(This post is specifically for those who fish tournaments)
What is the goal of fishing? I always thought it was to catch fish. Not one fish or two fish, but a bunch of them. As big a bunch as you can catch during the time you have. Do any of you catch five fish and say “that was good, let’s call it a day”? No chance!
Once again, the idea of reducing the tournament limit from eight fish to five fish has reared its head. It seems every couple of years we revisit this topic. When it was brought up again today, it “broke the camel’s back” for me.
I’m getting old. Years of sports have taken their toll. Two bad knees, one bad hip, chronic tendinitis in both elbows and the same in one thumb means I can no longer play any of the sports from my youth. Fishing is my last chance to compete in a sport at a high level.
Throughout the years of leading the MRA I kept a rather reserved tone when I addressed the issue of reducing the tournament limit. I spoke truthfully of my beliefs, but I never went too far to criticize the opposition or went out of my way to convey my contempt for their veiled opposition of the limit debate. That stops today.
First, let me state my beliefs as to what constitutes a premier bass competition. The best bass tournament rewards the person or persons who catch the heaviest total of fish over a given time period. With the resources available to an organization such as Major League Fishing, their format of allowing all legal fish to be counted and added to the tally is, in my opinion, the best tournament concept available. Notice the premier professional anglers participate in this format?
Unfortunately, without the help of dedicated officials this style of tournament is not viable for organizations such as ours. Still, this does not change the fact that a tournament method allowing the largest number of fish to be counted results in the best true measure of angling ability.
When the MRA was founded in the late 1990’s the maximum size of a reservoir boat was 18 feet. In reality, only a very small number of boats were 18 feet in length back then. The overwhelming majority were 16’ or less. I started fishing tournaments in a 12-foot boat. Needless to say, space was at a premium in these smaller boats.
The club recognized the limitations of smaller boats and, proactively, reduced the tournament creel limit from 10 fish to 8 fish. This was done for no other reason than to promote a respectful use of the resource and to avoid negative publicity. I was there, I know this to be true. Many club small tournaments on the reservoirs still maintained a 10 limit even as we made the switch.
Since the 1990’s regulations have changed and boats up to 20 feet in length are allowed on the reservoirs. Few boats smaller than 18 feet competitively fish tournaments. Reservoir boats now have the ability to have livewells with a capacity equal to or greater than those of commercially available fiberglass bass boats. My livewell is larger than the standard one in a Ranger boat.
There are a multitude of two-man team bass clubs across the country. Some allow a creel limit equal to twice that of the individual limit while most offer some reduced creel limit like our group. Some restrict the limit much further as is being requested by some of our anglers. The choice is theirs.
My objection to reducing the limit from 8 fish to 5 is two-fold.
First, all competitions are designed to identify and reward the best competitors. The lower the limit the more a single fish can influence the outcome. We already have two lunker opportunities at each event to accomplish this feat. This is the real world. There are no participation trophies. If you are fishing tournaments you should be trying to learn to be better fishermen so you can be the best. If you are not interested in working to become the best but you still want to fish tournaments “for fun or just in case you get lucky”, great. But don’t try to pull those who want more down to your level. Not everybody in Major League baseball can be the home run champ but you don’t see them pulling the fences in to the edge of the infield so everybody has a chance to hit a homerun!
My second objection to the 5-fish limit is the hypocritical use of the word “conservation” to attempt to force the change. Here is the link to the article I referenced at the meeting. http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2009/08/02/In-catch-and-release-a... Gene Wilde, the biologist from Texas Tech mentioned in the article, continues to research and write about the effects of tournament fishing, and his conclusions have remained basically unchanged from the time of this article. Bass tournaments, including mortality from the tournaments has little or no effect upon the fishery. Believe it, don't believe it, I don't care. The man is a respected biologist and I'll take his word.
I’ll say this knowing the probable repercussions from those of you whom I truly enjoy, but the real reason people want to have the creel limit reduced is because they think they will have a better chance to win with five fish limits rather than eight. It has little or nothing to do with the health of the fish and more about the chance for them to win. Sorry, it’s true and you know it!
If you’ve ever seen the movie “A League of their Own” there is a line from Tom Hanks playing the manager Jimmy Dugan that goes – “It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great.” That pretty much sums up how I feel. When I go up to you to congratulate you on winning a tournament, on beating me, I want you to know I appreciate your skill and talent. I know how hard I have worked to get to my level of angling. I want to be able to recognize you for a real accomplishment, not merely for getting lucky.
I said it at the meeting, I’ll say it again. If you want to fish a team tournament where the limit is five fish, go fish Bobby Heron’s tournaments. That’s why it’s there. But if you want to see how you stack up against the best reservoir fishermen in Maryland you have to fish Metro. It’s the only club where they all fish together.