Why Bass?

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For the better part of 20 years, I didn’t care about any other fish but bass. I chased nothing else, thought about nothing else, and when I accidentally caught some other species I considered it little more than a nuisance. As my tournament career ended and my travels ramped up, that changed. I have a broader worldview colored by new experiences, and while bass will always be my anchor fish, these days I dream more broadly.

I still haven’t been to Clear Lake or Champlain, and I know that I’ll visit both someday, but these days I’m more likely to fantasize about more far-flung locations. Dave Mercer’s recent trip for Arctic Char and monster lake trout has me geeked up about fishing in or near the Arctic Circle, and after two trips to the Brazilian rainforest I want at least one more bite of that apple – either to Guyana for arapaima or to Argentina/Uruguay for golden dorado, or preferably both.

So after having tasted the riches that other species can offer, why is it still so important for me to have a bass boat, remain aware of the latest trends in bass tackle, and follow the major tournament trails? For that matter, why does anyone who has caught redfish or peacock bass or bluefin tuna continue to obsess about bass? You see that fall-off in many of the tournament pros, like Jeff Kriet, who loves to fish offshore, or Andy Morgan, who seemingly only competes in tournaments to support his hunting addiction. But we all make it back to bass.

Why is that?

I mean, bass don’t grow particularly big. Sure, 20 pounders have been landed, but most serious bass anglers will never catch a 10, and for most of us the median size is probably south of 2 pounds. They fight hard, but on a pound-for-pound basis plenty of others fight much harder. There are other species that are more challenging to catch, and still others that are much easier and more numerous. And bass don’t always live in the most scenic spots.

I’m sure that part of the appeal is their widespread distribution. Bass are found in 49 of the 50 states and plenty of foreign countries, and they live in rivers, ponds, lakes, estuaries and drainage ditches. Whether you have an $80,000 Hydro-Blaster or just a beat up pair of Nikes, you probably have access to them where you live. Of course, there’s also the industry and the subculture that has been built up around them, cementing their status as a “prestige” fish. Additionally, they are patternable and respond to a wide variety of presentations, from topwater to deep jigging. For those people who wrongly assume that you can only catch stream trout on flies, or walleyes on leeches and crawlers, that’s a plus. None of those things completes the story, though.

There’s something more about bass that I’m missing that makes them so magnetic. I’ve thought a lot about this and still can’t figure it out, but 50 years after Ray Scott’s epiphany, and 85 years since George Perry’s (first) world record largemouth, they still have a hold on us….and “us” definitely includes “me.”