In all things one fact cannot be debated, evolution requires change. Some changes happen organically, some out of ones control while others need to be forced. But no matter what, change is inevitable.
Recently, competitive bass fishing has seen a change with a large contingent of anglers leaving BASS to compete in the newly formed MLF Fishing League. Many were invited and its unknown how many turned down the opportunity. Which is the curious question, how many saw it as an opportunity that benefited the sport or did the question revolve around how it benefited themselves?
I can't fault them for asking the latter as BASS has taken much more than they give back to the "Talent" that keeps them in business.
In a recent article for BASS, Gene Gilliland wrote an article positing the question of whether Catch, Weigh, Release tournaments would be the end of traditional 5 fish limit weigh in tournaments. His article focused heavily on the merits of the traditional format while understandably ignoring those that CWR could offer. Why is it understandable? Gene works for BASS and his job wasn't to be objective. His job was the same as any who are trying to minimize evolutionary changes that they believe could one day threaten their existence.
Had he been confident in the strength of traditional tournaments he would have wrote an article touting the upside to the new format and the many benefits it could offer.
Before I go any further I do want to point out that in tournament fishing there are many different levels, all being different in various ways to each other while all having one thing in common in that they are all catching bass. It's the anglers, organizers, directors, rules that make each somewhat different from each other. While I can see how CWR tournaments for local, jackpot, small boat, local federation competitions would directly benefit the bass populations and drastically reduce mortality rates I am not writing this opinion so that it is something to be pushed on those groups. The evolution for them needs to be one that happens organically and with help from larger tournament organizers like MLF, BASS and FLW because it would be a big change.
One aspect of Gene's article was that the traditional tournaments will survive due to the excitement of a weigh in at the end of the tournament. Because most local tournaments outside of BFL or BASS Weekend series are tournaments of 45 boats or less, this isn't an argument that relates to them. It's not a jab meant to cast aspersions on small tournaments, just a fact that there aren't crowds standing around waiting to see what they bring in.
This goes directly to the point of evolution in the sport. The one thing that BASS clings to when it comes to traditional tournaments are the people who come to the weigh ins. Now that FLW has been purchased and moved forward with format changes this next detail is directly related to how BASS functions.
When BASS is choosing tournament destinations for say the Elite Series or Opens, quality of fish or lake aren't what dictates the final decision. They take bids from the localities and whomever submits the best offer literally wins the chance to have BASS come to their area. It's not bad business as I'm sure many traveling competitions do the same. The difference with BASS is that they don't pay any of that forward to the competitors. Then there is the sponsor money that BASS takes in for event advertising that comes in from local print, internet, tv and radio to promote the event. It's big business that BASS is completely entitled to do and run however they see fit.
But, the problem with this is that it serves themselves, not the anglers who are what's called the "talent" and who ultimately are what fans come to see. To this day, anyone competing in a BASS event is competing for their own entry fee with no money being put into the event by BASS. Again, within their right. If you choose to enter one of their tournaments, you accept how they choose to run it.
Again, this is not in relation to a one day BASS Weekend event. This would apply to the Elite Series and Opens. So, what are the benefits of CWR and why do they make sense for anglers who went to MLF? While BASS clings to the weigh ins, it is actually what has been holding the sport back for quite some time because what has been needed to help that along is a tv audience large enough to demand top dollar for advertising. Sure, fans at weigh ins are great, but they don't pay and there isn't a free fan experience anywhere besides a bass tournament.
In doing this, MLF made it possible to guarantee a certain dollar amount competitors receive for coming on board. This is a game changer for Pros wanting to fish harder, take more risks and for the first time feel like Pro level athletes that aren't competing for their own entry fee. They found a reason to make the anglers more important than the fish while finding a way to reduce mortality rates that occur from keeping fish in a livewell for 8 hours.
Another argument Gene had was that by going to a CWR format, it would play into the hands of environmental groups and further hurt tournament fishing. He said his with no foundation of evidence to support his claim which I consider to be nothing more than fear mongering designed to stop what is desperately needed in our sport, Evolution!
By moving to a CWR format, MLF has created a fan base that is willing to watch it on tv and now the local fan experience goes towards other things. It's still a fun event at the launch area but the anglers are now more of a small aspect because many fans have been watching live while they were on the water. What's funny is that BASS already has this format available to them with their BASStrak live feed that they carry.
There is only one thing holding them back from evolution, themselves.
P.S. The fear of change is common but making decisions based on fear leaves a person paralyzed and beholding to that emotion.
I once asked a stock broker client of mine what it was like to be in that business. He said I didn't want to know. I asked if it was because of the constant changes of the market and unpredictability of stocks? His answer was yes. I reminded him that I'm a bass fisherman. Uncertainty is my life!
Today's tip is one that is designed to increased your percentage of bass landed after the hook set. If you are a tournament angler or trophy bass hunter this tip is important because landed bass or missed bass can make the difference between a tournament win or trophy catch of a lifetime.
Wherever you live more than likely, you have been taught to keep the rod down especially for anglers that predominantly fish for smallmouth bass to keep them from jumping. Unfortunately, what has been passed down from generation to generation has been inaccurate with no ability to prove that it works. Like most of my tips I will emphasize the understanding of physics and the use of our senses to help determine the correct choice for the best outcome.
From my observations of clients there is a strong belief that keeping the rod tip down can prevent a bass from jumping, but the reality is nothing can keep a bass from coming to the surface. Bass use the path of least resistance to determine what response is best once they have been hooked so you don't have to have a physics degree to know that if we are pulling down, the easiest path for them is up. This is true whether you are in deep water or shallow water but shallow water fish have less of a choice so they are more inclined to seek the surface. Smallmouth bass are nomadic type bass that leads to them being a stronger fish with more endurance than a largemouth meaning surface jumping to attempt to shake a hook is always a possibility.
So, if pulling down isn't the best option, what is? First, lets start at the hook set and what you can do immediately after. Once you set the hook the most important thing you can do is hold there for a second and feel what direction the fish is headed, the size of the fish and consider any obstacles that might be in the way. I would call this assessing the situation and it allows time to slow things down and make correct decisions and adjustments to what the bass is doing. The other benefit to taking that second is calming yourself down and in turn not begin to reel too fast or horse the fish into the boat. I can't begin to tell you how many clients I have shown that when you stop yanking the fish to the boat they actually calm down and will swim towards the boat rather than fight for their lives. It's why clients sometimes call me the "Fish Whisperer".
How I found out that a fish will follow like a dog on a leash was while I was fishing a lake here at home in about 16 feet of water. I had pulled up some line during a cast and felt it would be a good idea to get it out of the lake. As I pulled on the line I felt a slight tug and new there was a fish on. As I slowly pulled up the line I could see it was a big bass. It swam almost all the way to the surface only trying to swim away at the last minute as I began to lip it. From that moment on I knew bringing fish to the boat became more of a process of staying in the moment and not getting carried away.
Now, as I said earlier bass will attempt to surface regardless of what angle you pull. The benefit of keeping the rod up is having the ability to see the line and as it begins to go horizontal, you can bring the rod down and pull the fish back into the water forcing it to swim. Then bring the rod tip back up to once again have visibility on the line. This is the action/response that should happen between the angler and fish once hooked. The fish will make a choice and it is up to us to respond accordingly. Just remember there is always more than one option to the action.
One last thought. It is always good to consider what we lose by keeping the rod tip down and what is gained from keeping it up. The first thing we lose when holding the rod tip down is our ability to see the line and one of our senses, vision. If you are setting the hook upward, by going down with the rod, you immediately take away line sight. Being able to see the line tells us what direction the fish is going and allows the opportunity to make adjustments to what they are doing.
Getting a bass to bite your lure in my opinion is the hardest part of catching them. After learning that once on the hook my response and actions to what the fish is doing will be the ultimate factor in whether or not I end up holding them has meant more catching and less fishing. Give it a try and hopefully you will too.
Taking your kids bass fishing isn't what it used to be when I was growing up. The challenges facing parents today are numerous. Video games, MTV, Soccer, Baseball and even peer pressure can make it difficult to keep a child's interest in the outdoors. In some ways this is to be expected because bass fishing isn't for everyone but given the right approach your child might just be the first one out of bed to go bass fishing on Saturday morning.
Believe it or not the lifelong pursuit of bass fishing doesn't always come from a big monster bass or even high numbers of fish. It's the excitement kids see on your face when they catch a fish. You see, kids don't know what they have done when they catch a fish. They will need you to show them that they have just done something special. And don't be afraid to jump up and down with wild excitement after they catch a fish. Kids love seeing that from their parents.
I always encourage parents to take their children fishing at a very early age. Even as young as 3 years old. If you own a boat, just take them for a ride and maybe show them some wildlife while out. If you don't own a boat just fish from the bank for a little while and mix things up a little bit. Feed some ducks or some Geese. In a way this can be compared to what is called imprinting. It could be the first memories they have of time that spent with their parents. Did you notice I said "Parents"? I'll get back to this later.
I also recommend that when you go fishing with your kids make it all about them. You catching fish while they watch unfortunately won't work. Your kids will always want to catch more fish than you to be interested so this is something you will just have to concede until they are old enough to give you a run for your money. What ever you can get to bite for them will work. Blue gills, Brim, Bass or even catfish. When they catch their first fish I would not keep that fish but first teach your kids how to care for the natural recources by releasing fish. It also might be a little disconcerting to your child to see you kill something they were so excited about earlier in the day.
While fishing take time to teach your kids that it's not all about catching fish. Show them as much as you can about the outdoors like the wildlife, biology and the importance of all of these things in our life.Once again you will need to show them visible excitement when seeing things like an Eagle or Otter.
The reason I emphasize "Parents" when speaking of taking your kids fishing is because of how much of an infuence a mother can have on whether or not your child will want to go fishing. If one parent doesn't show an interest it will affect everything. This will require some help from the Husband because getting up at 4:30 could be asking a bit much of your Wife. Work together on this and even if your wife doesn't like fishing if you include her and try to make it fun for all your wife just might go along and all of you can create memories that will last a lifetime.