Bowman: On Hackney's sharing water question

Greg Hackney asks a pretty interesting question in his latest column. Interesting only from the standpoint of how the question is outlined and posed and where it might end up.

It is likely it will be answered in generational and possibly even regional tones.

(Read Hackney's column: What does 'sharing water' really mean?)

Those of us who have been fishing in tournaments at every level for more than a couple of decades have a fairly straight answer. But things have changed greatly in the last decade and a half, and those changes are evident not only on the water but in society as well.

It seems like any time we go to Kentucky Lake we spend some of our time discussing these issues of shared water and the issues that arise from them. But this isn’t about Kentucky Lake. It’s purely incidental it was the background.

In every event there is a who can go, or should go, where scenario. Two guys finding the same fish is going to happen. When they get there, how is it handled? Who has rights? Who has none?

In today’s world it seems there’s not an easy answer. Years ago, it was simple. If you got there second, you left. Or waited until the first guy left.

Today, especially when it comes to offshore structure or cover, it seems the lines get really blurry. Getting there first means nothing. Fishing offshore adds a lot of guesswork to the equation: Is the first angler on the juice? Just how close is too close? Where does the line begin and end under the water?

There are no rules regarding these scenarios and there shouldn’t be. There are just differences in opinions.

To be clear this discussion is more about the overall issues than the one between Hackney and another angler. I don’t think that was the point of Hackney’s column and questions. As a matter of fact, I visited with both anglers at length: Hackney before his column and the other angler after the column was published.

There is no huge issue or battle between two anglers; simply an opportunity to discuss differences in how our collective group of anglers may think about their competitive day on the water.

The difference can be seen in a not-so well-known story involving Hackney and Todd Faircloth, both are older anglers than their birthdates reveal. They’ve been doing it their whole lives. This story is an example of how they feel things should go.

In 2009, during practice for the Southern Challenge Elite event on Lake Guntersville, Hackney found the mother lode of monster bass on a river ledge. “I mean big uns,” Hackney said at the time. He took off on Day 1 at boat number 40 and when he arrived at this gargantuan school of fish, Faircloth was already there.

As Hackney idled to his waypoint, it became apparent Faircloth had found the same school. As dejected as one could imagine, Hackney did what he thought was right and hooked his boat around and motored to his backup spot.

Faircloth would catch 32 pounds from that spot and lead Day 1. And Hackney would later learn that Jeff Kriet had basically done the same thing, found the fish, then found Faircloth there first and turned to head out.

Hackney didn’t go back the second day, neither did Kriet: They had lost that part of the game that lies with the luck of a higher draw than Faircloth. For them it was time to move. Faircloth would wind up in 11th place, Hackney in 13th (2 ounces from the Top 12) and Kriet would be 15th.

There are numerous, too many to mention, similar situations since the beginning of time.

That kind of thing, though, was common among tournament guys in the 1980s and 1990s. The thought was; there is a reason they have a numbered takeoff. It’s part of the game, just like a coin toss in football. The chance of heads or tails is equal to both sides, but gives one an advantage. Low-number boat draws often give you an advantage and every one has an equal opportunity to be first or last.

Just because the coin doesn’t land on your side, doesn’t mean you don’t follow the tenants of the sport. And that’s really where this question lies.

Like I said, though, things have changed. This has nothing to do with rules, but more to do with accepted mores of those playing the game. The old school guys say, “Stay away.” The new school guys may have other thoughts. They are after all playing in a high-stakes game and found the same fish.

The unnamed angler in Hackney’s column did not break any rules and both he and Hackney agree to that point. Although the unnamed angler does feel like Hackney’s point was overly one-sided. But that’s always the case.

“I feel like I gave him every opportunity to tell me he didn’t want me there,’’ he said.

And Hackney points out; “In all fairness, I should have had a discussion with him on the first day and made my expectations clear.”

So in truth, that one incident may have been settled with a conversation that never took place. But that wasn’t the point of Hackney’s column. The column was more about having a discussion on a larger issue.

In visiting with our anonymous, unnamed angler he was open about understanding the old-school angler’s thought process, but quickly pointed out that isn’t always evident to everybody.

“I was coming into the sport when Kevin VanDam won the Classic at Catahoutchie,” he said. “I watched all of that and saw all the other anglers around him and came into this game thinking that kind of thing was okay.”

While Hackney’s thoughts are different, it’s obvious not every one shares his opinion. By stating that opinion he’s opened up more questions than there are answers, which always creates a lively debate in the world of bass fishing.

The good thing is discussions like this might move everyone closer to the same thought process.  But where that thought process ends up is anybody’s guess.