Fishing bass tournaments – I’m not much of a fishing tournament guy. I come from the school that believes the contest in fishing should be between the angler, the weather and the fish.
That is where the real test of skill and luck comes into play. And that is what fishing should be in my opinion, just play.
But the only way to know what life is like on the other side is to walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes, or fish eight hours straight in his boat. I fished my first bass tournament a couple of weeks ago at Lake Fork, the McDonald’s Big Bass Splash, and I learned a lot from the experience.
First of all, I thought most anglers fished tournaments for the money, but that cannot be the case because 99 percent of the 2700 registered anglers won zero dollars including my partner and me. But there is no mistake that the perception of catching the right-fish-can-lead-to-wealth is a powerful motivator.
This tournament pays out $400,000 in cash and prizes according to their publicity. A significant portion of the entry fees goes to support the Ronald McDonald House charity program. So, because of the potential winnings, this tournament attracts a lot of weekend anglers hoping to cash in with their bass fishing skills and maybe win a new boat or truck. At least that seems to be the motivating factor. Otherwise, why not just go to Fork and fish for bass on some other non-tournament weekend?
Secondly, fishing in a bass tournament is hard work. I have always suspected this and now have a sore arm and backside to prove it. We fished for eight hours continuously. In that time period I figure each of us made no less than 960 casts. That estimate may be on the low side because that number assumes we only averaged two casts per minute.
My posterior is sore because we moved from site to site across the lake at a high rate of speed. Time is money in a bass tournament. The soreness resulted from the spine-wrenching jolts I received as my partner piloted his aquatic chariot across waves being generated by wind from the backside of Hurricane Rita. Now I know what riding a rodeo bronco must be like. It is not the going up part that hurts, it’s the coming down.
When bass are in a sour mood, it does not matter how many different types of lures are in your tackle box. This fact readily became apparent as the day progressed hour by hour and we had not caught a legal tournament entry between us. The upside of this predicament is that I got to try out lures that had never had their little treble feet wet before, lots of them.
However, I am still unsure if they were duds and should be sold in the next yard sale my wife periodically insists upon to reduce our household inventory, or were they ignored because the bass had lockjaw that day? This is a quandary and until the matter is solved by having an opportunity to go bass fishing and use those lures again, more than likely I will keep them.
Equating fishing with a cash outlay definitely keeps an angler focused. There is no way my partner and I would have fished so determinedly if we had not emptied out our pockets for the entry fees.
Having that incentive can produce results not otherwise possible with the casual approach. It encourages trying techniques and lure presentations that more than likely would never be discovered if the dollar reward was not part of the picture. So, I suppose that part of it is a good thing. Bass capitalism has led to the constant development of new lures and techniques to use them. The fishing business remains growth oriented as a result.
The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. That euphuism applies to bass fishing as well. The best spot we fished from a number-of-fish-boated perspective was the first one. We caught three bass in the first hour of the tournament day. We never found another area that produced as well. After running and gunning all over the lake with no results, we ended up right back at the first location.
It was an ideal spot from a bass’s view. A creek channel cut in close to a timbered point with a sand bar dropping off into deep water. We had that nothing-to-lose attitude as only an hour of tournament time remained. Desperate anglers do desperate things. Even though the mid-day sun was still white-hot overhead, I decided to tie on a buzzbait and work the edge of the drop-off. On the first cast I hooked a 6-pound largemouth. It was my best and last fish of the day. We should have stayed and fished that area more thoroughly.
Will I fish another tournament? Maybe, but I still prefer fishing on my own terms the best. Fishing time does not need to be tied to a dollar to make it enjoyable and fun. And that concept needs to be taught to children. Let them decide as adults if they want to take it to the angler against angler level.
Barry St. Clair is a guest columnist for the Athens Daily Review. His columns appear weekly
By Barry St.Clair