By Steve Graf
When you take a look at the landscape of both high school and college fishing, it’s obvious that up and coming anglers of today are not being taught the ethics or etiquette of bass fishing…the unwritten rules of the water! Young anglers fishing today are falling short in knowing how to handle certain situations in several areas. In this article, we’ll educate and go over a couple of these scenarios and who’s to blame for the younger generation not knowing.
One thing about being young and ignorant… it’s someone’s responsibility to teach you the knowledge you’re lacking in order to learn. Young bass fishermen, on the rise and looking to compete at the highest level of professional fishing, need direction and guidance. This guidance is not just on how to find and catch bass, but how to handle themselves on the water… what anglers call “etiquette.” Now understand, there is no rule book on fishing etiquette. There is no sign hanging at a boat ramp on how to handle situations on the water. Someone must teach these young anglers what the expectations are. A few of these are kind of common sense and others are unwritten rules that have been established over time by anglers who came before us.
First let’s look at the phrase “cutting someone off.” This has become the number one problem on our overcrowded lakes and waterways today! This is when an angler runs past another angler who is fishing down a stretch of bank and cuts in front of him on the same stretch of bank and starts fishing…in some cases as close as a few feet to less than 100 yards. Once again, there is no written rule preventing an angler from doing this. But in the bass fishing world, this is considered bad etiquette. If you want to see an angler get upset, cut in front of him on the stretch of bank or tree line he’s fishing. Always avoid cutting in front of another angler for the purpose of fishing. Good rule of thumb… if you have to think about or try and justify if it’s wrong to cut someone off, then you probably already know you shouldn’t do it. A good example of this would be if someone is fishing down a row of boat docks, don’t go in front of him two or three docks to start fishing. Go ten to twelve docks down and respect his space.
Next, let’s address asking for permission to fish a certain area with another angler. This can be a little touchy, as it all depends on the angler you’re asking. If you pull up on an underwater hump or wind row (line of treetops) and you see another angler already fishing this spot, ask for permission to fish the area with him. He’ll either say, “Sure,” or he’ll say, “No, I’d rather you didn’t.” He’s really not obligated to say yes, especially since he was there first. So always ask if it’s ok for you fish the area together. Now most touring pros will automatically pass up a spot if someone is already on it. But sometimes depending on who the other angler is, especially if they are close friends, the other angler might say it’s ok. But in some instances, they have already talked about the spot that both might have found during practice, and they have made an agreement on fishing it at the same time. Again, always ask for permission to fish, don’t just hop on the front deck and start fishing.
So other than reading this informative article, how does someone learn these unwritten rules of the water? It’s up to us as experienced anglers to teach the younger generation of high school and college anglers how to handle certain situations that they may encountered. It’s our job to share and teach these youngsters the right way of doing things so that in the future, we have less confrontations on the water. Next week, we’ll continue this discussion on the unwritten rules of bass fishing with a hard look at how to deal with dock owners, a hot topic nationwide. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget your sunscreen!