Here’s a scenario. You’ve spent 3 days practicing for an event and have located a number of good spots that are holding fish. The first day of the event starts and you head to your best spot, an offshore ledge that only yesterday was holding what you think are the winning fish. As you approach the spot, you see another angler sitting smack dab on your area. Within 15 minutes another four boats come in and drop their trolling motors. What you thought was an area you’d have all to yourself has just turned into a “new” community hole.
Back in the day there were some unwritten rules in tournament angling. Here’s a short list:
1) If you saw someone on a spot you wanted to fish, you had two choices. One was to ask the angler on the spot if it was okay for you to move in and fish. Option two was to move on and wait until the area was free.
2) If you practiced there, you could claim that spot as yours. If you didn’t practice there, you better not move in on someone during competition for fear of being labeled a hole jumper.
3) If you were leading an event or had the chance to win, others stayed away from you in respect.
This is just a short list of some of the rules of etiquette in competitive bass fishing from days past.
The on-the-water etiquette problems today are manifested by a number of factors. One is we don’t live in the days of topo maps and flashers. Everyone who can afford a GPS unit with side-scan, down imaging and mapping software can find spots only a few anglers knew existed even 10 years ago. Two; anglers these days do little actual fishing during practice – especially in events where offshore will play a part – opting to graph an entire lake looking for schools of fish. They do this in fear of catching a good fish in front of a passer-by and also not to spook a school. Does metering a spot give you the right to claim it your own come tournament day?
Third, and maybe the biggest factor that has contributed to on-the-water problems, is the payouts have become so big that anglers are willing to risk friendships, sponsors and their credibility to make a check.
Times have changed and we no longer live in the 70s, 80s or even 90s but the controversy on the water has reached an all-time high. No one owns the water in which we compete but there has to be some sort of happy medium which allows us to compete, while at the same time, not make enemies.
At this year’s FLW Cup, I had the chance to sit down with Tour veterans Jay Yelas and Larry Nixon and talk to them about on-the-water etiquette and how it’s changed over the years. Click on the video to watch and listen to what they had to say. To see the other six videos with Yelas and Nixon, click on the respective links below.