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I was watching the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in the California Delta on ESPN2 a few weeks ago. They were highlighting Mike Iaconelli on the opening morning of the tournament. When Mike got to his first bank, someone who was not in the tournament was already there fishing. Mike started to talk to the guys in the boat. Their conversation went something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

Ike – “How’s it going?”

Other Boat – “Fine.”

Ike – “Are you guys tournament fishing?”

Other Boat – “Nope…Aren’t you Mike Iaconelli?”

Ike – “Yes – I’ve been fishing this bank for four days.”

Other Boat – *silent*

Ike – “Can I go ahead and jump in front of you?”

Other Boat – *silent*

Mike then went ahead and started fishing in front of these guys because he thought that, since he was fishing a tournament, he was somehow more important and more deserving to fish that particular bank at that time.

I have seen this many times, especially on Lake of the Ozarks (LOZ) in Missouri. LOZ is pounded by both recreational and tournament fisherman on a daily basis. I have had MANY boats cut in on me on many occasions, and it infuriates me when it happens.

I wish I could have been the guy in the “other boat” from the conversation above. If so, the conversation would have gone something like this:

Ike – “I’ve been fishing this bank for four days.”

Me – “You must have done pretty good to fish it for four days…what were you catching them on?”

Ike – “I’m fishing a tournament, can I jump in front of you?”

Me – “No…I worked all week and this is the only time I get to fish for the next three weeks. You have fished for four days straight. I was here first and you can jump in behind me if you like, but please don’t crowd me because I’m getting some great fish.”

Ike – *kicks breaks his rear running light and throws it in the water while screaming,* “But I’m Mike Iaconelli…Elite Series Tournament Pro.”

Me – “Never give up, Mike…never give up.”

I feel etiquette should dictate that a boater, if he/she is going to fish a bank that is already occupied by someone else, should jump in BEHIND the existing boat. Most tournament rules require that a distance of 50 yards should separate boaters, but it says nothing about which side of an existing boat is acceptable (to my knowledge).

It seems that tournament fisherman think that, since there is money on the line, they somehow get bank priority over recreational fisherman. Fishermen weigh many factors when developing a “game plan” for a tournament…even for just a day of recreational fishing. Wind, temperature, barometric pressure, channel location, water color, cloudy vs. clear skies, etc. all factor how and where you should fish. In my mind, having other boaters on the water is simply another factor you have to weigh to determine fishing location.

Do I want to fish a bank that has been pounded for three weeks straight? Probably not. I would get out but not an obvious place for fisherman to find. If I get to a bank, and it already has someone on it, my first response is, “I should have hit this bank first and I could have had it to myself.” If I absolutely HAD to fish that bank, I would hop over to a nearby bank and wait until that fisherman was done and THEN go to the bank.

Maybe I am wrong and am reading too much into this. How many of you have been fishing on a bank and had a boat jump in front of you? I would love to know your thoughts on this.

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Every year I face the same dilemma: Should I attend the St. Louis Boat Show at the America’s Center in Downtown St. Louis. I mean, I love going to check out the new boats, but I always leave realizing that I will never be able to afford one of those new boats.

All the big bass boat manufacturers show up with their best products, and they are nice…VERY nice. But I have trouble with the prices they are asking. A new boat from any of the big boys is going to run between $35,000 and $48,000. That is just crazy! How these can be more expensive than cars is beyond me.

Let’s start with the heart of a boat…the motor. A new 200hp Mercury will cost around $20,000! Then you have a fiberglass frame…a few compartments, a trolling motor and electronics. Generally, that’s about it. I guess it all comes down to what a person is willing to pay. Demand for the product is the driver.

I currently own a 1988 17.6’ Champion bass boat. It has a 115 hp straight six Mariner motor, and I have not had any trouble with it since taking over ownership in 2000. The boat will run about 45 mph which is plenty fast for me. I paid $6,000 for it from a friend of the family. He was the original owner and always took immaculate care of not only his boat, but also everything he owned.

While my boat is not the fastest one on the water, it gets me to where I need to be on the lake and back. I almost always catch fish when I venture out (I do get an occasional “skunking”) and it allows me to fish tournaments without feeling inferior. In fact, there is no better feeling than coming in to weigh in realizing that I have beaten at least one of the guys in the $40,000 boats!

Even thought the boats at the show are out of my price range, I still enjoy viewing the new features that each manufacturer dreams up from year to year. I will probably take the family down this year and let the kids get in the big boats. But each year, I always leave feeling a little disappointed. Perhaps this year I will find an area of the show that is dedicated to pre-owned boats that have been traded in by the big boys who have just purchased a new, expensive new model!

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