2011 Elite Series - Sunshine Showdown Harris Chain of Lakes - Tavares, FL, Mar 10 - 13, 2011

On the road again

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley

When you read this, I'll be on the road again headed toward Florida for the start of the Elite season. I can't wait. I don't remember ever being more positive about fishing and the sport of professional bass fishing than I am now. It's about as good as things can get.

I spent some time at the Cincinnati Bass Pro Shops this weekend. I have to say that the crowds were fantastic. I know things could look better for our country's economy. Gas prices are rising, unemployment is still stubbornly high and our public officials seem to be clueless about what to do to fix things. Still, the fishing world looks really good to me today.

The crowds at the seminars — mine as well as several other guys — were as big as I've ever seen them. The weather is warm so everyone is chomping at the bit to get out and catch some fish. The participants were asking questions, taking notes and generally getting ready for their first trip of the year. You could tell they'd had enough of winter.

Even better for our industry, they were spending money. I was told we (Cincinnati) had the second highest dollar intake on Saturday of all the Bass Pro Shops. If that's accurate, it says something positive. Ohio has been hit pretty hard by the recession. If we can put things back together, the rest of the country should be able to do so as well.

That's not the only thing that has me in a good mood, though. Another factor is the quality of the fishing around the country.

Look at what's been happening on Lake Erie. Think back 15 years: Would you have ever imagined weights like we've been pulling out of it? I doubt it. More likely you would have asked about pollution and filth. What a turnaround for one of America's great fishing venues.

The Louisiana Delta gave a pretty good accounting of itself, too. The Classic weights were solid considering the weather changes, fog delays and other problems they've had down there since 2005. If I had the time and space, I could give you an example from every state in our country.

Along with all that, we have the best lures, rods, reels and line that we've ever had. They work, which is more than you could say about a lot of the stuff made decades ago. Add to that better boats, motors and electronics and you can see why I'm so upbeat.

I've fished for bass for more than 30 years, and I've never seen it this good. It's wonderful to be alive and well and headed toward the first Elite Series tournament of the year!

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