The arrival of the fishing opener means the beginning of a second season, the fishing tournament season. Competitive fishing has increased in popularity over the last fifteen years. Tournaments that used to boast of prize money in the hundreds of dollars now award the winners hundreds of thousands of bucks. Most tournaments revolve around bass fishing. But now there are more walleye tournaments, including the Manufacturer’s Walleye Tournament that intends to grow to the proportions of the BASS big money tourneys.
There are both positive and negative points about fishing tournaments. Some facets of competitive fishing enhance sport fishing, while other are severely detrimental.
Take, for example, the rule in most tournaments that contestants have points deducted for turning in dead fish. That all sounds good, but bass that appear lively at the weigh-in often die later. It isn’t rare to find dead bass littered on the bottom at the release area. The impact of tournaments is multiplied when you consider some lakes have several bass tournaments on them each week during the summer.
It also doesn’t seem right that parties running big tournaments are making money from a resource that essentially belongs to everybody. I don’t know of another business where one can take publicly owned material and turn it into a product, unless they pay dearly for it.
An editor of a fishing periodical once told me that eventually someone will press gambling charges against people who run big dollar tournaments. He felt contestants putting up an entry fee for the chance at winning large cash prizes was no different than other forms of gambling.
In some instances fishing tournaments have brought out the worst in people. Any time money is involved it seems that some people will resort to under handed tactics. During the last tournament I fished there were truck tires slashed, jealousies developed and accusations were made that have never been forgotten.
Steps have been made to make tournaments conservation oriented. Some tournaments give a portion of the money raised to area fishery groups to enhance the local fishing. Other tournament organizations sponsor fishing foundations and research groups. So steps have been taken to improve fishing tournaments, but more needs to be done.
How about catch-and-release tournaments? No doubt they have been considered, but for some reason have been side lined. Probably because it would require a judge in each boat or an honor system for the contestants. But is honesty too much to ask for?
But as already mentioned, tournaments can be fun and entertaining if they are run properly and something given back to the resource that has been depleted in the effort to make money. It is up to those who benefit to do that.