Recently, the discussion concerning “help” in tournament competition has again bubbled to the surface and I’m not sure why. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, then perhaps this is part of the umbrella rig snowball that, in my opinion, has turned a large percentage of competitive anglers and their supporters into sniveling pantywaists.
As always, I’m going to the place that seems to befuddle these small thinkers. That’s right, I’m playing the history card. It is, to paraphrase Al Gore, the “inconvenient truth” no one wants to face in tournament bass fishing, i.e. competitive anglers have been getting help since day one.
It hasn’t always been the high-tech variety we’re seeing now, but it was illegal assistance nevertheless. If you believe the decades of rumors and want to start placing asterisks next to names in the win column, many would point first to none other than Roland Martin. To a certain extent, it would be unfair because most of these accusations are little more than innuendo. It’s always been a hard rule to enforce and it’s getting harder.
The most troubling aspect is the conversation now seems to be targeting fishing electronics. Didn’t we put this argument to rest years ago? Regardless of how well you can see the fish, you still have to catch them.
If you’re going to cross that stream anyway, the real problem with modern technology is in the ease that data can be passed from unit to unit. Even before the information cutoff date for any event, any competitor with the name, wherewithal or resources can find a guide or top local fisherman willing to download an entire lifetime of information.
It was exactly the same scenario years ago, except now it’s easier. For some unfathomable reason, certain guys can’t wait to give it up when the big bass show rolls into their town. They are the bass fishing equivalent of rock star groupies except they only drop their pants in a metaphorical sense.
I can’t remember how many times, over a twenty-year span of covering BassMaster Classics, when some douchebag ran down the dock shouting about where the fish were located in his cove. Of course, the angler always stopped them short with the required “I can’t get any information” reply and every time I wondered what they would have said if I wasn’t sitting in the boat.
Actually, the worst offenses happen during the pre-fish, not before, when anglers use their waypoint function as a convenient method of remembering their competitor’s locations. It’s cheating with one punch of a button.
Unfortunately, this is where the entire debate gets tangled up in its own underwear. It’s not about the technology or how it can take anglers to the dark side. My mom always told me that, “Locks only keep honest people honest”. Those who cheat will forever find a way to do so.
No, the problem is with the tournaments themselves. If BASS, FLW or anyone else honestly wants to blunt the impact of outside help or the specter of rampant technology or – God forbid – the destruction of the universe as we know it due to the umbrella rig, they would curtail pre-fishing.
Suddenly, what someone else may have going becomes much less meaningful. The information gleaned from others is nothing more than a forecast of what should happen. Professional anglers would be forced to do what we expect of them – find fish on unfamiliar waters and catch them. After all, isn’t this why we respect them in the first place? And, what will become of that respect if those we expect to be on the cutting edge, aren’t?
If we go down this distorted road of “fairness” in professional fishing where new technology is banned, where the game is irretrievably altered, bass pros will be lobbying for their own demise. In a word, they will make themselves obsolete. The recreational angler who wants and needs the latest innovations will look elsewhere. If anything, the pros will become an amusing oddity like costumed monkeys on rollerskates. Oh, and don’t start with the golf analogies or any references about restrictor plates and your beloved NASCAR. They are not the same.
As for the “no pre-fish” tournament, don’t hold your breath. It has nothing to do with what is good for competition and what isn’t. It’s all about money. Tournament circuits sell their product to communities with the promise of competitors buying gas, eating in restaurants and staying in motels. Removing the pre-fish period removes a major incentive for mayors or city managers to sell the concept to their business community.
As for me, I’ll be punching in my sonar commands on a touch-screen, sidescan Lowrance, casting my banned umbrella rigs and only looking to the pro circuits for information that tells me where not to plan a fishing trip on certain weekends.