Itís a shame that a great championship event presented by FLW Outdoors, with Anthony Gagliardi emerging victorious by the slimmest of margins, has become tarnished. In light of the conflict during the Forrest Wood Cup, during which Gagliardi and a local angler were confronted with sharing the same spot, sides were taken and battle lines drawn.
For fans of competitive bass events and competition anglers, it was interference. For some, it was just one of the variables in tournament bass fishing. Still others demonstrated their disdain for angling competitions even at the highest levels.
Wanna-be pros, anti-tournament fishermen and just plain old selfish people are using this incident to speak out against tournaments and pro anglers themselves. When a tournament Ė one of the biggest tournaments of the year Ė comes to your home water, what will you do? You want to go fishing. Should you?
Even unintentional actions could affect the outcome of the event. Your honey hole might have been part of an intended milk run by one of the anglers. Or you might have pulled up to a spot, sore-mouthed a few fish and left. Unaware of your shellacking a moment earlier, an angler wastes valuable tournament time there.
Youíre able to launch earlier than most tournament anglers to end up in a spot well in advance of the tourney guys, picking off a few fish while owning a sweet spot. Or you follow the leaders and show up at the winning spot. Recreational anglers following tourney anglers to watch and learn is fine, but anglers watching a while and then fishing the area should be flagged for bass interference.
But that's okay. You have every right to fish. Your perceived interference means nothing, or should it? Etiquette? Forget about it. Locals tired of not receiving respect and anti-tournament recreational anglers wanting nothing more than to catch a few fish on their day off donít care about a silly tournament. Should they?
Who likes tournaments in general? State parks and other public boat ramps rely on ramp-fee income. State natural resource agencies depend on fishing-license income, especially license sales to out-of-staters. Boat dealers, motor repair shops and supply stores are geared up to keep anglers on the water. Not to mention tackle stores, hotels, gas stations, sandwich shops and restaurants kept busy just about every weekend.
Truth be told, without tournaments, ramps would lose revenue needed to remain open and maintained. Natural resource offices would be forced to make cutbacks, losing funding for studies and stocking. Tackle shops and boat service facilities would close. Local economies would be negatively impacted.
So when anti-tournament locals find their favorite ramps closed and can't find a local tackle shop or repair facility, or have to wait months for service and repairs due to the lack of shops, and then see local taxes increase or services cut back, it's time to achieve fishing tolerance and diversification to share the water and support major tournaments.
In reality, tournament anglers are getting the short end of the stick. This is their job! Itís their livelihood. Itís the way they support their families. How would you like it if someone sat at your office desk and occupied your computer, surfing the net while you had a job to do? Should weekend warriors feel entitled to play in the World Series? Or should a guy with a car be allowed to drive a few laps in a NASCAR race?
Pure competitive fishing environments donít exist. For the good of their sport, golf clubs close their course to members to conduct tournaments. To eliminate interference, the same should apply to fisheries, when possible. Fishing galleries could be monitored with accepted etiquette rules to avoid impacting the tourney outcome.
Donít forget, pro anglers develop and market the sharp hooks, tough lines and techno-sinkers every angler uses on their day off. Tournament-proven tackle, tips and techniques to help everyone catch more fish are tried, tested, and revealed by pros. Advances in boats, motors and electronics would not evolve without the demand created by tournament anglers.
Additionally, the expansion of pro bass fishing provides industry jobs, college scholarships and fisheries research. Anyone who wets a line or wants to share the sport and see it grow owes a bit of courtesy and appreciation to professional bass fishermen.
Top-level pros give recreational anglers their time and share their knowledge, itís only fair to give them space. So-called fans of the sport, who intentionally interfere with an event, demonstrate a lack of respect that is likely shared towards others, such as restaurant servers, cashiers and even complete strangers.
Recreational and tournament anglers can only co-exist with mutual respect. This also means tournament anglers must practice good etiquette along with catch-and-release. Sharing the water will create a stronger fishing community on and off the water.
The worst thing a pro can say to a recreational angler when he pulls into his water is, "I'm fishing a tournament." And recreational angler, the worst thing you can say when you invade a tournament spot is, "You don't own the water."
Giving up a few days on the lake for the growth of bass fishing is a worthwhile investment. Do your part, donít be flagged for interference. And tournament guys? We're counting on you to continue to find fish and ways to catch them while representing your sponsors and fans in the highest regard.
(Capt. Steve Chaconas has been covering pro bass fishing for more than 20 years. He's a guide on the Potomac River and serves as the BoatUS.com "bass fishing expert." To book a trip, send an email to info@NationalBass.com)