It’s a long drive from Cayuga Lake to Alabama. In between visiting the Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pa., with my family and sitting in traffic jams, I had a chance to reflect on some of the events of the week.
My take: Cayuga Lake is a good fishery, but it’s also a place where good people live.
After a mediocre practice I settled in on a dock pattern for the tournament. Cayuga is a lake where a limit of keepers is worthless. You need quality fish to stay competitive. That means you’ll be spending some time on each dock. Every crack and crevice has to be fished without banging into a dock or a boat. The lake might be public, but the property is private.
Many of the homes sit within a stone's throw of the water. The homeowners often watched as I fished past their property. A couple of them were intrigued by the fact that I could control my boat from the front. They’d never seen a trolling motor. We talked a while. I explained how it worked.
They were curious about what was going on and why so many guys were out fishing.
They didn’t realize what a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament was all about, and they could hardly believe that there would be television coverage of it or that the winner would earn $100,000.
Others wished me luck, or asked if I was having any luck, as they worked in their yards and around their docks. One couple went so far as to start to tell me about a big bass that lived under their dock. Fortunately, I was able to cut them off before any information rules were violated. Of course, they weren’t trying to do anything wrong. They were trying to help.
My point in telling you this is that most of the people we’re around when we fish tournaments are pretty good men and women. There are only a few of them who yell at us or do things to disrupt our fishing. They’re the exception, not the rule.
There wasn’t one nasty incident in three days of fishing docks up there, at least not for me. One guy did inform me that his dock was private property and another seemed to be protected by a stout steel cable. Even then, though, nothing turned nasty or hateful. The “private property” guy even warned me that I was about to hit a seawall while I was fighting one of the bigger fish I caught.
I’m not saying it doesn’t get ugly sometimes. It does. When it gets out of control we should stand our ground and enforce our rights — through the courts if necessary. The anglers who do that are absolutely correct and we should support them.
But, when that’s not happening we should take every opportunity to expose new people to the sport of bass fishing. It's how most of us became anglers, fans or in my case both. Something happened that drew our attention to the sport, or someone introduced us to it.
I do wish the one man hadn’t told me his dock was private property. We don’t need even one person to get the wrong impression of what we do when we fish a tournament. Nevertheless, the reality is that I would most likely have bombed if I had not picked those docks apart. The other reality is that most everyone I encountered was kind or at least polite. That’s about as much as anyone can expect.