In praise of B.A.S.S. Nation

This week I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about the B.A.S.S. Nation. There are a number of readers and anglers who will disagree with what I am about to say. I respect that. They have a right to their opinions. I hope they extend the same courtesy to me and my opinions.

There has always been an undercurrent of talk about Nation anglers qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic. Some of the guys don’t think it’s right. They believe that the Classic should be pure — pure being defined as pro anglers only.

I agree with them. The Classic should be pure. Where I disagree is in the definition of pure. To my mind any reasonable reading of pure has to include anglers from the B.A.S.S. Nation. Here’s why:

Let’s start with the obvious. Probably one of the great sports stories of all time is Bryan Kerchal and his win at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in 1994. We all know he won the Bassmaster Classic that same year. We never got to see what he would become or what his career would mean to bass fishing. He died in a plane crash about five months after that.

But, does anybody doubt that he earned his win? Say what you will, he caught more weight than anyone else. That’s how we measure winning and losing a bass tournament. Therefore, by definition he was the best angler in that event. As such, he deserved to be there.

We can say the same thing about this year’s field. Three of the qualifiers have fished the Classic before. One of them, Paul Mueller, darn near won the thing last year. Repeated qualifications are no accident and they’re not the product of luck.

Here’s the way I see it: Every angler fishing the Classic from the Nation has won tournaments time and again over the course of at least a year. The long haul is the only haul. Nobody stays lucky that long.

Luck is when you find a school of bass that aren’t supposed to be there and catch the fire out of them one time, in one tournament. Luck is when you catch a giant in a tough event and sneak through to a win. Winning over and over is skill.

Another observation I want to make is that not everyone wants to be a pro or has the opportunity to be one. There’s more than one angler in the country who’s every bit as good as our top professionals, past or present. For a variety of reasons they simply choose not to go pro.

Finally, the Classic qualification process through the Nation is fairly unique and helps us keep our sport vibrant at the recreational level. No country club golfer can qualify for the Masters. No weekend football player, regardless of his size or skill level, will ever experience the thrill of starting in a Super Bowl.  Nation anglers can not only compete, they can win.

Charlie Hartley supports the B.A.S.S. Nation 100 percent!