Hackney: Should we fish, or collect information?

OK guys, here’s another one of my questions about professional tournament bass fishing. But before I pose that question I want to make a couple of things clear.

First, I’m not accusing anyone of cheating. The rules are what they are.

Second, I’m looking for opinions. This is not an opportunity for anyone to cite specific instances or tournaments. And under no circumstances do I want anyone to talk about a specific angler. This column is about an issue. We need to take the high road.

It seems to me that the rules are allowing us (Bassmaster Elite Series anglers) to collect information that in some cases detracts from our talents as anglers. They’re putting a premium on information. That bothers me.

Let me tell you what I’m talking about…

We have a tournament next year at a place I’ve never heard of, much less fished. I contacted a fellow Elite Series angler to find out what the deal was. I learned there was a guy at this place who is supposed to be really good. He wins a lot of tournaments on the place.

My friend told me that the local had already been contacted by a half-dozen or so anglers. He’d made a commitment to help one of them. And, the angler he’s going to help is going to help him with a charity event.

Now, I have nothing against charity — the more the better — and I don’t think that situation violates the letter of the rules. Technically there’s no payment. The thing that bothers me is that it doesn’t violate the rules.

I know anglers who have friends, acquaintances and contacts at every place we fish. They get very specific information (waypoints) that put them on the best places to start fishing. They’re getting this information outside the 30 day rule and they aren’t paying for it so everything is legal. But is it right? Are we anglers, or are we information gatherers?

To be fair, the majority of the guys who are doing this aren’t winning. Most of the waypoints they’re getting are known to other anglers. They’re more or less public. The winners are developing their own patterns and spots. That gives them the edge. Their fish are just a little bit bigger.

But still, you can catch a pretty good sack if you have 30 or 40 of the best spots in your GPS unit. Let’s face it — if you know how to correct for magnetic and satellite errors, you can find a basketball in most of the lakes we fish. Waypoints are powerful pieces of information.

What if we had a rule that before you launch to prefish on Monday morning a B.A.S.S. representative had to clear the waypoints from your electronics and make sure your chip is blank? Smart phones and tablets with waypoints in them would be illegal, too. And yes, that rule would include waypoints you developed yourself.

If you found a spot once, you should be able to find it again. That’s especially true if you have a general idea where it’s at. Besides, there’s no other practical way of enforcing a rule like I’m talking about.

We’re supposed to be “elite” anglers. Why shouldn’t we be made to find our own spots and our own fish? Tournament results and Bassmaster Classic berths shouldn’t be determined by who knows the best anglers. They should be determined by who is the best angler.

What do you think?