Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a new monthly column contributed by Boyd Duckett, a former Bass Master Classic champion.
First, let me state right up-front that you probably don’t need to read an article from a pro fisherman to tell you that our economy — top to bottom — is not balanced. We’re all trying to work through some tough times.
I watch the dips in the stock market. Day after day it seems to be the same story. Being a person whose career has been helped by corporate sponsors, one story in particular jumped at me: GM dropped Tiger Woods as a sponsor. If you’re a major U.S. company and you’ve got the best golfer in the world on your team … you drop him? That’s amazing. But that’s corporate America doing what we do every day, cutting costs in a painful way.
It’s sad to say that fishing is not immune. I would like to think that we could all escape our troubles for a few hours every week by heading for the lake and fishing. fishing is a way that a lot of Americans keep their minds off other troubles. Fishing is psychological relief.
Fishing is different than any other sport I’ve ever known. I can pull up to any boat ramp in America, and if my tires spin, another fisherman will stop what he’s doing and help.
If the truck pulling my bass boaat breaks down on an interstate, I’m not the least bit concerned because somebody who owns a bass boat will be stopping soon to help me. That’s just the way anglers are.
Nothing against other sports — I like golf, for example. I still play golf occasionally. But if I’m broken down on the road and lean a set of clubs against my fender, I’m not convinced that a golfer will stop to help me.
The point is, ther’s an emotional tie to fishing and the fishing industry that all anglers share. We’re family. And right now the whole family is struggling because our economy is in trouble.
I think a lot of people don’t realize that fishing, according to ESPN, is a $66 billion-a-year industry. But with this economy, everybody in the sport is affected: The companies at the top — the boat and engine manufacturers and the bait companies — are struggling. So are the mom-and-pop shops. that’s because fishing is a recreational endeavor and, unfortunately, buying recreational products comes last in an economy like this.
I’m fortunate enough to compete at the highest level of our sport, but we’ll struggle this year the same way weekend anglers struggle. If one of the largest corporations in the world drops Tiger Woods, do you think we, the anglers on the Elite Series tour, aren’t concerned about whether corporate America will still invest in our sport?
So at a time when even that simple act of escaping to the lake for a few hours is tough financially, what are we going to do to get through this? How can we survive economically and still keep the benefits we get from fishing? And for those of you who want to keep competing, from top pro to the local bass tournaments, what’s next?
I’d like to make a few simple, commonsense suggestions:
1. Don’t give up. Keep fishing. Don’t toss the rod and reel in the corner of the garage and give up the sport.
2. When you fish, minimize travel trips. Go as time allows, but think about fuel consumption. Instead of putting your boat in at your favorite ramp and running all over the lake, take it to a ramp as close as possible to your “spot” and save as much fuel as you can. I was in Louisiana on the Red River recently, practicing for the Bassmaster Classich, which will be held there in February. I noticed that Rick Clunn, one of the top names in our business, dropped his boat in at three different ramps. It took a little time, but it made sense.
3. Don’t run 75 miles per hour this year. Most engines will gain 50 to 75 percent more fuel efficiency at 4,500 RPM instead of 6,000.
4. Save money on tackle. You can do this because you’ve probably got what you need in your boat. Anglers are the worst people in the world about becoming “specialists.” An angler will become a specialist on spinnerbaits or jigs, and he or she won’t throw anything else for more than a few minutes at a time. I think if I have a primary strength, it would be that I’m pretty versatile. The reason is that when I wanted to learn how to use a frog, I went to the river with a frog only. That meant I was either going to catch them on a frog or go home unhappy… so I learned how to use a frog.
The point is you’ve got a year’s worth of fishing in your boat right now. Read, learn, study, then go do the lake and throw what you think you can’t throw. This is the time to do it.
5. The last thin I suggest is that you should decide something: The next time you fish, fish new places. Don’t fish a single location you’ve ever fished before. Golfers who shoot 85 their whole lives do it because they don’t expand their game. They’re satisfied with 85. Bass fishermen are often like that. They achieve a consistent tournament weight and they’re satisfied, but that weight isn’t good enough to do well in an event.
Part of the problem is that anglers tend to know where their favorite holes are and they don’t spend time finding others. It’s funny that when pros go to a tournament, all the local anglers watch them because they know where the fish are. But invariably, the winner doesn’t get the fish in the way or from the places the locals expect.
As I said, you don’t need a pro angler to tell you times are tough. So all i can offer is this: When times are tough, it’s a good time to try something different. Good luck.
For more from Boyd Duckett, visit his blog at boydduckett.com.