August 29, 2014 by JT Kenney
Editor’s Note: The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.
Bass fishing: the sport that we all love so much. It has been a huge part of my life for many years. In fact, it’s been a huge part of my life for almost all of my years.
Being so deeply involved in the sport, sometimes I just have to step back once in a while and look at the big picture. I need to see where the sport is and in what direction it’s going. I’ve got a few thoughts gleaned from my latest “step-back” session. Take heed, though, most such sessions occur during long plane rides and after a cocktail.
There are so many ways to enjoy our sport, not even counting the actual act of fishing.
Baits, for instance. Collecting, admiring, browsing and – from the looks of Luke Clausen’s garage – hoarding. There are all the different styles, colors and shapes; the different actions, depths and hooks, too.
Colors. I know a few anglers who could give you a 24-hour-long dissertation on why tequila sunrise is better in the morning than red shad. Personally, I’ve made a decent living not knowing the difference between the two colors or listening to somebody’s theory about why one color is better in the morning than the other.
Crankbaits. I also know several fellows who tie on a new crankbait every morning during a tournament. Why? Just because the one they used the day before was “beat-up looking.” I’ve also seen guys who’d stop fishing while they have a school of fish biting every cast to replace the stick-on eye on a crankbait because a fish knocked it off. I’ve also witnessed David Dudley dive in a lake to retrieve a crankbait – a crankbait that had hardly any finish left on it, much less stick-on eyes. The only thing new on that plug was the hooks. It was a brand and model that is still manufactured every day of the week.
Boats. Eighteen-footer or 21? We could go on and on about the advantages either offers, from gas mileage to rough-water handling. Ranger or Stratos – or Triton, for that matter? I’ve had a guy ask me what pitch my prop was. For the sake of this blog, most of the time I know, but in this particular instance, I didn’t. So my retort was, “I don’t know.” The gentlemen had a confused look on his face and said, “Well, how fast does it go?” I came back with, “I don’t know.” Now this pilgrim is looking really confused.
I interrupted his racing brain before he had a chance to let his mind run wild. I let him know that I didn’t know because I didn’t have the speed-on-ground on my Lowrance unit displayed because I don’t care. I don’t care because that’s not a priority of mine. How fast I run with what pitch to my prop is information that’s not going to help me catch more bass.
I’m not passing a bunch of people in tournaments, and a bunch of people aren’t passing me. So it must be running fine. Still, this guy couldn’t understand that he was talking to a pro bass fisherman who didn’t know what pitch his prop was or how fast his boat was. Needless to say the conversation ended in his bewilderment and his walking away.
I know it’s fun to talk with friends about what baits and colors you like, or about why you like this boat or that one. However, I think we need more balance in our sport. We – meaning fans and professionals – need to find balance in our priorities. We let ourselves get drawn too far from the main goal, too lost in the details. Catching bass is the thing that got all of us here in the first place. Sometimes we lose focus on that. We let our attention wander to the secondary things that aren’t as important.
I’ll admit that I fall into the trap as much as the next guy. I’ll get behind one day in a tournament, and the distractions and doubts start showing up. Are the couple extra flecks of green in tequila sunrise really better? If I had a 26-pitch prop instead of a 25 I might have gotten there three minutes earlier and caught one more fish, wouldn’t I? Probably I would have caught two more if I had used red shad, right?
It’s at this stage of the day, when our focus starts coming unraveled, that we begin to give bass the ability of rational thought. Remember my story about Dudley? The reason he went in after that crankbait was because it worked – period, end of story. He caught fish with it, and that was all the reason he needed to jump in the water after it. He didn’t transfer to the fish the ability to decide that the plug was too beat up, that it was worthless because it didn’t have any eyes or that it just wouldn’t work anymore. That would be like him making decisions based on what he “thinks” the fish are thinking when, in reality, they’re not. In a way, neither should we. We should just do.
How about the guy asking me about the speed of my boat? How fast a boat runs is a fun thing to talk about, but his bewilderment in my not knowing shouldn’t have been so severe. In the long run, how much does 1 or 2 mph affect the outcome of a major tour-level event or the enjoyment of a day on the water just fun-fishing. Never, I would dare to guess. What does matter is catching bass. That’s why you’re all here reading this blog right now instead of reading about golf, spelunking or curling. Because sometime, somewhere every one of us got that first bite, saw that first jump and landed that first bass.
We didn’t stop to change our crankbait because it was scratched up or because we were worried about what pitch our prop was so we could go 73 mph instead of 71. We enjoyed catching that bass. We enjoyed releasing it or harvesting it to be enjoyed again at home. But that day we all had balance. We weren’t going 73 mph or trying to outthink bass …
Think about that.