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Pete Weighs In

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Another BRIC in the Wall

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October 30, 2014

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I recently saw on my friend Hideki Maeda’s Facebook page that he fished a bass tournament in China. It was no surprise to me that there are bass in Asia – obviously his home country of Japan has produced some monsters and some great tackle, and I was aware that Korea has bass, too – but I had no idea that old micropterus salmoides has taken up residence in China.

I’ve frequently argued that the potential for our sport to grow within the US is limited. You can only sell so many bags of Senkos and high fallutin’ hunnert dollar swimbaits before the well runs dry. I’m sure there is room for some growth, but it’s limited because the low hanging fruit has already been plucked. This may be similar to world economics, where some experts argue that the developed economies (like the US and western Europe) have experienced their largest growth spurts, and that the next area of opportunity exists in developing nations.

While economists may disagree on the precise role they’ll play in the future, many agree that the so-called “BRIC” countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – will some day in the future amass a greater percentage of the world’s economic power. Think about it: they have lots of undeveloped land, tremendous natural resources, loads of human capital, insufficient infrastructure and less advanced economies. If they don’t grow, it won’t be for lack of opportunity.

Maybe these four countries also hold the key to the expansion of bass fishing.

Brazil already has largemouths. So too does China, as I now know. I have no idea if Russia has the aptitude or climate to take them on. India, as a friend from that country recently pointed out, has large swaths of territory with a climate perfect for growing big bass. I won’t get into the weeds here, not going to discuss issues like the ethics and biology of introducing new species to an ecosystem – but can you imagine if we created new markets for bass gear among the two million plus residents of China and India, many of whom have newfound disposable income? Whoever is the first to unlock those markets pretty much has a blank check sitting in front of him.

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Dead Time

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October 28, 2014

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“We were on a break.”

--Ross to Rachel

“Friends”

1997

I know there’s a RayoEverStren Championship going on this week, but as far as I’m concerned the pro fishing calendar is done. The two major tours effectively shoehorn their seasons into the February through September timeframe and then we’re left with crumbs, memories and expectations during the winter months.

I get it. I know that some of the pros like to spend ample time in a deer stand. A few of them might want to take their kids trick-or-treating, or see their daughter off to the homecoming dance (and make sure she comes home fully dressed from the homecoming dance), but would it be too much to ask for a little pro bassin’ activity of the highest caliber from October through January?

For a while it looked like the PAA would fill that gap, but for now at least they seem to be out of the event-promotion business. I suppose that MLF has taken up some of the slack, but we don’t get to follow their tournaments in real time. I love getting into the office 10 or 15 minutes early on a Friday during an Elite Series or FLW Tour derby and reading the BassFan accounts of what’s going on, or checking out the live blog. MLF, which seems to have a great product, doesn’t give me that opportunity.

It seems to me that the opportunity is ripe for some entrepreneur to step into that gap, and create a standalone fall event, or a short series of fall events, open only to top-level pros, similar to the TTBC. It would have to be some deep-pocketed entity (a la Gulf States Toyota with the TTBC), and I haven’t quite worked out the financial details (after all, it’s not my money I’m spending hypothetically here), but they wouldn’t need any year-round overhead in the form of memberships, magazines, headquarters, etc., just a lean staff to put together killer events. To be honest, I have no idea if it would work, but it would save me from these occasional bouts of boredom.

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The Circle of Life

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October 24, 2014

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Did you ever get the idea that it just wasn't your day?

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Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 10:45
 

The Pie Stays the Same, But Your Slice Keeps Getting Smaller

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October 22, 2014

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Imagine you were a middle of the pack Elite Series pro perhaps five years ago and you took a long nap and woke up today. What would you find? The field would be about the same size, and there’d be just as many checks, but there’d seem to be more hands grabbing at them than before. Pre-nap, there was no such thing as Keith Combs or Randall Tharp or Jason Christie or Jacob Powroznik in your workplace. Now they’re making bank just about every week. Hell, the return of guys like Mark Davis to the B.A.S.S. fold was enough to make you shudder. If you’d been around long enough, the arrivals of Steve Kennedy and current AOY Greg Hackney additionally cut into your lunch money. Now there are all sorts of young dudes who never seem to falter.

The FLW diaspora is broad and hungry, and they continue to flow into the B.A.S.S. field. This year, with the end of  Elite Series automatic renewals, there will likely be some reverse migration of pros from B.A.S.S. to FLW, but the big story – talentwise, at least – is the flow from The House that Irv Built to Ray Scott’s Great Adventure.

While the Elite Series field isn’t set yet, the most notable move is Brent Ehrler’s stated intention to join the Elites. It remains to be seen whether that will just be the Elites, or whether he’ll try to fish both major tours, but if any current Elites have been sleeping on him, here’s a warning – he’s coming to take your dinero. Mucho dinero.

For those Elites in the know, I doubt any other name on the FLW Tour that’s not Morgan or Dudley would connote such certainty of check cashing. You can say that he’s a poster boy for the Shakey Head Circuit, but as he’s quick to remind people, he’s won flipping and he’s won cranking. There are no “participant” trophies on either tour, and Brent has a stack of the real thing.

On February 3rd, 2016, he will turn 39. The Classic will take place a few weeks after that. I’d say it’s a safe bet that he’ll fish a Classic before he reaches 40.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 14:42
 

Long Lost Friend

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October 20, 2014

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On Friday I accomplished the unremarkable feat of catching a largemouth bass. It was an equally unremarkable fish, a keeper somewhere between 13 and 14 inches, probably a pound and some change on a generous scale.

But I caught it on a buzzbait.

It was my first buzzbait fish of 2014. In freaking October.

A buzzbait used to be a cornerstone of my fishing success, producing both numbers and a hefty portion of my big fish. Now, not so much.

I suppose there are a few reasons for that. One is that lures like Chatterbaits, frogs and swim jigs seem to be better options in some of the situations where a buzzer used to get the nod. The second is that as I’ve caught fewer fish on the old egg-beater, it becomes self-reinforcing and I just don’t pick it up that much. The third is that maybe because the strikes themselves are so memorable, the good old days of buzzbait fishing weren’t quite as exceptional as I remember them.

Nevertheless, I still put a decent amount of time and effort into chunking and winding the buzzbait and it seems that they don’t eat it as well as they used to. I have a lake where in the later years of the last century and the first couple of this one, I used to be able to catch 12 pounds a day pretty easily on most fall days just going down the bank flinging a buzzbait. If I stayed for a full weekend, I fully expected to catch one nearing the 5 pound mark. In the fall of 1999, I had a 19 pound 15 ounce tournament catch there mostly on a buzzbait (although a Zara Spook produced a 6-pounder).

I still go there a few times every fall and I don’t recall catching even a single legal bass on a buzzbait there in the past four or five years. They still chew the paint off a popper or a spook on occasion, but old reliable is a has been. I can’t figure it out but the more it persists, the less likely I am to force the issue, no matter how much I’d like to get it back on track.

 

 

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Last Updated on Monday, 20 October 2014 07:46
 

What Color is Your Parachute? Mine’s Invisible

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October 17, 2014

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Opinions are like….

Alabama Rigs.

Just about everybody has one, but not everybody’s allowed to use them.

OK, the simile is a little tortured, but I needed to find a way to lead you into this piece, and that’s the best I could do.

Nearly three years have passed since Paul Elias brought the A-Rig (aka, “castable umbrella rig”; aka, “chandelier”’ aka “the Poodle Rig”; aka “Snagger’s Delight”) to our attention and it seems that everyone has an opinion about whether it should be tournament legal and, if so, at what levels.

Except me that is. Not that anyone’s asked my opinion, but it feels like this is our “Mary Ann or Ginger?” moment. Are you with us or are you against us? Coke or Pepsi? I’m dead smack in the middle, able to see both sides of the argument. I’m Switzerland, dammit.

The issue raises its ugly head again because earlier this week B.A.S.S. announced that the A-Rig “will no longer be permitted in the Bassmaster Opens or any other B.A.S.S. event that leads directly to a Bassmaster Classic qualification.” I’m sure that the message board militia will parse that phrasing until it’s just a bunch of widely-distributed pixels, looking for loopholes and favoritism. As for me, I won’t lose a second of sleep over it.

I don’t care if it’s allowed or disallowed. I don’t care how many hooks you can or can’t have. All I care about is that it’s capital-L legal and that everyone has the same opportunities. Perhaps I’m losing my edge. As someone who is (lightly) paid to have opinions on such matters, maybe I could think about it a little bit harder and conjure something up. Then again, maybe I won’t. I’m saving that option for a rainy day.

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Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 08:15
 

There’s No “I” in “Team” (or in “BASS” or “FLW,” for that matter)

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October 14, 2014

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Absent some Hail Mary miracle, it appears that the PAA is on the way out the door, if not in the short term, then sometime down the road. That’s a shame, partially because I think the organization had true potential, and partially because a lot of good people worked very hard to make a go of it. At some later date, when I fully internalize why they failed, I’ll write about it, but I don’t want to dump dirt on a grave that’s not quite yet filled.

On the whole, I think competition is good for most industries. There may now be too many top-level circuits for anglers to make a living at fishing, but it wasn’t so long ago that BASS more or less stood alone atop the heap. Then FLW came along and created new opportunities. At the time, the top prizes at most BASS events consisted of small amounts of cash (or annuities), along with a 17 or 18 foot Ranger, usually in some shade of puke green or dirt brown. The gifting of boats to the competitors made sense to the circuits, who got them from their sponsors, but not necessarily for the winning pros, most of whom already had boats, and were often sponsored by competing companies. I was told by more than one person that the awful colors that most of them came in were meant to avoid cannibalizing sales from the local dealers. When FLW started offering a $100,000 top prize in every tournament – cold, hard cash, no merchandise – BASS quickly matched that amount.

I’m not sure that the PAA ever had the financial wherewithal to force such drastic changes upon either senior circuit, but they did have some good ideas. The first Toyota Texas Bass Classic that I attended, in 2008, had a format consisting of four-man teams. Two went out at a time (in the same boat), while the others watched a real-time guesstimated update. In between sessions they strategized. Of the 30 to 40 tour-level events I’ve attended, it was one of the most exciting (Philly this past year was probably better) and most nerve-wracking. All of these guys, used to being in control of their own destiny, had to partially depend on the skills of others for their results. I attended one more TTBC the following year, at which point it had been converted to an individual weight event, and while it was a fine tournament, it was just another tournament. In 2012, the PAA held a “Tour Team Challenge” on Lake Toho. Unlike the earlier TTBC, where four man teams had been assigned randomly, at the 2012 event the two man teams were self-selected. Unfortunately, participation was low.

It wouldn’t be hard for either of the big boy circuits to create some sort of team event as an add-on to their calendar. Make it voluntary but with an FLW Tour/Elite Series sized purse. I don’t know how many anglers should be in the field, or how many on a team. We can hash that out later, as we can hash out how the teams are chosen – random draw, self-selection, choose a partner in order of your AOY finish, etc. This would not be new for BASS – I can think of at least one time in the past, the 1987 Team Championship on the St. Lawrence River, that they used a team format, but that was nearly three decades ago. Most of the pros in the current fields have never fished a team event with that much on the line. In effect, they would be borrowing from the PAA, the most recent major circuit to hold such a tournament. That’s OK. In the history of sports, dominant leagues have borrowed from other leagues (XFL, AFL, ABA) that they’ve put out of business, and often it’s for the best.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 13:30
 

'Roid Rage Revisited (Really)

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October 10, 2014

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I have previously spoken out strongly ('Roid Rage Banned) against the use of the phrase “on steroids” in fishing articles.

As in, there is no such thing as “largemouths on steroids.” Nor are there “crankbaits on steroids” or “flipping sticks on steroids.”

My friend TJ Maglio recently pointed out that not only is the phrase clichéd and foolish, but it also has some undesirable connotations. Per WebMD’s “Why Steroids Are Bad for You,” Some of the describable-in-prime-time side effects of anabolic steroids include:

  • Acne
  • Oily scalp and skin
  • Infertility
  • Heart attacks
  • Delusions
  • Tendon rupture
  • Increased amount of bad cholesterol
  • Development of breasts (in men)
  • Deepened voices (in women)
  • Excessive face and body hair (in women)

Of course, the less family-friendly side effects include the reduction of genitalia where it’s supposed to be and an increase in it where it’s not supposed to be.

Please think about that the next time that you write that a Coosa River spotted bass (or a peacock bass, or a snook, or a redfish) is “like a largemouth on steroids,” unless you’re talking about a acne-covered, moody green fish with shrunken nads.

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Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 09:32
 

A Shore Enough Heart Attack

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October 8, 2014

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In case you can’t tell, eating is almost as integral to my fishing experiences as the fishing itself. I’ve savored tacos at a Zapata gas station and piranha in the Amazon with equal zeal, and while there have been plenty of soggy PB&J sandwiches, too, the best trips always seem to have a food element that contributes to making them great.

But I’ve never had a true shore lunch.

I’ve fished Canada, both Lake of the Woods and Lake Ontario, but the cross-border meals were not memorable. That’s why I’m jealous of my friends Mike Phillips, Amber Phillips and Duncan Maccubbin, who recently took a fly-in trip to Dave Mercer’s homeland. They caught muskies, smallheads and lake trout, but most importantly they feasted on walleye fillets every day at noon, cooked over a fire.

Was it the wood that made it good? Doubtful. By their reckoning, it was the lard. Three pounds of it can be seen here, although I’m assured that a fourth pound was added when there was room in the skillet. The skillet itself appears to be in a non-traditional shape. Their guide told them that it had been stolen by a bear and mauled.

Not sure which clogs up the arteries worse, four pounds of lard or a hairball from a bear, but I’d like to find out.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 07:07
 

Double Whopper

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October 7, 2014

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Timmy Horton, eat your heart out.

These fine young cannibals simultaneously decided that my Sugoi Splash was a fitting target. I assume that they were trying to eat it, but they might also have been trying to kill it or mate with it. Just be glad that sunfish don't grow to be 20 pounds -- they'd rule the world.

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