BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A recent article on Bassmaster.com generated a lot of discussion regarding how pros and co-anglers interact with each other and what each “owes” the other.
I believe they both owe each other something: Respect.
As a senior tournament manager with B.A.S.S. since 2004, I have more than 100 B.A.S.S. tournaments under my belt. Most of them have been Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, which have a pro/co-angler format. I have met anglers from just about every state and from several countries. Some have never fished a tournament before, while others have fished hundreds.
I love running first-class B.A.S.S. events and meeting all the wonderful pros and co-anglers who share my passion for competitive bass fishing. There is no job in the world I would rather have. I personally relish making every angler — pro and co-angler alike — feel special when he or she crosses the Bassmaster stage. I know that for many of these anglers, the Opens series is the highest-level event they will ever fish, and they have spent large sums of money, used valuable vacation time and sacrificed moments with their family — just to compete and stand on that stage.
There is no greater thrill in my job than handing the winning pro and co-angler their trophies at the conclusion of an event and seeing the raw emotion that follows.
I read Paul Wagner’s article before it was posted on Bassmaster.com, and we debated internally whether to even post it. I knew it would spur some debate, and it did — generating more than 60 comments on the article and nearly 100 on Facebook. As I imagined, some took serious offense to the article and others agreed with Mr. Wagner’s points. Many pros and co-anglers sit somewhere in the middle and relayed their various experiences to which helped to form their opinions.
Wagner touched on a topic of the pro/co-angler events that seldom is talked about. There are no rules; rather, some pros and co-anglers leave the ramp frustrated and mumbling about the bad experience and often only sharing it with friends and family when they return home.
What is the individual responsibility of each angler in pro/am partnering? There was one constant I read in the many of the comments, and that was respect.
Several of the things Wagner mentions — like bringing the pro food/drinks, helping to cover the boat and arriving on time — are simply ways to show regard or consideration. It can be a way to start this partnership for the day off right and maybe develop a friendship.
I remember back in 2002, after catching a 5-plus-pound largemouth in a Salt City Bassmasters club tournament on Oneida Lake that anchored a really strong limit for me, my co-angler partner Dave Celi told me he had something for me. As I culled a nice 3-pound smallie out of the livewell, he reached into his cooler and brought me out a sausage, onion, pepper, mushroom and cheese calzone. He had packed two, one for me and one for him. I usually didn’t eat more than a couple of crackers and drink a few waters or Gatorades during a tournament day, so it was an unexpected treat.
I went on to win the event. That calzone was delicious (as was the win) and we joked about it for years. Who brings a calzone to eat during a tournament? The real point is he took a few extra minutes to take me into consideration when he was preparing for the tournament day. It was a kind gesture that I will never forget.
Respect in the pro/co-angler pairing is a two-way street. Pro anglers need to respect their co-anglers and show regard and consideration for them as well. Help the co-anglers load their gear in the boat and provide some storage area for them. Don’t expect co-anglers to come to the ramp with wads of $100 bills to finance your 200-mile round-trip boat ride. Understand that they are subject to your desire to travel long distances, and discuss a realistic amount. Be forthright with co-anglers on conditions and style of fishing they will be presented with during the day to help them rig their rods and bring the right tackle. And mostly, respect the fact that co-anglers, too, have made a large investment to compete as well.
Co-anglers are a valuable asset to our organization and the Bassmaster Opens’ pro/co-angler format. I truly believe most anglers do show consideration for each other, and I am often amazed by how many strong friendships are forged on the Tournament Trail.
Respect each other and it will be a great day on the water, no matter how good the bite is.