. I hate having it tarnished with drama over who has the right to the water. Common courtesy from both sides can make this work. Tournament bass fishing is a good thing for many reasons. My personal belief is we as anglers should do our part to stay out of their way for a few days. If the professionals have a good event, they will come back and bring the money with them.
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