Bass fishing’s troubling evolution
So, you dream of making it big in professional fishing? Well, you’d better start saving your money.
Big-time bass fishing has become an expensive sport. And that troubles longtime pro Randy Blaukat, who competes on both the Bassmaster and Major League Fishing circuits.
“The biggest problem I have with professional fishing today is that not only are we losing touch of why people fish – the therapeutic and healing properties–but it’s also becoming an elitist sport,” said Blaukat, 59, who has fished Bassmaster events since 1986.
“It costs a lot of money to be competitive today. We’re talking about season entry fees of $50,000, fully rigged boats that cost close to $100,000, expensive tow vehicles, expenses for travel…
"It’s creating this income disparity that discriminates against people who don’t have much money.”
Blaukat remembers a time when things were much different.
“When I started fishing Bassmaster in 1986, it was the only circuit out there,” he said. “There were six tournaments and entry fees were $600 apiece.
"I was able to work a part-time job to pay for my entry fees. And back then, I could buy a fully rigged boat for $12,000.”
Now, pro fishermen use high-tech electronics, expensive fiberglass boats, huge motors and powerful trucks to tow it around. And that costs money. Lots of money.
That creates an uneven playing field in Blaukat’s mind. Those pros who can spend the most have an unfair advantage, he said.
Bass can be still be caught without all the modern bells and whistles. Blaukat proved it when he fished half of the season last year in the Bassmaster Opens in an aluminum boat without much in the way of electronics.
He went on to finish 13th out of 200 fishermen in the points race by using old-school tactics.
“I wanted to send a message–that you didn’t have to spend a fortune to be competitive,” Blaukat said. “I fished half of the opens in that aluminum boat and I was in third place in points at that point
"Then I lost my sponsorship and I had to go back to a fiberglass boat (a Skeeter, his new sponsor).”
Blaukat bought that aluminum boat used for $20,000. It wasn’t the prettiest boat out there on tournament day, but it had its advantages.
“Because it’s lighter than a big fiberglass boat, I was able to get in some shallower water that others couldn’t reach,” Blaukat said. “I finished 11th in the Bassmaster Open on the Arkansas River, and a lot of the bass I caught were in areas I couldn’t have gotten to without an aluminum boat.”