Like the game, but I’m not a fan

I never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings when I first said, “Tournament bass fishing ain’t about you.”

But now that I read the latest feature story on, I think it’s the pros are trying to hurt your feelings. The way I see it, they’re looking for new ways to enhance their incomes—at your expense.

It’s one thing for a respected angler to tell us (even give his testimonial) about a rod or reel or spinnerbait or sunglasses he uses. The chatter on this website and many others around the country is focused on methods and tools—the stuff that can make our fishing trips better. I’m good with that.

But I’m sorry as heck. On the best fishing day of his life, Skeet Reese will never do so good that I’m going to buy his T-shirt. Heck, I like the guy. He’s smart and slick, and he can dance with best on Soul Train. But I’m just not going to get hooted out of the lunchroom wearing wannabe gear.

If you didn’t read the story, Mike Iaconelli and others of his year-class are gearing up for a merchandizing (and management) maelstrom that could net them—they believe—fat incomes over the next decade. They enthusiastically project their capitalistic venture will put them on a plane with NASCAR icons—a favorite of beer drinkers and seventh grade girls.

And I’m sure glad they’ve got that market sowed up, because my interest in bass fishing is elsewhere. First, it’s a personal, ongoing challenge where I try and catch a few and occasionally even try my hand in competition. And secondly, as a sports fan, tournament angling gets my attention because I like to see who’s best as they match skills on various waters.

That we know a little (or a lot) about the game just makes it more interesting as we often compare our decision-making to that of the winners, and even, perhaps, make our own private, subjective analysis of our own abilities compared to the pros. If that makes me a fan, so be it.

But it doesn’t make me their benefactor.

I know many are upset that the B.A.S.S. Elite series is a “less hopeful” circuit than what we hear about FLW. But maybe you haven’t been paying attention for the last 20 years. The pro crowd (many aging and fading as you read this) has always desired a brand of tournament bass fishing that would earn them a good living—without having to win every other week.

I know every era is different. How can the Florida Marlins’ back-up shortstop earn more money than Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays? In bass fishing, by virtue of this elite Elite Series, a few anglers will finally see a higher compensation become reality. The downside is that program is not going to be available to everyone.

FLW will certainly put on some lucrative events—but unless you’re ready to make the commitment to cross the country to be a part of that circuit, you’re still living the vicarious dream. And that, my friend, puts you in no better stead than those on the outside of the Bassmaster Elites.

So go ahead. Buy your “I Like Ike” pajamas.

Just don’t tell anyone.