As a novice angler, and when I say novice, I mean someone who still considers a marshmallow and bobber a top-notch setup, I couldn’t quite figure out the hoopla behind the FLW Stren bass tournament this past weekend.
Like many novices, a bunch of people fishing a lake for eight hours at a time with no breaks and no time to sit down is perplexing. Add in the FLW’s strict length requirement — that even if they managed to catch a fish with the extra challenge of a late winter storm scaring all of the fish off — they had to throw it back in and try again.
But after a ride around the lake in a top-notch bass boat, courtesy of event organizer Dennis Pirch, I think I understand the sport of fishing a little more — although I might not lose the pink bobber any time soon.
Along with Pirch, volunteer Scott Reger and eight-year-old Clayton Randall tagged along for the spin around Roosevelt Lake Friday afternoon in the heat of the sun and action in a 21-foot Ranger Z21.
The first thing I learned about bass fishing is — it’s not all that boring.
Zipping across the lake at 80 knots is about as much fun as a theme park roller coaster. The force of the boat crashing over the water with the wind thrashing through your hair is a rush.
And pro anglers move this fast every time they switch areas. They don’t meander over to the next fishing hole, they zip there so fast you hardly believe the fish are not scared away by the impending 2,000-pound boat bearing down on them.
But they don’t, as evident by the whoppers pulled out by pro anglers like Pirch’s son, Clifford, who came in second, and Roy Hawk, who won the event with a combined weight of 42 pounds.
Pirch said depending on the fisherman, an angler will hit several spots in a day. Once they fish an area for 10 or 15 minutes, they move on to the next spot and come back later. Most anglers have areas on the lake where they caught fish before and go back to, but depending on the conditions, another spot may prove to be more lucrative.
“Water temperature is critical,” Pirch said. “The cold front on Wednesday cooled everything down.”
With spots hit or miss much of the tournament, we saw anglers flying back and forth across the lake throughout Friday.
The second thing about fishing is — it’s not that easy.
“Not just anyone can go out and throw a line, there is a lot of finesse involved,” Reger said. “I am not a tournament fisherman, but to see the logistics involved with this event, I have learned a lot.”
Most anglers pre-fish an area several times before competing, and spend hundreds of hours getting their equipment ready. From picking the right line, selecting a combo setup, to baits and their boat, good anglers put a lot of thought into the sport.
“This is their living,” Reger explained, “they take it seriously.”
And the FLW group puts a lot of time into organizing the events.
“All of the preparation — from transportation to setup to advertising — is amazing,” Reger said. “FLW is extremely professional, and it shows through everywhere.”
With all of the work put in before an event, the real work starts when the boats hit the water. The pro anglers, who stay at the front of the boat and control the trolling motor, never sit throughout the day.
“They are running the whole time,” Reger said.
Adrenaline and a cash prize at the end motivate anglers to keep flipping, Reger said.
Hawk had won a new Ranger boat and about $20,000 by the end of the event.
The last thing I learned about fishing is, it’s fun.
“Anytime you can live your dream, whatever it is, and make a living at it, is real special,” Pirch said. “And one thing you learn is you can never fish as much as you would like to.”
For Randall, the thrill of the fight hooked him.
“I like reeling them in because of the fight,” he said. “I like top water because you can see it.”
At eight, Randall has already caught a six-pound bass and 20-pound tuna.
“I want to be a pro one day,” he said.
So, although my biggest fish tops outs well below an eight-year-old’s, I came to understand and appreciate the sport of fishing a little more Thursday, and can only hope when Randall turns pro in 10 years, he takes me out on his boat.