by Kevin Short
If you havenâ€™t read Mike Iaconelli’s column yet, you might want to stop right here and read it for a little background on the direction Iâ€™m about to drive us on the bus. Just trying to save a brother (or sister) some time and keep them in context. Take a few minutes and read through some of the 300+ comments there. Iâ€™ll wait for youâ€¦.
Now that you know where weâ€™ve been, youâ€™ll have a better idea of where Iâ€™m headed. You ready for this? Letâ€™s do it.
Have to agree with Ike
I always love it when B.A.S.S. lets Ike throw himself under the bus, fall on his sword or take one for the team. Makes for good drama. Like when he threw a hissy fit at his busted troller and cursed the little doggie on camera. That made him nothing less than the ESPN Highlight of the Day, as it received thousands upon thousands of views for the website and even made the TV show.
Despite that fact, B.A.S.S. saw fit to slap him with a big fat fine for cussing the dog. Yeah, we want you to be a bad boy, Mike, just not TOO bad. Anyway, I digress.
I have to agree with Mike on a lot of what he has to say in his piece. Specifically, the points that relate to spectator traffic and spot pirates â€“ both are getting out of hand on some venues.
I was amazed we didnâ€™t see any boat accidents amongst the flotilla that followed Jason at the Grand Classic this year. If you think that was bad, wait until you see what shows up on Conroe next March, especially if Keith Combs or another Texas son is in the hunt on Sunday. Talk about some cray-cray.
After reading many of the comments, I feel like the one thing that most would agree on is this: Spectator boats are becoming an issue for (some) of the Elite anglers. Notice I said: “some.”
So…if Jason had zero, zilch, nada, none boats following on Saturday and Sunday of last Classic, could he have won? Jason admitted that his pattern was fading a little every day, but was it that the fish were transitioning or were they being flushed off the bank by boat traffic?
Thatâ€™s impossible to say. And topping Edwinâ€™s weight that final day would have been a tall mountain, though not an impossible climb.
Edwin had spectator boats too, you might say. Yes, but was he fishing one small area or was he running different places in the lake? That makes a difference. Again, I digress.
Pirates are jerks
Mike says that spectators are cool yet pirates are jerks. I agree with that, but I feel like both can affect the outcome of events. The spectator issue is not easily solved, but I feel like the spot pirate one has an easy fix in the form of Angler Harassment Laws in place in many states.
If Captain Jerkoff sets down beside me or pulls in front of me once and starts fishing, thatâ€™s cool. Weâ€™ll call that a coincidence. If he shows up multiple times and it seems intentional, Iâ€™m thinking heâ€™s harassing me and needs to have a conversation with Mr. Fish Po-Po.
Is it going to take up some of my fishing time? Most likely. Will it be worth it to send a message to the other jerk wannabes? Definitely. If one of them gets convicted and loses his fishing license, I bet the rest of the spot-pirate league will get the memo.
But spectators ARE an issue too
Unlike Ike, I contend that spectators ARE becoming an issue at some Elite events. Iâ€™m still shocked that there hasnâ€™t been a boating accident involving spectator boats, and I feel itâ€™s only a matter of time before one occurs.
For all the haters out there, Iâ€™m not saying that spectators canâ€™t drive a boat. Keep your hatinâ€™ paws in the Cheeto bag. Iâ€™m saying thereâ€™s a whole lot of madness going on when 30-50 boats all jump up on plane to play follow the leader.
There will be an accident, and some ambulance-chasing lawyer will get wind of it and name B.A.S.S., the angler everyone was following, the boat and motor company, and everyone else they can think of in the suit claiming they were all negligent in creating an unsafe boating environment which contributed to said accident. If the lawyer has any moxie at all, heâ€™ll be able to make a good case and probably win, too. Talk about a game-changer.
Whatâ€™s the solution to the spectator issue? I think we have to take a step back and ask this: Why would someone want to watch a person fish from a distance? Itâ€™s not like they can see what specific bait the angler is throwing, what heâ€™s actually casting to, or even precisely how deep heâ€™s holding his boat or even what he’s lining up his cast on.
Wouldnâ€™t it be better if we were actually IN THE BOAT with the angler than sitting 50-100 yards away? Is it the act of being on the water, in the flesh, in the moment that draws people to spectate? I donâ€™t know. Iâ€™m seriously asking the question.
Iâ€™m all about going to a ballgame and sitting in the stands, but Iâ€™m not allowed to sit in the outfield while the center-fielder is trying to catch a pop fly. Galleries at PGA events are huge at some events, but they arenâ€™t allowed on the greens or fairways. There’s no other professional sport that allows spectators on the field of play.
I contend that as long as bassinâ€™ allows the public at large on the field of play to potentially affect the outcome of events, itâ€™s nothing more than a bubba-in-a-boat-fruitjar-derby.
I donâ€™t care how much money you throw at the winner, or how cool you say it is that fans can get up close and personal with Ike while heâ€™s on the water, or the fact that spectators can be on the field is what makes our sport great. All those arguments are just the tail wagging the dog.
If we want true Professional Bass Fishing, there has to be one guy in each boat fishing on the field. No spectator galleries. And weâ€™re a long way off from that, my bassinâ€™ brothers and sisters…or are we?
Are we there yet?
Letâ€™s ponder this for a moment. All Elite events are held on public waterways, which are open to the public. Duh.
Not like weâ€™re going to tell people they canâ€™t be on a lake that has been built with taxpayer dinero.
Hereâ€™s a patch to the issue: derbies run Tuesday through Friday or Wednesday through Saturday.
What a concept. Who said they had to be Thursday through Sunday? Is that set in stone? By who? For what reason?
The almighty, supreme, stupendous WEIGH-IN is the reason we have to end on Sundays.
Let me ask you this honestly, man to man: If youâ€™ve been to one weigh-in, have you not been to them all? Are they not all the same? Dude in a flashy shirt walks across the stage, holds up a few fish, talks about how fast his blah, blah boat is, how sensitive his blah, blah rod is, or how fish jump on his blah, blah plastic turd frog? Is that not the way they all go?
Iâ€™ve been to hundreds over the last 20 years and every single one of them goes that way.
Changing the schedule of the derbies will only help in a small way, though. Those who REALLY want to watch dudes foam the water will take vacation and come out during the week, just not as many. So thatâ€™s just a patch, not a true solution.
The true fix to the problem involves a total rework, reinvention and re-thinking of the way we do tournaments today. Iâ€™m talking about a freaking derby revolution here, people. Thatâ€™s the only way to make a change, and itâ€™s a change thatâ€™s long overdue.
Câ€™mon man: 48 years later and weâ€™re still doing the same thing, yet expecting different results? Thatâ€™s insanity, according to a pretty smart guy named Albert Einstein.
Hereâ€™s my take:
> MLF has it correct with the limited number of competitors on the water every day over multiple days and the catch-weigh-release system.
> B.A.S.S. is on the right track with Live coverage of anglers.
True Pro Bass Fishinâ€™ involves all three of these aspects.
A limited field allows you to keep the location of the events a secret, if you want, or at least you can go to smaller bodies of water where access can be limited.
If you insist on having a weigh-in, expo and a festival, even with the catch-weigh-release system anglers could still bring in their largest fish of the day to show off to the crowd. No reason to keep five of them, though. Seriously â€“ I only have two hands.
Think about it. If we have live coverage of all the anglers on the water, why would anyone want to be on the lake watching them from a distance? Would a fan not get more out of being in the boat with them?
If itâ€™s a pro angler that can string together more than five words to form a sentence, a fan could learn so much more by watching from a camera in the boat than from 50 yards away. What if the live coverage could be archived and watched at the fanâ€™s leisure? What a concept.
If you donâ€™t remember anything about this post other than this sentence, remember this: At the B.A.S.S. Buffalo event in July, you will see something similar to the format Iâ€™ve just described.
No, I donâ€™t have any inside info. No one from B.A.S.S. has tipped me off to anything. Iâ€™m just betting that they too believe itâ€™s time for a format change and they will use the Buffalo event as a trial run.
I canâ€™t tell you how many times over the past 12 years Iâ€™ve heard the phrase, “This is the big leagues, boys.” Heard it when the E-50s were formed. Heard it when the Elite Series was formed. Heard it when the Majors were formed.
Havenâ€™t heard it in 9 years now, but when we move to micro fields, as compared to what weâ€™re accustomed to, and live coverage of every angler on a closed field, then we will have reached the Big Leagues of Bass Fishing and might, might get the respect we deserve as a true pro sport.
Until then, weâ€™re doing the same thing weâ€™ve done since 1968 and expecting different results…and thatâ€™s insane.