Corporate America Getting Hands On Fellow Defilers Early As Tournament Anglers?

Inside Outdoors
By Don Jordan



The fact that Illinois has become the first state in the country to make bass fishing a certified physical education course seems in some ways a victory anglers and angling.

I mean, here we are, finally validated, officially sanctioned and recognized as a part of the physical sports world. It gets college kid onto the water, and better there than hanging at the pool hall, right? So can there be a down side to having bass fishing courses in phys ed?

Aside from the fact that some of the most physically unfit people I have ever seen participate in the sport of fishing, there is the unfortunate fact that bass fishing 101 as taught in Illinois high schools is little more than a minor league circuit for the big time "bucks for bass" ideology that too often ignores the resource and long-held ideals about what fish and fishing is all about.

Note the Chicago Tribune report where it says: "The high schools are catching on to a larger trend. Bass fishing has become a multibillion dollar industry with magazines, television shows and clubs dedicated to the sport. A collegiate championship has been around since 2006, and professional tournaments dole out prizes of up to $1 million."

We have all seen the results of the Wisconsin project that determined as many as half of all bass caught in a tournament in the Badger State died within a week after being released. And, through the magic of ESPN, we have seen one of tournament fishing's biggest stars throw a tantrum, curse and kick an American flag into the water when he lost a fish at the boat. And, in the biggest championship professional tournament of them all, millions of Americans watched as the big fishing stars weighed in dead fish after dead fish following a tournament in the Kississimi chain of lakes in Florida.

I hope that the assessment of Oak Lawn High's A.D. Pat Keeley turns out to be correct: "Fishers take the conservation aspect pretty seriously. Otherwise, their sport goes away."

Keely also sees bass fishing as a chance to involve students in after school activities. He called bass fishing classes "an opportunity to reach out to students who are not involved in traditional sports. We're interested in anything that gets kids involved."

Sounds good, but let's face it, a Ecstasy party or a beer blast get kids involved too.

Having phys ed classes in fishing has to be good, at the core of it. Just being on the water does something positive to everyone, fishing or not fishing. Fishing itself can teach more about nature than a biology class every can, and it can become a lifelong pursuit that leads to other outdoors-oriented recreation like bird watching, hiking and even hunting.

The only down side of this story is that these high school and college classes tend to funnel students directly into the corporate fish as dollars view. Even if they don't become big time tournament anglers, they are likely to approve of bass tournament fishing in general.

That makes each of them just another corporate pigeon willing to buy the lie that live wells keep tournament caught fish from dying and that fishing tournaments are good for nature.

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©Copyright 2008. Donald Lee Jordan

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