BassWestUSA - May/June 2009, Page 6


A TighT Line


EDITORIAL STAFF Publisher Mark Mendez Managing Editor Tony STolTz Editor Jamie CypherS Field Editor dan o’SullIVan National Correspondent Jarrett edwardS Art Director Mike MargIneanu (

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40 years of growth under its belt it would be fair to say that competitive bass fishing has seem- ingly come into its own. It’s been a long slow growth driven mostly by a small group of devoted anglers. But nonetheless com- petitive bass fishing has finally matured into a highly recognized and accepted sport. It was only six or seven years ago that every time I mentioned my career and favorite hobby, I would constantly be met with blank stares. Whether out with friends or jumping on planes around the country, when the question would come up, there was always some disbelief, like they were just waiting for me to say, “No, I’m just kid- ding.” More commonly I was asked if I worked on a commercial boat or something along that line. These days though people’s aware- ness of our sport is much higher. In fact women, seem highly interested and even intrigued and men always have that - you must have the coolest job in the world grin. Most of this recent rise can be accred- ited to tournament organizations, and the media coverage that now accompanies its high dollar prize money. On the other hand, grass roots organizations like U.S. Anglers Choice have also given the weekend war- riors the ability to compete in local events all over the country. So, our sport’s fan base has grown on all accounts, and there are now es- timations that bass fishing is a multibillion dollar a year sport. All of this sounds incred- ible right? Your neighbors all know that you love to fish! They all know about the scream- ing anglers on ESPN. The younger girls tell you how hot that Bachelor fishing guy was. Why then, if our sport has really matured, are fishing license purchases continuing to decline? There is a lot of rhetoric on this subject, far too much to address here and most is just opinion. So I am not going to go that far into it. Whether it is age groups maturing, lack of opportunity for today’s youth to fish, or lake clo- sures, the bottom line is we need more growth in our industry! Recently at the 2009 Bass- master Classic I believe we got some of that needed exposure! Consider this. Bass fishing is not just a sport in the South it’s a way of life. This is evident by the fact that one


out of every three bass anglers is still a south- ern boy! Florida and Texas take top honors but California is creeping up fast. In fact, ESPN / BASS reports that there are over 24,000 BASS members in the ‘Swim Bait State’ alone. So it was very fitting that this year’s Classic Cham- pion hails from California. Skeet Reese had an incredible event and deserves all our congrat- ulations. Mike Iaconelli also had a great run, and while not quite closing the deal, I was elated at seeing these two running neck and neck during the final day. The coverage this year was by far the best in history, and there couldn’t have been two better personalities to launch our sport further into the mainstream public. Now I know this is a sore subject to some of my Southern friends, and I am sure I will hear all about this as I travel east this spring. But think of it this way, by having an event dominated by outsiders (so to speak) we are expanding our sport both geographically and demographically, which will bring new opportunities for young and old anglers alike. As more anglers from outside bass country, like Jami Fralick of South Dakota go and find success on the world’s largest stage, we increase our fan base and so will increase participation. This gives us more credibility to advertisers, a larger voice in the political arena, and a bright future for all of us. What we really need is more diver- sity, and this year I think we made a huge step in that direction for our sport. So, I am just going to congratulate all of the qualifiers on a great Classic! For the West though, along with all the pride we can all have for Skeet, and the other Western anglers, I am also taking Mike Ia- conelli as an honorary Westerner. It’s no se- cret that ‘Ike’ has spent a lot of time out West learning our techniques, and coupled with touring with Ish Monroe makes him a shoe in, so congrats Mike. We can also claim Kim Bain-Moore; not only is her hus- band a West Coast guy and two-time FLW Champion, but she also broke in to the sport there. Her courage may have done more for our sports future than any of us can imagine, so we’re claiming you too Kim. Congrats to all of our fish- ing family and extended family for a great start to the 2009 season, we’re looking for- ward to what else is ahead. JC