Rough water is a fact of life

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Ronnie Moore

The water was rough at Ross Barnett Reservoir for last week’s Bass Pro Shops Central Open.

Apparently, that surprised some people.

Even though it’s March.

In the South.

The spring winds have been blowing from daylight to dark down here since long before most of these dams turned rivers into reservoirs. And bass anglers have been braving those waves for just as long.

But still, a few photos from takeoff at Ross Barnett sent some people into a tizzy.

In case you missed it, there was a brilliant photo gallery by B.A.S.S. shutterbug-extraordinaire James Overstreet (with budding star Ronnie Moore adding a few photos) on Bassmaster.com last week that focused entirely on the tumultuous Day 2 launch of the Ross Barnett event.

Overstreet — as perhaps only he could — captured the one-two punch being thrown by Ross Barnett and Mother Nature that morning, and some of the photos were epic.

There were boats in midair, boats nosing into waves and boats barely visible as they crashed between multiple waves.

To me, the photos were mesmerizing.

But as is often the case with anything posted on the internet these days, some people were offended.

Web chatter chastised B.A.S.S. for allowing “that type of start” — though it was the same start that’s been used at B.A.S.S. events for years. There were even people suggesting that tournament officials will learn their lesson “when enough people die.” 

Really? A rough ride at takeoff is a clue that a bass fishing apocalypse is in the works? 

As I said above, if that was the case, the horsemen would have shown up long ago.

I understand there have been several high-profile boating accidents during the first two months of this year. And while I would never make light of such tragic events, I think it’s wise to look at the overall track record of boating safety for professional events. 

Serious accidents stand out very clearly because they’re so heartbreaking — and because they’re so rare. 

When an angler plunks down a big entry fee and travels four or five states away to fish a Bassmaster Open, he generally knows a thing or two about running a boat safely. When he encounters rough water during an Open, there’s virtually no chance it’ll be his first time dealing with big waves.

Tournament directors like Trip Weldon, Chris Bowes, Jon Stewart and Hank Weldon place angler safety above all else. They’ll delay or cancel events for fog, lightning and yes, even rough water.

It’s also worth noting that a photo gallery from takeoff shows the most dramatic and exciting moments. It doesn’t show all of the boats that motored away from the launch site just above idle speed or any of the others after they got through the roughest part and made it onto plane.

Takeoffs are rough sometimes.

But what seems too rough for you or me might not be too rough for an angler who’s fished a thousand bass tournaments.

If it is, the option of staying at the marina until the wind dies down is always there.

In the South, you can usually expect it to happen sometime in July.