When no info becomes too much info

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Thomas Allen

I love to talk about fishing. It’s part of my job. Whether I’m doing seminars, working boat shows, doing promotions or just listening to a cool fish story from the older gentleman wearing a ZOOM hat at the gas station.

Telling and hearing fishing stories never gets old; they are the bridges that connect me to fans.

When B.A.S.S. put out its new rule this year about not being allowed to solicit or receive information about any Elite Series lakes the minute the schedule comes out – in July – I thought it was a good thing. Cutting the lines of the fishing-by-phone program is fine with me. We should all have the same amount of information when the starting gun is fired. Trust me, I get it.

However, this year I’ve experienced some unintended consequences of the no-information rule being moved back to a whole eight to 12 months before the events begin, especially during sport show season. 

Many times when I work sport shows in the offseason, I go to parts of the country where I’ll be fishing an Elite tournament that upcoming tournament season – places like Kentucky Lake, Lake Martin, Grand Lake and the Sabine.

I didn’t even see this being a problem until I was at a sports show last fall, flapping my gums, talking fishing and a fellow walks up to be a part of the conversation and says, “I’m telling you that Kentucky Lake is a different place to fish right now. We were over there this week and there is a whole lot of…”

It was like being in a nightmare…as he went to finish the sentence, everything went into slow motion and I screamed out, N-O-O-O! I had to cut the poor guy off.

He thought I had lost my mind. Things were awkward for a second.

I don’t know if he was going to say a whole lot of carp…grass…shad…crappie…loons…pontoons…whatever…but I didn’t want to know how that sentence ended because it basically became rule-breaking territory. And with two other gentlemen standing there who fish Kentucky Lake frequently, I knew where that conversation was headed. So I bluntly cut it off, explaining to them that I could not hear a thing about Kentucky Lake. Of course they had no idea that rule extension was in place.

After that incident, general fish talk and telling fish stories took on a whole new meaning to me. My guard went up.

While at another show in Birmingham, Ala., I was talking with a nice guy who began to tell me about catching some big spotted bass cranking a red DT-6 up shallow, when the water temperature was still super cold. Then he started in on a list of lakes where it works. He only got Lay Lake out of his mouth when I cut him off, before he did (or did not, for that matter) get to Lake Martin. 

Not a few minutes later another one of his buddies joined the conversation and said something to the tune of, “You guys are going to be in for a real surprise when you get to Lake Martin next year because…”

The only surprise was when I awkwardly cut him off, too.

For the most part, folks get it and are cool with it, and we switch the conversation around to college football or hunting.

But I’ve had several encounters that did not end so well. Like the older gentleman with the ZOOM hat who pulled into the gas station just to say hello and to tell me that Lake Hartwell had been…

Nope, sir, I’m sorry, we can’t talk about that. Yes sir, I know the Classic is not until next year, but you telling me anything about it puts me at risk for a rule violation.

He didn’t seem to mind at first and then began down another path of, I’m telling you those Z-Craws are the deal if you ever make up to…

No, no sir, not sure what lake is coming out of your mouth next, but if it happens to be on the Elite schedule, I’m in violation of the rules.  

And with that, he said: Well, it doesn’t seem like you can even talk about fishing anymore; a fisherman who can’t talk about fishing – ain’t that something?

College football or hunting, anyone?

I could tell the man was a bit miffed, but he hasn’t been the only one who has thrown their hands up at me this year. It’s got me rethinking this whole nearly year-long off-limits situation.

I hate to say this, but I was actually relieved when Guntersville wasn’t on the Elite schedule for 2018. That’s where I live! That is a fishing community. Conversations revolve around the lake; it’s the centerpiece of the town. And to not talk or hear about it for eight months – I’d have to go sequester myself in my cabin and wear earplugs.

Back when the rule was four weeks with no information, it was a lot more manageable. But when the offlimits spills back over into the previous fall, talking fishing is like walking on eggshells. I’m simply not going to put myself at risk of hearing a single peep about a lake that’s on the schedule the following year. And it bothers me when I have to cut people off and tell them we can’t talk about this or that anymore. And they’re not too happy about it either. 

It’s a tough situation: I know I’m forbidden to hear anything about the lakes we’re going to, up to a year in advance, but the general public doesn’t know that. They’re not trying to get anyone in trouble; they just want to talk fishing and so many of the lakes we fish on the Elite Series are the same major lakes that they fish – where their fishing stories come from.

So at this point I have to wonder if the no information rule has been taken just a little too far in terms of the amount of time it’s in effect before the tournament.

I know we all want a level playing field but at the same time, it really does make talking shop a risky proposition.