Fishing is its own genre. Depending on the individual, we all have different reasons why we spend time in pursuit of something we can’t see.
Initially for me it was the competition. I fished from an old boat or the bank at an early age, but I started competitive fishing to test my mettle against those better than I. I wanted to see how I stacked up in an eight-hour window where everyone was fishing hard for the same fish. You can’t feel that unless you compete. Athletes know that feeling and it compares to playing a game versus playing horse in basketball.
There is a mystique about competitive fishing that one has to feel to understand. Although competitions are against other anglers, they are really about the fish and what they do under all kinds of conditions. Figuring out the biological puzzle and catching more and bigger fish was the allure to me. I still love to compete but fishing has taken me to a new place where the camaraderie and spirit of the water has taken the front seat and winning — although still important — is not the end all.
There is a special feeling between the fish, the water and the angler that those who do not participate may never feel. It is spiritual; time on the water truly enhances the soul. There is a romance between participants and the fish that makes the catch something that endures. The catching is where memories are made.
Anglers have a bond with a little green fish that runs deep. Those who fish for crappie or catfish or any other kind of fish have the same relationship. Although bass anglers who fish tournaments release all they catch, some folks love to eat fish and that is the reason that they participate. It is indeed a special bond.
The new group of angler that is starting at an early age has all the tools to succeed. Where we read magazines and watched a few fishing shows, they now have technique-specific videos by the thousands and better equipment that we ever imagined possible.
Recent statistics are seeing and uptick in fishing license sales and boat sales are also breaking new ground. Boat manufacturers are many times 10 to 12 weeks or longer out when ordering a new boat. These are good signs for fishing.
I just returned from Hot Springs, Ark., where I was asked to speak at the Xpress Boats National Dealer Meeting. Based on the numbers of dealers as well as orders taken at this event, the boat industry is again going to have a great year in 2018.
Aluminum boats are in high demand and due to cost and high quality, it is clear that folks are measuring what they spend and quality equally. High school and college fishing teams are a huge reason for the growth and it’s great to see these teams’ passion for fishing. They feel it, just like those of us who have been in it a while have known about for years.
The growth area for the fishing industry is the youth and they are not buying inexpensive or second-class products. That bodes well for fishing as a whole. Kids we were not reaching or those who may not have had an affinity with their schools are now engaged. They wear school colors, compete for their respective schools and are proud of what that means.
The fishing industry is in a good place right now and the upswing is directly tied to the feeling of a fish tugging at the end of a line. Everyone won’t win or be a champion, but it’s clear that those who support fishing and this new group of anglers will benefit. I am proud of our sport and glad Illinois was the first to see its value. It makes me smile.
Ryan Robinson and Wes Gehrt won the recent Sam Leman EverBloom Tournament on Evergreen Lake with a five-fish limit weighing 16.37 pounds. Heavyweight of the Year leaders Taylor Umland and Nick Kirkton were second with 13.21 pounds. They also have big bass of the year so far with an 8.04 pound bass. Big bass of this tournament was caught by Ron and Adam Bristow and weighed 6.93 pounds.
The next Sam Leman EverBloom Tournament will be Aug. 26 on Lake Bloomington.