If the weather warrants, Casey Ashley wears flip flops when he’s chasing bass. Chris Lane swears by a solid pair of athletic footwear.
And ne’er the twain shall meet.
To each his own, and it’s been said shoes make the man. But how about the fisherman?
There is specialized footwear for most sports – cleats for football, spikes for baseball, etc. Bass pros wear a variety of shoe styles and brands. There’s not one real fishing shoe that’s taken over the business, like Sperry did with boat shoes.
Lane treats what he does on the deck of his Power-Pole Legend as a true athletic endeavor, and his “pow”erful hooksets are proof.
He said he’d never compete in sandals.
“Tournament fishing, you got to be moving around,” he said. “The way I like to fish, it’s like running in a meet. You’re to the front, to the back, back and forth. Sandals, for me, don’t work.
“I’m probably one of the heavier guys on tour, just saying, but tennis shoes are the way I go and it’s the way I’ll always go.”
A number of younger bass pros have brought open footwear into the equation, and Ashley is one of them. He won’t wear them in the cold, but other times it’s open season. He thinks they’re cool and they kept his feet cooler.
“I’m either flip flops or boots,” he said. “You know me, I’m slow and low, in no hurry. I’m stable. When I get up there, I’ve got a job to do and I can do it in tennis shoes, boots, flip flops, barefoot, it don’t matter.”
Lane said he’ll wear sandals on occasion, but not with $100,000 on the line, when one sweaty slip or flip flop blowout could spell doom.
“Sandals are fun for relaxation. But, hey, I’m not out there to relax. I’m out there to do my job. I’m going to have on performance tennis shoes,” Lane said. “If I go fun fishing, it’s saltwater, out with the kids, I’m out there to relax, I might have a pair of sandals on. But tournament time, it’s shoes.”
Ashley agreed with Lane’s assessment that the choice is heavily influenced by what a person has grown up wearing on the boat. Many of the sandal-wearers are newcomers and guys from warmer climes. With some having success, Lane conceded, who is he to argue with what they wear?
“In the performance-type level of the Elite Series, I would think tennis shoes are going to outperform,” Lane said. “They’ll probably tell you that sandals will outperform the tennis shoes.
“There again, it’s personal preference and what you believe. Some could be superstitious.”
Ashley isn’t superstitious against tennis shoes, instead citing his fashion sense is behind the choice.
“I’ve got a pair I’ve had for eight years, and they look the exact same as when I first took them out of the box,” he said. “I just don’t like ’em. I feel like a dork with tennis shoes on.”
But a penchant for minimalist footwear, like thong sandals, can actually cause injuries. A number of articles warn that cheaply made flip flops, if worn daily, can lead to several issues, including foot, hip, knee and back pain.
An article on Everydayhealth.com asks if flip flops “are the most dangerous shoes you can wear?” While the article pertained to those walking great distances, it mentioned how sandals without straps cause one to hold onto the shoe with their toes, an unnatural occurrence.
“You’re taking your five toes and grabbing your shoe to make sure it doesn’t slide out," said Bob Thompson, the executive director of the Institute for Preventative Foot Health. “That action of the toes grabbing the shoe on the toe box is not normal.”
This is seen in some Elites who wear flip flops, like here in the photos above of Carl Jocumsen and Ott DeFoe. Both have some serious toe grip going on.
Kevin VanDam can be seen wearing sandals at times, as well as the only other four-time Classic winner, Rick Clunn. But Clunn’s Teva sandals have straps, arch support and a cushioned footbed.
Many of the health websites warn about maladies associated with flat-soled flip flops, including painful plantar fasciitis. They recommend wearing those higher-end sandals with cushioning and arch support.
Ashley thinks he has that covered.
“I wear Simms flip flops a lot. They have a lot of support,” he said. “I haven’t always worn them. I just love flip flops. I can do whatever I want to in them.
“That’s the thing about flip flops people don’t understand. If you’re worried about coming out of them, if you got to take off running, just run out of them, go.”
On the Bassmaster Elite Series, there are a variety of footwear choices, as seen in a photo gallery Seigo Saito produced last year. He compiled photos from several events that revealed the footwear of all the Elites at the time.
Most did in fact wear a solid pair of athletic shoes. Nike dominated, while Merrell, Under Armour, New Balance, Teva and Simms were represented. A small segment of anglers wore sandals.
Ashley was asked about worries that an exposed foot is an awful extremity for a hook to imbed. Can you imagine a treble hook in the arch of your foot?
“That would be a bad day,” he said. “But … it’d be better to get in your foot than your hand, because then you’d have both hands to work on it.”
That’s a half-full glass.
Despite their different footwear mindsets, both Lane and Ashley have Bassmaster Classic titles to their names, although Ashley most assuredly wasn’t wearing flip flops on frigid Lake Hartwell last year.
Lane doesn’t think any recent Classic champion claimed the title in flip flops.
“I’ve never seen one,” he said of the “Super Bowl of bass fishing,” which is generally held in February.
“Of course, it’s flipping cold.”
Socks, however, don’t seem to be up for debate. Aaron Martens won Angler of the Year in toe socks.
To each his own.