In a wonderful piece published last month on Bassmaster.com, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland detailed what he believes are the five bi
In a wonderful piece published last month on Bassmaster.com, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland detailed what he believes are the five biggest threats to the future of bass fishing.
Being a supersmart scientific guy, he listed things like water policy, loss of public access, pollution and habitat loss — all of which are indeed critical concerns.
But one growing threat he didn’t touch on is the infighting that occurs every day between the people who enjoy the sport.
Infighting that’s born in hypocrisy.
During a quick scan of social media last week, I found posts bemoaning the practice of flipping bass onto the carpet of boats at the end of the landing process. I see those posts a lot — even though numerous studies have shown the practice does little or no harm to the fish.
I also saw posts condemning the use of cull tags — even the clip-on varieties that leave no puncture wounds in a fish’s mouth.
And of course, I saw posts suggesting that bass will someday disappear from the face of the Earth if we continue putting them in livewells — even though we’ve been doing it for decades and bass populations are as healthy as ever.
Think how hypocritical those statements are.
They’re made by bass anglers — people who are perfectly fine with using a rod as strong as a pool cue and line as strong as a piano wire to drive a razor-sharp hook through the jaw of a bass before battling it into submission and yanking it vertically from the very substance it needs to survive.
Somehow, all of that’s OK.
But Lord help us if a bass touches the carpet.
There’s a special place in hell for those who use cull tags that do as much damage as the clip-on earrings worn by sixth-grade girls.
And life as we know it will end if livewells aren’t permanently converted into trash cans.
It’s hypocrisy, silliness — and most of all — potential ammunition for those who’d like to see your right to fish abolished entirely.
Trust me, those people do exist.
I’ve dealt with them since I wrote my first story about PETA sending a guy in a fish suit to protest the Bassmaster Classic back in the early 1990s. That was when I still referred to them as “animal rights activists.” But I’ve since come to see them for what they really are, which is environmental thugs who want badly to see your rod-and-reels declared permanently illegal.
Through the years, I’ve been labeled a terrorist by these groups for writing stories about children’s fishing rodeos. I’ve been called a murderer because I published a recipe for fried crappie fillets.
There have only been a handful of times in my career when I received vague threats against myself or my family, and every single one of them came after I published a piece criticizing one of these organizations that supposedly places a high value on all forms of life.
Trust me, folks, they watch the web — and they’re not above using your words against you.
When you go on social media criticizing other anglers for not doing things exactly the way you do them, a light goes on in the heads of that anti-fishing crowd. They think, “Ah-ha! They already know what they’re doing is wrong. All we have to do is give the idea a little push.”
Don’t be a pawn in that game.
Remember that bass anglers have been some of the greatest stewards of the outdoors since competitive fishing first became a thing. Remember the people who catch the most bass are usually the ones who take the best care of them.
Remember that fishing is a contact sport.
Since you can’t partake in it without disturbing the fish, the only way to truly ensure a fish’s safety is to avoid fishing for it at all.
I think it’s safe to say none of us in the fishing community want to go that far.
But there are folks out there who would love nothing better.
So, save the hypocrisy and sanctimony.
It does no good — and in the hands of the wrong person, it could do an awful lot of harm.