So are you headed to the Classic?
Not as an angler, but as a spectator most likely. After 26 years of covering this event from the water and other vantage points, I’d like to offer a short list of things from the “you should know better” files, or more simply “stuff yo daddy shoulda taught ya!”
On the water spectators are an exciting and wonderful part of the Bassmaster Classic. Anglers even utilize them as part of their game plan.
As we all know, even in the harshest conditions, they ain’t going away. Take for instance the Lake Hartwell Classic, when it was raining snow, sleet and popsicles there was plenty of guys who chose to be there, while there were plenty of Classic anglers who wished they could have stayed in bed.
If you are one of the lucky few who actually get to watch this event unfold before your very eyes, remember the key word that describes you: “spectator.” That means to spectate or to watch. Along those lines here are some rules to follow.
1. While anglers may plan for your presence, your presence should never interfere with an angler’s plans. I can remember when spectators started becoming a part of the game, mostly in the early 1990s.
In 1992, Robert Hamilton Jr., actually practiced for that condition, deciding to fish deeper than the rest and taking shallow water out of his game plan.
His plans were based on a ton of boats on the water; with electronics pinging (ah, the days of the flasher); running and gunning and in general causing a ruckus. He walked away with the crown that year.
The overall point is: If you are on the water, your presence is making an impact (sometimes good, sometimes bad) when it comes to fish catching. The trick is to realize that and minimize the impact.
2. One of the best ways to do that is to remember regardless if you are floating hundreds of yards away or you are relatively close, turn off your electronics. You may need them to run from spot to spot, but once you get there, there’s no need to have them on.
3. Keep your distance. It would be cool if you could walk out during the Super Bowl and stand behind Joe Flacco in the middle of a play or stand over the cup in the Masters with Tiger Woods stroking the ball at your feet. But it doesn’t happen for a reason, a lot of which boils down to respect for those who qualified to be there.
I like to refer to the “rule of thumb,” which means the same thing in chemical spills and gunfire. Be able to cover what you are watching with the end of your thumb. Anything closer and you are too close.
4. Understand that the angler you are following is fishing for an opportunity of a lifetime. His career could be on the line. He’s focused on getting a winning bite. That means he’s not really grumpy, he’s focused.
5. Some anglers like to talk to their spectators. Those who do not are not necessarily the south-end of a northbound horse. They are just focused on their job. Let them talk first. But if you are doing your job by keeping your distance, they will have to yell to converse. Binoculars are your best friend.
6. Watch the anglers. Seems silly to suggest that doesn’t it? But if you pay attention to them, many will be giving you hand signals, asking you to stay away from a key piece of structure they plan on fishing. When he starts strapping down rods, that means he’s leaving and you need to prepare to get out of his way.
7. In any event, anglers often hit several areas. That means each time one of them gets his boat up on plane to his next spot he will be trailing along a line of boats behind. Remember, this is the Classic, and that is the only prize being awarded. There will be nothing given to the guy who wins the boat race between spectators.
In the confines of a lake, he’s not going to get away from you, so keep a safe distance and give him plenty of room to operate.
8. Which brings us to another consideration. Just because an angler has left a spot, doesn’t mean he won’t return. Often that spot is a part of a milk run. The ultimate in disrespect is to promptly go to the spot he just left to make a few casts or punch in a GPS coordinate.
9. If you need the coordinate because you plan on coming back, then remember the area on your return trip or after the day is over. Not a cool thing to do in the middle of the game.
10. Like electronics, a lot of trolling motors thrashing around the water creates a big presence and can impact the movements of any fish. Use them sparingly and hopefully not at all.
11. There will be boats that are supposed to get closer. They are camera boats, which may be carrying extra equipment for television, and there are Bassmaster photo boats that are also carrying a blogger. Their presence a little closer is warranted and often agreed upon with the angler in advance. There presence is not an invitation to get closer. Treat these working boats like you would any of the competing anglers.
12. If you are bringing your girlfriend and she is in a bikini, please let James Overstreet or me know. We want to document with photos. Now don’t go where your dirty mind is going, we just may have a bikini sponsor out there that needs to know we have a skimpy-clad audience.
13. And the last rule: Enjoy your time on the water. There will be 53 anglers who, for the most part, won’t be. They will be working, dealing with pressures and an assortment of other things during the three biggest days of their year or lives.