Bend to Fit, Paint to Match
As much as I admire professional tournament anglers, I must take issue with at least one aspect of their experience. For recreational fishermen, these cast-for-cash guys ride the tip of the spear when it comes to evaluating boat performance. Every day and in every way, tournament warriors push their equipment to the max. From bent trolling motor shafts to sheared lower units, they provide manufacturers with an unrelenting, real world test bed. Among the fishing fraternity, they’re a watery version of Phi Slamma Jamma. But that’s not the problem.
I recognize the value of their collective experience and how it trickles down to the consumer level. What I don’t like is the subtle inference being made about my personal fishing habits. If you read between the lines, what is really being said is this: We do what is necessary to catch fish and you probably don’t. This, my friends, is the problem. Why? Well, uh, because they’re right, damn it.
There, I said it. The pros will go that extra mile to get to the fish. They will pound through gear-scattering chop, fly past prop-twisting stumps and slide over hull-gouging boulders in search of victory. (Note: For maximum effect, hum “America, the Beautiful” as you read that last sentence.) However, the difference between them and us is they really never have to pay the price for their bravery. Sure, they may lose some hours of fishing and ruin a decent paycheck – but that’s part of their game. What they won’t have to endure is floating aimlessly down the lake hoping that someone will take pity on them. Nor will they have dig through a skimpy toolbox looking for a nonexistent 5/8-inch socket. No, the only tool they require is a mobile phone to call the tournament support crew. Moreover, if the problem can’t be solved quickly, a backup boat will be waiting at the ramp.
While the pros may defend their position by pointing to the final standings, it should be noted that it only matters if they were fishing well. A mechanical problem for someone in 213th place doesn’t mean much. For the weekend warrior, the question of catching or not catching fish is a moot point. It doesn’t matter. You still have to get your boat off the water, limp home and then pay the piper, so to speak. In this instance, the “piper” is your local marine mechanic who, unlike the factory service team working the tournament circuit, is paid by the hour. He doesn’t have a fully equipped trailer and a FedEx account number to make it happen overnight. Instead, he has five other guys in line ahead of you who tried to run the same stump field.
“Two weeks from Tuesday” is what you might hear “and that’s if you want to pay rush charges on the parts.” It’s a different world out there from what we see on television. The pros don’t have to make that Monday morning call to their insurance agent to find out if the $500 deductible applies. They don’t have to pull a night shift to get them back to even.
Now I’m not saying that a professional career in fishing is a day at the park. It certainly is not. It’s just that recreational anglers are constantly encouraged by the pros to find the key water, to fish the toughest cover, to make the extra effort. On the surface, it is a noble endeavor. Unfortunately, for us, it’s not the surface stuff that matters. Generally, it is something lurking just below that causes the greatest distress.
In all fairness, the professional angler is not totally to blame. The tournament machinery is designed to create heroes and generate some advertising payback for sponsors. In most cases, the “breaking down” part of the equation is glossed over, setting up a Phoenix-like rise from the ashes. It’s a better deal for all concerned because manufacturers really don’t want to dwell on the fact that their equipment went south in the first place. Better the viewer is left with a positive image of factory support than any of the less desirable options.
In some respects, professional anglers have what I call the “PlayStation®2 Advantage”. In a real world environment, the pros get to ding, bang and bend their equipment as if they were fishing in a virtual world. Hit the power bar, redeem credits for new equipment and move on. To them, it’s all Monopoly® money. And don’t tell me how hard it is being a professional angler. No one put a gun to your head to fish for a living. Those of us out here in Realville don’t want to hear it. We respect your choices until we hear the whining. Then, it’s like the actress moaning to Jay Leno about the terrible location shoot in Hungary and forgets to mention her fully appointed double-wide trailer shipped in from the States.
I really don’t have a problem with any of this because, well, that’s the way it works. Just don’t make me feel like a wimp because I won’t pull my drain plug to get under a low bridge or sandblast a hull skipping over a reef. Here at home, on the other side of the television screen, I don’t get paid to break my toys, but some lucky bastards do. For regular guys, logos don’t mean money. All they mean is that you don’t have to wear work clothes on the weekends.
Outdoor writer for Bassmasters, Bass Times, Western Outdoor News, and countless other magazines throughout the US. Here are some of my excerpts from Boat and Walley Magazine that just might put a smaile on your face.