They’re not true fans of our sport

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Seigo Saito

I’ve thought about this topic for a few days now. I wanted to be sure I wanted to write about it. The thinking is over. I do want to write about it. If we don’t get this out in the open and figure out a way to deal with it our sport is going to suffer — bad.

I’m talking about the jerks who follow us around during practice and in competition to see where we’re fishing and then move onto our spots and fish them. Sometimes they wait until we leave but at other times they move in right on top of us in the middle of a tournament day. Either way it’s discourteous and disrespectful. I don’t know what else to call them besides jerks. (Well, actually I do know what they are but B.A.S.S. wouldn’t publish it if I wrote it so I might as well go with jerks.)

This problem started about five years ago, or at least that’s when I first started noticing it. Back then it was confined to the big events. But now it’s happening in every tournament, and not just to me. I’d guess that way over half the Elite guys can tell stories about it.

I’ve had two especially bad experiences recently. At Toledo Bend a guy fished my spots the moment I left them — same guy more than once — even though Sam Rayburn is only about 30 minutes away and is every bit as good a lake as Toledo Bend.  

The other one was at the TTBC. This guy who probably fancies himself a bass angler cut in front of me as I was fishing a bank and then fished everything in front of me with a vengeance. He was really fishing hard. This was in the middle of the tournament. Really, how many other hot bass lakes are around Lake Ray Roberts? Was my spot the only one he could fish?

I’m told that the game with these guys is to see if they can catch more weight from a spot than we catch. If so, that’s really stupid. It proves nothing because to be a real bass angler you have to find your own fish, and then catch them.

All these guys are doing is fishing someone else’s spot. Their efforts prove they are sorry men who can only catch bass that another angler found. They’re proving their own weakness. If they think they can fish, maybe they should compete in the Opens, qualify for the Elites and give it a go under real professional tournament conditions.

Mostly their excuses center on the public water argument. You know, they have the right to fish. OK. That’s true.

But I wonder how they would feel if I went to their job and stole something they had developed and kept them from getting their paycheck. Or maybe, say they’re a barber. Is it OK for me to stand in front of their shop and play loud rap music with filthy lyrics so no one would come into their shop for a haircut? The sidewalk’s a public place, you know. 

And what about messing up an angler who really needs — not wants, but needs — a check? Do they have the right to ruin his tournament, or maybe even his career? Don’t kid yourself. Not every Elite Series angler is making a lot of money. Something like what I’m talking about can really hurt.

I want to be perfectly clear about something else: I’m not talking about the true fans of our sport who follow us around and watch us practice and compete. I love that. I love to see them. Heck, I love them. They make professional bass fishing the sport it is right now. Without them we’d be nothing.

I’m not talking about guys on their annual fishing trip, anglers who live on the lake and fish it all the time, or someone who has a week with his grandchild and wants to take him or her fishing, either. They’re what the concept of public water is really all about.

And yes, it’s perfectly fine to mark our spots and then fish them after the tournament is over. It’s also smart to watch us fish and take notes. If we’re catching fish, use what you learn to your advantage. I smile ear-to-ear when I find out that I’ve helped another angler catch more bass. It really makes my day. Who I am talking about are the jerks who drive long distances just so they can mess with us and try to prove their manhood by stealing bass from our spots.

Seriously, this is a major problem, and it’s getting worse. It affects the outcome of tournaments and needs to be controlled. There’s culture among some guys that’s developed that says this is OK. It isn’t. We need to do something about it. Honestly, though, I don’t know what. 

Let me say it bluntly: These men are not true fans of our sport. We don’t need them. 

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website, mikeiaconelli.com.

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