In Tournament Bass Fishing, It is Always About The Money, All The Time
By Don Jordan
Big, fast "bass boats" were already a staple of the professional bass tournaments that arose around the country in the early 70s. Ray Scott's Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) dominated and became the leading sponsor of big bucks bass fishing tournaments. Those early tournaments led to the series some people watch on television today, including the so-called "Bassmaster Classic" where winners of regular season BASS tournaments all get a shot at the championship contest.
To literally millions of Americans, this kind of tournament fishing is attractive and enjoyable. But if personal enjoyment is the top of the bass for cash pyramid, the foundation of all tournament fishing is cash. [DJ's Note: There are literally thousands of little tournaments held everywhere where a local bait shop or a bunch of guys from work get together for a fishing contest. These little contests aren't the problem.] When we talk bass fishing tournaments nowadays, we're talking Wal-Mart and other giant corporations as sponsors and even tournament owners.
Tournament fishing does not exist to protect our fisheries. The rules do require live wells to keep caught fish alive, but it has been shown in Wisconsin that many of live well-held fish die up to a week or more later as the result of stresses suffered.
Tournament fishing's purpose is not to keep our waters clean. The engines used now may be cleaner but they still add contaminates to our waterways, and sheer size and power of the new boat and outboards is stunning. Don't get in the way of a bass bustin' bass boat on tournament day.
Tournament fishing does not exist to promote ethical and courteous angling practices. I have personally had bass tournament anglers cast a bait close enough to hear it flying past my ear. They cast across my fishing hole as if I were not there and didn't utter a single apology. I have heard similar stories from scores of other non-tournament fishermen and women.
Tournament fishing does not exist to promote safe boating. Indeed, safety and 200 h.p. outboards on 25-foot fiberglass fishing palaces does not compute. These boats make huge wakes when not on plane, but pro bass fisheremen are loathe to idle back enough to minimize their wakes. You can see this by going down to Lake Monroe on any fishing tournament weekend and watching the bass boats throwing four foot wakes in the upper basin idle zone. Early fishing tournaments featured actual bass boat races.
Tournament bass fishing does not exist to promote good sportsmanship. All you have to do is hang around some of these guys to see what they think about sportsmanship. And one of the top pros was caught on television uttering streams of obscenities and knocking an American flag into the lake after he lost a fish. There have also been cases of extreme cheating, although this has happened mostly in small club contests, or, more likely, not of the big time pros have been caught yet.
So what is the aim of tournament fishing and why does it exist?
Tournament fishing has been cash-oriented from its beginnings. Founder Ray Scott was in it for the money, and the anglers themselves are clearly in it for the money. So what is the source of this pot of gold?
Corporate America. Everything about pro tournament fishing screams commericialism. All the anglers have corporate sponsors and they boost their sponsors at every opportunity, just like the big NASCAR race drivers do. Corporate sponsors may help defray angler expenses by providing expensive equipment, like a $30,000 bass boat with 200 hp outboard and enough electronics to find a nuclear submarine.
So what's wrong with this? The old robber barons used to say that the "business of America is business" and their descendents are still running things in this country.
We have sold our government to global corporations and now their elected henchmen are "privatizing" and commercializing every facet of what was formerly public resources.
Tournament fishing wraps it all up in sugar-coating, making it seem that the fish they catch and haul around all day not only live but are just hunky-dory! Fact is that we now know that a lot of fish die during or after fishing tournaments and that high percentages of kept largemouth bass die if outdoor temperatures are above 80. At 90, over half the fish caught can die within a week after being released.
Everybody in the tournament fishing business is in it for money, except the fish. It is the corporate way, after all.