Etiquette of a Professional Bass Fisherman
By Rich "Hookpoint" Thiel
With the many Pro and Team Tournament events now available on the West Coast, sport fishermen need to be appraised of various rules and regulations. However, the major organizations have some rules in common, and one of these important rules is encroachment.
Encroachment means honoring and maintaining space. In other words, anyone violating a specified distance in relation to another boat can be asked to leave, in which case the fisherman will have to back off to the organizations identified distance. Each organization has its own distance that must be maintained between boats, and this can vary from 25 yards to 100 yards. To determine the encroachment distance, merely ask the attending director before the start of an event. To avert potential problems, the attending director will be more than happy to provide this information, believe me!
Most tournament fishermen today are well disciplined and are out for the fun of the sport. However, by not adhering to the basic principal of encroachment some individuals can cause a big concern to the sport, to the boats they are approaching, and to the tournament director. They know who they are!
As a tournament fisherman since 1974 and past director for 6 years, I've run across encroachment infringements in conversations, seen it, and have been approached to make judgements about it. I've even been challenged about encroachment in a tournament. A mental approach can help you oversome the endurance of the subject, and different situations require different solutions.
One way I have learned to help avoid encroachment problems is to pre-fish the lake before a tournament. I therefore should have a clue about what's going on at the site of the event, and then I go home and set everything up to win. The weekend of the tournament and I enter. I'm on fish!... If my draw is boat no.1, great. I blast off and I go to ;my No.1 hole. I'm on it and catching fish, but another boat sees me and comes over and tries to barge in on my fortune. If the fisher is truly a sport, that person will stay within the set distance. If not, the fisherman could be disqulified for encrocahment if the violation is reported. In reality, no one wants to report another fisherman. Solution: ask him or her to back off, leave, or be disqualified. If done in polite fashion, problems may be avoided
Now, let's reverse this situation. Let's say, for example I draw the last the last boat out. I get to the first hole and I find that a boat is sitting on it. What do I do? If the fisherman is someone I don't recognize, I can first ask if they or he is in the tournament. If the answer is yes, I can move on, bacuase as a tournament fisherman I should have at least 3 to 8 backup spots. The backup spots may require different techniques, but there are few alternatives. If all else fails, you can come back later to see if the boat is still there.
In another situation, a boat may be sitting on my pre-selected spot, but the boat isn't part of the tournament. I don't want to ruin his or her day, so I ask the person in the boat first if I may fish behind them ( never pull in front, as this is a good way to start a bad situation). Someone who is not a part of the tournament may just let you have the hole if they know you're in a competition. Talk to him or her and maje them feel comfortable with you there. Also, if he or she looks new to the sport, make some suggestions about what to try if they're not catching fish. If they're fishing for something else, it's a judgement call and it's best to say "Oh Well" to yourself and go on.
As a fisherman true to the sport, it is necessary to remember ( in most cases) that others may have pre-fished the lake also, and have invested time on the water in hopes of winning. For you to come in and encroach on their spot may cost you in the tournament as well as down the road. Most encroachment rules are broken during a team event, but very seldom at pro events (although it has been known to happen).