My friend and fellow B.A.S.S. columnist Don Barone has years of experience on me.
He’s won awards for his writing just like I have, and traveled the country with the Bassmaster Elite Series for 11 seasons now. He stays at many events with two of my all-time favorite anglers, Shaw Grigsby and Paul Elias.
He’s met people I never will — iconic writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson.
In spite of all that, respectfully, he’s still wrong.
I’m sorry, db —and I hope to share a crab cake with you next month at the Potomac River Elite Series event in Maryland — but I disagree with your idea that Jacob Powroznik and Koby Kreiger did something wrong during the Classic Bracket event on the Niagara River.
As a reminder:
Kreiger came into the event ranked 72nd in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. He was the only one of the eight qualifiers who hadn’t all but punched his ticket to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
Kreiger and Powroznik were paired against each other in the quarterfinals. They’re roommates on the Elite Series and longtime friends.
Since there was an automatic Classic berth on the line, Powroznik laid down his rod on the second day of the quarterfinals and gave Kreiger a clear path to the semis. He even coached Kreiger as he caught the one fish he needed to advance.
Whether you agree or disagree with Powroznik taking a dive for his buddy, one thing’s for certain —neither of them even came close to breaking a rule.
So what’s the big deal?
Believe it or not, this kind of thing happens all the time in professional fishing.
Anglers with a good limit in the livewell routinely back out of the way to let another angler catch enough fish off a certain spot to try and make the Saturday cut and earn a much-needed check. Last year on Lake Guntersville, Skeet Reese won with a lure given to him by his Elite Series roommate Byron Velvick – and Velvick finished second.
There’s probably an example of it from every tournament we have. It’s just the kind of camaraderie these guys build while traveling the country together. They want to win, but they’re not above helping one another.
To be fair to db, he wasn’t bothered by Powroznik committing an act of great kindness for Kreiger. He just didn’t like that it came on the playing field.
I can see his point there.
If an NFL football player intentionally dropped a pass, he’d get roasted in the media. If a baseball centerfielder deliberately let a ball go over his head, he would, too. They might both get investigated for points shaving.
But those guys get paid to play their sports.
Bassmaster Elite Series anglers pay more than $5,000 to secure their spot in each tournament. There was no entry fee for the Classic Bracket event. But to have a chance to qualify anglers had to finish in the Top 8 at the Busch Beer Bassmaster Elite on Cayuga Lake.
You simply can’t charge a guy that kind of money and then tell him how to fish.
Jacob Powroznik doesn’t work for B.A.S.S. or for Tournament Director Trip Weldon. How can they demand that he fish harder?
Maybe it would it have made people feel better if Powroznik had just cut the hook off his bait and kept casting? No one would have known the difference.
But again, in a pay-to-play sport, no one can force Powroznik to put on that kind of charade if he doesn’t want to.
One part of db’s column that I agreed with whole-heartedly was that we can all probably learn something from what happened in Buffalo.
I’d love to see more bracket-style tournaments. I was glued to Bassmaster Live and WatchESPN for the entire event, and there were some incredibly memorable moments.
But maybe a format change is in order:
What if the tournament was moved to the end of the season — after the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship? What if we took the eight guys who finished just outside the Classic bubble and had them go head to head with a Classic berth on the line?
I promise you nobody would lay down a rod to let someone else advance.
It would be incredibly entertaining, especially this year when such a field could include heavyweights like Casey Ashley, Rick Clunn and Skeet Reese.
We don’t agree on every detail of this controversy, db.
But I still respect you to the point that I’ll never forget the conversation we had about writing and the pro fishing industry the night after Casey Ashley won the 2015 Classic.
Keep writing your conscience.
And I will, too.