By Steve Graf
Often, I’ve been asked why do I fish tournaments? After a poor finish, I too often ask myself that same question! After I stopped competing as an athlete in the late 1980’s, I needed something to fill the void that competition gave me, something that would fan the competitive fire that still burns in me today. I feel that most athletes never really retire; they find another avenue that satisfies that desire and urge to compete. For me, that has been tournament bass fishing.
Now the Lord blessed me with athletic ability that has led me on a path of great success. From winning a State Championship in high school to a college athletic scholarship to being drafted by Major League Baseball. Growing up, no matter the sport, the desire to be the best burned inside of me. I would do whatever was necessary to be successful. But understand, the day comes when you can no longer compete at a high level. You’re no longer the fastest player, the strongest or have the best arm. Father time has a way of letting us know that the playing days are over.
Since 1990, I have competed on all levels from local club events to fishing the boater/pro side of the ABA Tour, B.A.S.S. Opens, along with the MLF series of the BFL’s and Toyota Series. When it comes to knowledge gained, I learned the most fishing the co-angler side of the FLW Tour in 2004-05. Each one of these can be very competitive including at the club level.
Just because you’re fishing the club or lower level of tournament fishing does not mean the competition is any different. Some of the best anglers in the country fish the club level and are just as serious as the guys who fish the pro side of the MLF or the Bassmaster Series. But not everyone wants or can afford to travel the country following a pro tournament trail chasing little green fish we call largemouth bass.
But one thing you’ll gain from fishing the higher level of tournaments is knowledge. If you want to learn and increase your ability to catch fish, follow one of the higher-level circuits. Just being around and spending time with other anglers from across the country will expose you to new techniques that will make you a better angler.
Even on the Pro/Am trails where you’re paired up with a co-angler who fishes out of the back of the boat, you can learn so much! I’ve always said that there’s never been a co-angler get in my boat that I did not learn something from. It might not be anything major, but if you pay attention, you’ll pick up something that might help you down the road. It might be a particular bait or maybe an organizing tip, but the best teachers for anglers are anglers themselves.
A true athlete wants to win and be the best no matter what. Their desire to win and compete is on another level than the average Joe. This is what separates the average athlete from the great one…the desire to win! For me personally, ever since I fished my first tournament back in 1990, nothing has been more satisfying than to win or at least have a high finish and get a check. It’s not even about the money for me, it’s about competing. The desire to compete is something you’re born with, it’s not something you can develop. So, to answer the question of what drives a tournament angler? It’s simply one word…. competition!
Till next time, good luck, good fishing and wear your sunscreen and UV protective clothing. Melanoma kills and does not discriminate.