What do we get out of tournament fishing?

I could hear the frustration in the voice on the other end of the line.

A writer of some merit had soberly confided that copies of his latest work had been discreetly shared with a couple of prominent national pros—kind of a sneak preview—of some revolutionary ideas about bass fishing that are emanating from right here in the Golden State.

The writer was a little surprised and disappointed. After all, when you or I are fortunate enough to get some insider information we can really use, how do we respond? And if you’re a tournament regular and uncover some info that gives you the jump on 60 or 80 boats one weekend, so much the better.

The gap between the leader and the pack is always narrow. The information super highway in bass fishing travels at light speed. Even with the “Power Pros” like Gary Dobyns or John Murray, (and a host of others) it doesn’t take 24 hours and somebody is revealing what they used and where they used it. Even if I’m not following a particular circuit, there’s a chat room post or a phone call that always pops up.

But this, in fact, is exactly why bass fishing concepts are funneling down into an ever-narrower scope. Tournament fishing is not getting us closer to the critical fundamentals in understanding what bass are doing and then giving us the insight to take advantage. No.

Everything that leaks out of tournaments are the refinements to tournament fishing. But as you know, tournament fishing is greatly constrained—especially on the national scene. Its format, its restricted practice, the timing of the events and the reduced tournament hours all make it the narrowest of angling approaches.

It is on-demand fishing that is centered on immediate gratification. Actually, it’s not even about fishing—it’s really only about catching. And it’s even narrower than that. It’s only about catching between today’s first and last stop—where yesterday and tomorrow don’t matter.

We hail these tournament pros that are so adept at this game. I know I do. I know I try and glean what practical information I can so that I can apply it to where I fish. And if it works for me, then that gives me something to write about.

But what I don’t get from the tournament pros is anything dramatic or new. I get nothing that opens the door for new prospecting or new perspectives. And it’s obvious why. The pros, as good as they are—don’t have time to prospect. All they can do is refine their refinements—and beat it back to the weigh in.

Do you know what I mean by new perspectives? We all flip—or rather we all pitch—these days. Have you any concept of what it would have been like when none of your fellow competitors even owned a rod longer than 5 1/2 feet? Yet, Dee Thomas, and his mouthpiece David Myers, did more than merely introduce 7 1/2-foot rods or resurrect 1950’s black hair jigs back in the 1970s.

Thomas discovered and Myers formulated the concept that “a shallow fish was a biting fish” and that it would take a certain, more vertical presentation to get those fish to bite, even during the cold of winter. When Thomas became less prominent in the tournament game, it wasn’t for any weakness in his method. It was that the field of competition eventually became enlightened and was able to take advantage of the same principles and probe all the available shallow water.

Yet even before Thomas, there was Buck Perry—a North Carolina troller, born in 1915, who found out that not all the bass were up on the bank. He dragged metal diving baits (Spoon Plugs) in lakes all around the country and established the fundamentals of contour/structure fishing. His trips to California were epic, and yet most readers of this column don’t even know he fished here.

More recently, the adaptation of lures, techniques and ideas about bass fishing often come from California and the West, yet usually only one of two things happen when they reach the ears of the touring pros. Either they are ignored, which happens the most. Or one of “our guys” takes one of our methods and beats their Southern behinds—in order that the method might finally be accepted.

And then, of course, the cruelest thing happens. Suddenly some two-week success story who never owned a spinning reel before last Christmas goes on the BASSMASTERS and tells you and me “the keys to success” with the method.

So all and all, I understand my writer friend’s frustration. There is a segment within our great sport who would not recognize revelation if Moses handed them the tablets, or perhaps, some GPS coordinates from Franks Tract. I hope I’m not guilty of that.

Oh yeah. I too got a sneak preview of the manuscript. I think it will be “the next big thing.”