Liquid courage

Up until 2012, the Elites were allowed to have multiple boats in order to adapt to different waterways. For example, in addition to the standard 20- or 21-foot fiberglass bass boat, some pros had high-sided craft for the Great Lakes or jet boats for situations like the Alabama River. It was alleged that this created an unfair playing field for those who couldn’t afford multiple vessels. I don’t know if I buy that argument – anglers have different levels of equipment available to them already (e.g., electronics, even rods/reels/lures) based on the size of their wallets or the depth of their connections – but if nothing else it leveled the playing field. At the time I thought that meant the end of escapades like those we witnessed this past weekend. I was wrong. Then again, if jet boats had been allowed, how many more pros would’ve been up in the whitewater ping-ponging around?

“Personal responsibility” is a term that is used all too often, and usually because a writer or speaker is lazy. I’ve sat here at my keyboard for 20 minutes trying to find a better term, though, and that’s what this boils down to: Each angler has to use his best judgment, weighing costs and benefits. What risk is worth $100,000 or $10,000 or a spot in the Classic? At some point an angler may push it too far – although perhaps not quite as far as some of his peers – and something catastrophic will result. I hope it doesn’t, but I’m all but certain it will. When it happens, the haters will rejoice. Unfortunately, some fishing fans will also celebrate it – these are the same fans who wait for fights at a hockey game or cheer on crashes on the NASCAR track. I’m not among them, but I have to admit that this past weekend’s risk-taking fascinated, horrified and thrilled me simultaneously.

As the result of Bassmaster Magazine, the internet and hordes of other learning tools, the average skilled fisherman knows what it’s like to flip the same cover as Edwin Evers or crank a ledge that’s been graced by KVD’s crankbait. You can use the same drop shot rod as Aaron Martens on the same drop. As a result, pictures of those activities don’t thrill us anymore.

We want to know why the pros are different, and we can’t help but gawk as they search for every advantage. If anyone’s enabling them, it’s those of us who cheer them on and don’t have to turn a wrench or patch fiberglass well into the night.

It’s the same reason that the NFL marketed what should have been called “Greatest hits, tackles and beheadings” until the concussion frenzy scared them in their wallets. They still market it, just more quietly, and blood hungry folks like myself eat it up every Sunday. We don’t want to see anyone injured, but the fact that the possibility is there keeps us on the edge of our seats and clicking through the photo galleries.