This article, like many I’ve written, began with a conversation I had with my brother, Tom.
Tom and I are brothers separated by a mutual hobby. We both love to fish but in very different ways. Tom gets after bass on gear. A skill I respect but don’t especially prefer. I suck with a gear rod and it’s just not the experience I enjoy. It is, however, extremely technical and the guys who are good at it carry a wealth of knowledge on the species. I honestly think that being a good bass angler is harder than being a good trout angler. Tom is good.
He’s had a little trouble with his boat. By a little trouble, I mean it was totaled in an accident while he was towing it. This led to him fishing a tournament on the back of someone else’s boat. A guy he did not know. I’ve been plenty vocal on how I feel about competitive fishing. If you haven’t caught that, let’s say, I’m not a fan. I think competition usually brings out the worst in people. Not everyone, but enough folks to make it something I don’t care for.
You could feel any number of ways about that and I know from experience that my feelings on the subject make a lot of folks blow steam out their ears. That is, of course, exactly the kind of behavior I’m talking about and it has no place in fishing, as far as I’m concerned.
Back to Tom’s experience. This guy he was fishing with had forward facing sonar on his boat. Not how I like to fish but I don’t have a problem with it. It’s the way bass guys often do it and if it makes you happy, knock yourself out. I see no harm in it. This guy chose to turn off the screen on the back of the boat, leaving Tom to fish behind him blind. Tom wasn’t complaining about it but it sounds like a dick move to me. They were not competing against each outer, but as a team. Still, this guy felt like he needed to catch more fish, and brag about it, no matter how he had to do it. I can’t respect that in an angler.
The problem is, those are the guys competitive fishing attracts. I’m not saying that’s everyone who fishes competitively but it’s common enough to be a problem. At least in my mind. What’s worse is that the behavior is rewarded. Literally in cash. Personally, I don’t see how having more expensive electronics or a faster boat makes you a better angler. You don’t have to agree.
“That’s a lot of what I don’t like about bass fishing,” I told Tom.
“The kind of fishing I do, If you’re a better angler, You’re obligated to help others.”
As soon as that came out of my mouth I realized it probably wasn’t true, but I thought it was. Maybe for my whole life I’ve thought it. I thought it for a good reason. Because before I was good at it, that’s how I was treated by the guys who were good. From very early on I was mentored by anglers who were way better than I was. Many of them were guys you’ve never heard of. Like Dan Flynn, who is still probably my favorite person to fish with. Later they were guys who’s names you will recognize, like Bruce Chard or Tim Rajeff. None of those guys would turn your monitor off so they could out fish you. They’d put their rod down and help put you on fish. I know that because they did it for me.
So what’s my responsibility to those guys who taught me? Well, it sure as shit isn’t to brag about what a great angler I am. It certainly isn’t to put my name in a record book somewhere. I think my responsibility is to pay it forward. To, you know, do unto others…and so forth. And for me, that feels a lot better than my name in a book, or even a cash prize. You don’t have to agree.
I made a promise, years ago, that when I met someone who wanted to learn to fly fish, I would teach them. I have done that many times and I continue to. I made the offer to a guy I met just yesterday. It’s why I’ve put so much work into G&G. I see it as my responsibility. Again, you don’t have to agree. What a cool world it would be though, if you did. If you all did.