By Steve Graf
One thing I’ve learned over my many years of fishing bass tournaments…never to trust another angler! Now, why would someone say such a thing? Because it’s a fact! Today we’ll look at a situation where you’ll understand why this is a true statement.
No group of people on planet Earth is less trustworthy than bass fishermen. They will lie in a heartbeat to keep other anglers at bay when it comes to where and how they are catching bass. They will sell their firstborn for crucial information if it will help them win a tournament. That’s why it’s so important to bond with a couple of guys who are your true friends so that you can discuss what you’re doing and how you’re catching bass without the threat of one of them revealing your secrets. Trust is a word very few anglers use because the pool of people you can trust is small and almost non-existent.
A good friend of mine, who is a legendary angler from East Texas, told me one time that he was through fishing Pro/Am events. Pro/Am events are tournaments where you have a boater/Pro who runs the boat and the trolling motor while he’s paired up with an Amateur/Co-angler for the day. The biggest problem in these types of events is that the Pro/boater spends all his hard-earned money and time finding fish for an event while the Am/Co-angler benefits from all that hard work without ever wetting a hook in practice or burning any gas. When you take a Co-angler to your best spots, you hope and pray that he won’t go tell all his buddies where these spots are and how you’re catching them.
So many times, I’ve asked co-anglers nicely to please not tell anyone where and how we caught our fish for that day. But no matter how much they promise they will keep everything a secret, they’re lying! This happened to me last year on Sam Rayburn in which I had a good crankbait bite early off one spot. We both had our limits in the first thirty minutes of the tournament. I had over 16 pounds in the live well and my co-angler had his three fish limits of almost 10 pounds. I specifically asked the young man to please not share this spot with anyone else as I had another tournament coming up the next weekend. He reassured me that he does not share other anglers’ spots or information with anyone.
So, feeling good about the rapport and connection we had made, I felt this guy was trustworthy. Well, guess what? Once again, my faith in humanity and trusting another angler was lost when I returned the following Thursday to scout for my next event on Rayburn. Just after daylight, I ran to my starting spot from the week before where I had caught 16 pounds in thirty minutes. As I approached the spot, I noticed a boat was fishing almost directly in the same location. So, I pulled up and lowered my trolling motor trolling in his direction. Once within in speaking range, I asked the angler if he had caught anything off this spot. He said “yes” with enthusiasm as he set the hook on a 4 pounder! While smoke and blood began to ooze from my ears, he commented that the area was loaded with some really good quality fish that his son had caught with a guy last weekend. I told him, “Yeah, I’m that guy!” I could see the look on his face when he said, “Uh oh!” He knew immediately that his son was not supposed to have told him about the spot. Once again, I politely asked the dad if he would lay off these fish until after my tournament on Saturday. He obliged and apologetically pulled up his trolling motor and left.
While I understand that I really don’t have the right to claim this or any spot as off-limits to anyone, it’s just the ethical part among other tournament fishermen to honor another angler’s spot or area. Now if another angler had found those same fish as I did, then it’s a matter of who gets there first. This is all a part of the unwritten rules of tournament fishing that so many anglers today refuse to observe. Ethics have been thrown out the window in today’s bass tournament world. It has now become every man for himself with little to no regard for anyone else.
If the ethical part of tournament fishing does not return, there will be some bad consequences for anglers down the road, especially the up-and-coming high school and college anglers who are not being taught these unwritten rules. Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Melanoma is real and can be deadly if not caught early. Early detection is critical to overcoming this form of cancer.