‘Zero fun, sir’  

One of the best sports movies of all time is Remember the Titans. It’s a true story about a high school in Alexandria, Va., portraying how the school and community handled integration of the early 1970s. Denzel Washington plays the role of coach Herman Boone, who takes over the football program and must navigate the unknown of getting black and white athletes to come together and play as a team.

In this movie there’s a black player by the name of Petey who is very outspoken and pretty much full of himself. At the first team meeting, Coach Boone walks into the gym to introduce himself, with the players standing on the floor. He immediately sees Petey, smiling and with his fist raised high in the air. Petey is not lacking confidence until Coach Boone approaches and says, “Put your hand down!” Coach Boone berates him for smiling and asks the young man why he loves football. Petey cautiously responds in the form of a question,  “Because it’s fun?” Coach Boone tersely questions that response, and sensing that the new coach is not humored by his glib reply, Petey finally responds, “Zero fun, sir.” 

This is what bass fishing is slowing becoming for a lot of anglers today — zero fun!

First, our lakes and waterways are so overcrowded it’s ridiculous. So many people are on the water not just on weekends, but all week long.  Boat ramps Monday through Friday look like there’s a tournament every day. It makes you wonder if anybody is working any more. COVID just exasperated the problem as boat sales soared nationwide and people sought refuge on the lakes and waterways of the great outdoors. 

Overcrowding is the biggest problem especially with the growth of both high school and college bass fishing. A good example was one of my latest trips to Sam Rayburn Reservoir when there was a 500-boat high school event, a 100-boat ABA Solo 150 tournament and several local club events all taking place on the same weekend. While I’m all for high school bass fishing, 500 boats in one tournament should be regulated or better yet have restrictions on how many boats can enter an event. Several tours over the years have put limits on the number of entries and it’s time for high school fishing to do the same.

With so many boats on the water these days, it’s created some tense moments between anglers fighting over territory. Truth be known, there’s only so many areas on any given body of water that hold fish. In the good old days (only 10 years ago) it was common to have an area to yourself. But those days are long gone!

Here’s what happens today: if you catch a fish on a spot and someone (especially high school anglers) sees you, here they come casting within feet of where you are catching bass with no regard for the angler who is already fishing the spot. This is when an angler’s patience can truly be tested.

Over the last few years, I’ve made an attempt to channel my emotions and calmly educate the younger anglers on fishing etiquette and how to respect another angler’s space. Most take the criticism well and usually thank you for telling them what they are doing wrong. Some ignore you and could care less as they troll right past you while making another cast on the same exact spot you just caught a fish. That’s when my blood pressure exceeds its limit and I treat them like the spoiled kids they are! It’s one thing to plead ignorance but it’s another when you ignore someone who is trying to educate you on the unwritten rules of the water.

Fishing should be fun. But with all the boating and overcrowding issues facing anglers today, it’s becoming a challenge and a test of patience too often just to go fishing.

Until next time, good luck, good fishing and try to respect all anglers and their space next time you’re on the water.

Contact Steve at sgraf26@yahoo.com