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New rules for professional fishermen are a step in the right direction

Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Have you ever been ridiculed or criticized for something only to see others doing the same thing and seemingly be left alone? I’m sure that we have all experienced this at some point. I know I have. Let me explain.

Quite some time ago, when my television show was being aired nationally, we did an episode on a regional bass tournament. This particular tournament circuit was a “buddy” or a team circuit. In other words, two anglers fished from the same boat and were a team against other boats.

During a bass tournament, it is very common for anglers to get worked up into a flurry of emotions. Sometimes during these emotional times the anglers make choices or do things that sometimes aren’t the best decisions.

The two anglers that we were filming and following for the tournament were catching a lot of fish, but they were also catching some short fish – fish that didn’t meet the legal size limit to put in the livewell to be weighed.

When one of these anglers caught a short bass, they would unhook it and just drop it back into the water. That is where things went crazy.

When the show aired, my email was smashed with a flurry of viewers who couldn’t believe the anglers on this episode would just drop the little fish back into the water as opposed to kneel down and gently release them back to the lake. Honestly, when we were filming I didn’t even notice it. It didn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary or terrible at the time. Apparently I was wrong.

I couldn’t believe how outraged people were over this. Keep in mind, these viewers were die-hard anglers themselves, not a group like PETA that was just trying to stir things up.

Well, in the years since this episode aired I have watched numerous shows and programs featuring bass tournaments. Angle after angler did the same thing that these two guys on my show had been blasted for. What the heck? Was I the only one that got yelled at for that? Did these other shows receive emails complaining as well? It made me wonder.

The other evening, I was reading up on a new program called Major League Fishing. It is a reality-based television show that takes some of the top anglers in the world and has them compete on a much tougher level than they are used to on their normal circuits and tours. I was intrigued by a new rule for Major League Fishing.

This new rule states that when landing a fish, an angler cannot let the fish touch the carpet of the boat and the only part of the angler’s body that may touch the fish are his/her hands and forearms. If you are not familiar with bass tournaments, then you may be thinking what is the big deal?

There are numerous times during a tournament anglers would swing their fish into the boat to land them quickly. Many times these fish land on the carpet of the boat and flop around. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, but it definitely is not the best way to handle a fish.

This new rule by Major League Fishing, in my mind, is a step in the right direction. It shows respect for the game fish that we pursue and helps to keep this precious resource safer and more likely to survive when put back in the water. How are the anglers going to respond? I’m not sure. The rule goes into such detail that it even says if a fish comes unhooked and accidentally falls to the carpet when the angler is trying to do things the right way, there still will be a penalty assessed.

Our sport is growing by huge strides. During this growth process, there will be multitudes of people that are exposed to the sport who may or may not actually fish. They will, however, form opinions about the sport and us. We need to try and make sure those opinions are positive.

Major League Fishing is taking a step in the right direction. I even think that if you asked those anglers fishing that buddy tournament all those years ago they would agree and change the way they handled fish. It just took some time for positive change.

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