In praise of co-anglers

I love our Elite Series Marshal Program. Fishing at the Elite level without having to share your fish is a dream come true for most of us. We (professional anglers) worked for years to get such a program in place. It’s good for the Marshals, too. They basically get an eight hour bass fishing seminar at a very reasonable price. Both sides come out a winner.  

Still, it’s fun to fish a few tournaments with guys from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds and skill levels. Co-anglers are a part of the sport. Working with them can be a rewarding experience.

At a tournament on the Great Lakes, I had a co-angler who wasn’t very good with a drop shot rig. That’s a serious handicap. After some frustration, he decided to go with his strength. He tied on a big chartreuse crankbait and started throwing it in open water that was 35 feet deep. I thought he was done. Let’s face it, everybody knows not to do that.

But after a couple of casts he yelled at me to get the net. He had a big one on. It turned out to be a pike. When I thought about it for a minute, that didn’t surprise me. They’ll eat anything, any place, any time.  

A couple of casts after that he yelled for the net again. I didn’t even put my rod down. I knew it was another pike. Well, his pike turned out to be a 4-pound-plus smallmouth. I have no idea what it was doing 20 feet off the bottom but the proof was on the end of his line.

He threw that crankbait all day. That was the only smallie he caught with it. At the same time, though, he was watching me and learning about drop shots. (I culled several limits that day.) He fished with one off and on all afternoon. Each time he got a little better at it. By the end of the day he’d learned enough to be fairly good with one.

After the weigh-in, I gave him a few baits and some terminal tackle to help him get started. He called later to say thanks. He’d successfully fished a drop shot in a club tournament. 

He was thrilled, and so was I. There’s no better feeling than to know you helped another angler learn a new technique — new to him or her — and helped them catch more bass. It’s what we’re about in this sport. My friend will go to his grave with positive thoughts about Elite Series anglers.

You can get the same information through the Marshal Program. That’s for sure. But there’s a benefit to learning by doing, too. Let’s not sell the co-angler format short. It has its benefits.

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