The other day I received a call from a writer with an interesting question. Basically, he asked why I thought our sport hasn't been plagued by a major scandal like so many others, especially now that there's so much money involved?
My answer was that I believe the primary reason for our lack of scandal is the kind of men who fish professionally. Most of us come from an outdoors background. There's something positive about that. We grow up with a different set of values than some of the other professional athletes.
Spending a day on the water or sitting around a campfire with friends and family does something for you. It instills a sense of family, of values, an appreciation for what we are and what we aren't. Most of us realize we aren't the center of attention, nature is. And, no matter how good we are or how hard we try she'll always win in the end. That keeps your ego in check.
You see, no one person in our sport dominates the way they do in some other competitive activities. Michael Phelps, great athlete that he is, swims in the same pool every day. It's the same length, same width, same temperature and same routine. Anglers, on the other hand, fish different venues, with different conditions every time they launch.
And, then there are the bass. Phelps knows that his competitors are going to jump in the pool and swim as fast as they can every time. He can predict that with absolute certainty. Nothing is predictable with bass, except that they are unpredictable.
Now, don't misunderstand me when I talk about Phelps. I'm not denigrating him. He's the greatest swimmer ever to live. His accomplishments will likely stand for generations. I'm just saying bass fishing is different. And, that difference is huge. It matters.
We can do everything right and still lose. Our best day on the water can still make for a whippin' by the bass. That's humbling. It teaches you you're not always in charge — that some things are beyond your control. Being the fastest caster doesn't mean you'll catch the most fish.
When you put those things together, you get a different type of competitor. The egos aren't so big. It's hard to trash talk and strut when you know the fish you found today may be gone tomorrow. It keeps you humble, always looking over your shoulder.
There's another thing, too. There aren't very many of us. We all know each other and each other's families. That forms a bond. You hear people talk about family and caring for each other a lot, but in our sport it's true.
There isn't an angler on the tour who wouldn't stop and help if he saw another competitor stuck alongside the road with vehicle problems. That angler might be the guy fighting for his spot in the Classic or maybe breathing down his neck in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. No matter, he'll stop and help because it's the right thing to do.
And what about bringing another guy's fish in for the weigh-in if he has boat or motor problems? Can you imagine a wide receiver in the NFL slipping and falling down while running his pattern and the defensive back stopping to help him get up — while the quarterback is still scrambling behind the line of scrimmage looking for an open man?
Laugh. Then realize that's exactly what we do. Any one of us will bring in another guy's fish at the end of the day if he needs help. That might mean he'll get the check we would have gotten. Still, we do it. It's what we're about. It's who we are.
True, we have our spats and disagreements. All families do. But, in the end our guys do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. I'm proud to be able to say that.