February 7, 2013
Among the litany of clichés offered up by bass pros and bass pro wannabes, one of my favorites is: “My boat is just a tool.”
For some of them, it’s clearly true. They’ve got the remnants of slime-coated Vienna sausages ground into the carpet of boats that are covered in scratches. They take them over submerged barbed wire fences, run them over six inch deep rocky flats and grind the motor through stump fields without batting an eyelash.
For others, it’s just another hey-look-at-me-I-can-talk-the-talk line of BS. Their boats are pristine. Worse yet, they’ll pass up the opportunity to win a tournament if it means getting even the smallest scratch on their hulls.
Somewhere, I’m sure, there’s a happy medium, but that’s up to each angler (and his loan officer and fiberglass guy) to decide.
Since Monday I’ve talked to four anglers who fished last week’s season-opening Southern Open on Toho. Approximately 160 of the
nearly 200 anglers in the field locked down the first day of the tournament, including my four protagonists. The fishing was that much better in Kissimmee (and possibly other lakes on the chain). Unfortunately, the lock at Toho holds fewer than 20 boats at a time.
Despite competing in a sport that often requires extreme patience, bass pros are some of the most impatient people I know. No one wants to get left behind and lose valuable fishing time, especially if 15 or so other guys are probably headed to your best spots as you sit still. This led to some ethical lapses. I wasn’t there, so I can only report what I was told, but there was collective agreement that much needless damage was done. One angler told me that approximately a third of the cowlings in the lock were cracked by jostling boats. Another told me that his brand new wrap was destroyed. Another mentioned that competitors tried to ram their way into the scrum at 3,000+ RPMs, boogering up all of the rigs in front of them, plus their own.
Fiberglass was deflowered, Power Poles were made limp, and it was generally mayhem and pandemonium.
All for the chance to catch a few green fish.
Of course, the top dog at tournament’s end left with not only a five-figure prize package, but also a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic (assuming he fishes the remaining two Southern Opens), but the vast majority of those who got Malachi-crunched in the locks took a loss on this deal. Even many of those who got checks ended up losing money – the service crews will fix a lower unit or a powerhead, or even reattach a hanging Power Pole, but they don’t do Johnny-on-the-spot glass work.
So my question is this: With such potential big stakes, but such a low chance of being top dog, what’s the right way to treat your boat in that situation?
Do you wait for everyone else to lock through and then go through unmolested?
Does it make a difference that it was the first tournament of the season and many of the boats were still in pristine condition?
Would it make a difference if you had a good but not great alternate spot above the lock?
I guess I’ve found the middle ground that works for me. My boat is hardly scratch-free, but I’m careful to avoid bumper boats whenever possible. At today’s healthy costs I can’t afford let it get destroyed. I guess that’s part of the reason why I sit behind a keyboard instead of bounding out into eight-footers on Erie or a clown car of a lock on Toho.
Be honest with yourself --- can you tune out the sound of expensive fiberglass crunching?