Working as a full-time fishing guide, I get seriously conflicted when the client is a tournament bass angler wanting to learn some hotspots on my “home” water.
I know the fisher will be back in a few days trying to take the biggest bass away from the hotspot forever.
Several walleye tourney circuits have gone to catch/measure/release formats in which quality fish are released immediately on-site. Bass tourney guys have a philosophy stuck in the ‘70s, merely trading in their leisure suits and platform shoes for Huk shirts and Crocs—and wildly expensive, dangerously fast boats.
“Championship Fishing” is a nationally-televised tournament series that employs immediate on-site release using “score tracker technology.” The format is both entertaining and resource-friendly, exposing the piggish and unnecessary impact of coliseum weigh-in tournaments that thrill crowds and build egos.
Not long ago, a wealthy client hired me in advance of a “frog only” tournament in which participants are only allowed to use weedless, topwater surface lures. He also insisted we fish out of his $78,000 bass boat so he could save GPS waypoints to mark the hotspots.
With aquatic weed growth in full summer bloom, weedless topwater lures are a very effective way to catch bass—on some weed-choked and scum-covered waters maybe the most effective.
Those not so inclined to put perfume on a pig often call this kind of angling “slop fishing” or “rat fishing.”
Those who seek fame and fortune in designer clothes and $78,000 watercraft wouldn’t even consider fishing for rats in slop. It’s all about semantics, like calling a low-level drug dealer an undocumented pharmacist.
It was clear after about 20 minutes that this client was more a poseur than resource threat, so I guided him to some of the water better suited for slop fishing with rats: windblown duckweed over sandgrass and elodea.
He had a bunch of rods strapped down in the front of the boat. All were premier, task-specific sticks with very hefty price tags.
His main “go to” rods were rigged with a Live Target frog and a Rojas frog—beautiful designer lures that are both expensive and real tough for bass to see from beneath duckweed carpet.
The client missed several fish before I timidly offered advice to “be the frog,” maybe channeling Chevy Chase in the film classic “Caddyshack.” A couple more bass blew up on his lure without feeling the hook.
Coaching him to wait 2 full seconds before setting the hook paid off with several bass that would qualify in just about any tourney.
We eased down the shoreline to a large patch of American water lotus—aka lily pads. After several minutes without generating any fish interest, he chided that my “be the frog” advice wasn’t working.
He didn’t want to hear that frogs skitter quickly across open water between lily pads instead of taking their time.
When several fish responded to the skittering retrieve, the client became sullen and pensive, even though he was catching decent fish. This goaded his ego into challenging “why don’t you show me how it’s done!”
Digging through the small, softside tackle satchel I had along, I pulled a white Zoom Horny Toad plastic out and threaded on a Kalin Weed Wedge hook. Snobbish snorts ceased after the third bass in as many casts was pulled to the boat.
With knowledge I was probably kissing the possibility of any gratuity away, I switched over to a $3.99 Scum Frog. His comment “that cheap thing won’t catch fish” turned to icy silence when two more bass were boated in about a dozen casts.
The 4-hour trip was over shortly after that.
I doubt that we’ll ever fish together again.
The entire experience was not pleasant—rather tense, by the client’s design.
But he proved to be an inspiration for a tourney experience even more exciting than “Championship Fishing”: a one-fish catch-and-keep event where top prize goes to the first angler who can actually eat the biggest largemouth bass wins.
Largemouth bass are not known as a culinary delight, especially when they’ve been living in 80-degree, weedy pungent water for awhile.
I’m thinking such a critter probably tastes a lot like crow.