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"Think Before You Act"
Curt Strutz The "Bassmeister"

I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in my first Wisconsin
tournament of the year, as I headed up to Montello, Wisconsin to stick some pre-spawn bass in Buffalo Lake. From the beginning, I decided that the most important thing I could do was to be comfortable out on the water. I got ready early that morning, including wearing a comfortable old pair of Skechers shoes that I just can't get rid of, and getting my new layered jacket (new for this season) out of the closet and putting it to good use. I also got comfortable by wearing a pair of my Diamond Cut jeans - nothing is more comfortable for a guy to wear out on a boat, nothing.

Once the tournament started, though, something happened that made me feel very uncomfortable. It was actually very disturbing and put a terrible damper on the day for many anglers fishing the Buffalo Lake system.

I am fishing in a B.A.S.S. Federation circuit this year, in my home state
of Wisconsin (The Belle City Bass Anglers of Racine, WI). This opening weekend for the club's events found us holding our tournament on the same body of water as two other club events on the same day. As a result of this (and the club president's decision to make sure we got parking stalls at the launch ramp), we decided to start our event an hour early to avoid the rush and get a jump on the bass out there. We ran our boat out to an area underneath a bridge where a majority of the "local" shore anglers hang out.

Well, about an hour (of comfortable fishing) later, the other two club
tournaments began, and one team came shooting down at full throttle towards the "no wake" section underneath the bridge. A gentleman from one of the other boats anchored in the vicinity yelled out to the guys, "Slow down, this is a no wake area." In no way was the yelling individual being rude or cocky - he was just informing the boater of his disobedience of the law.

The speeding boater, following the "confrontation," stopped his boat,
drove back underneath the bridge, and started yelling every four letter word back at the other guy in the boat. He then threatened to "take him on" right there and start a fight. Now, keep in mind, this was all done right in front of about a half-dozen shore anglers.

Following a few exchanged words between the boaters and the shore
anglers, the disobedient angler spun his boat around again and went full throttle underneath the bridge disturbing all of the fish, splashing water up onto the shoreline locals, and creating a huge wake that only disrupted the fishing for everybody involved.

We are living in a society where bass fishing is a growing sport, and
unfortunately with growth comes opposition. For starters, the vast majority of local anglers do not appreciate having fishing clubs come and take up their fishing territory and launch ramps. It is unfortunate, but it is a major concern as the number of clubs grow year after year. For that reason alone it is very important that we all take every step we can to make sure that the land owners and local anglers who occupy the lakes we fish know that we appreciate them.

Obviously, a guy like the one we encountered in this event does nothing
but get the locals in an uproar about those "bass guys," and unfortunately labels us all as being bad to the business. We need to do what we can to provide the best impression while on the water.

There are many ways that even the weekend angler can help to promote good ethics while out on the water. I urge you all to do what you can to uplift these 5 major guidelines, and keep us all on the good side of the public. First of all, be obedient to the rules and regulations posted on the lake. Obey the no-wake zones and speed limit rules. Secondly, avoid throwing litter into the waterways or onto shoreline property. I always keep a small plastic bag inside of my boat or bag every time I am out on the water to use exclusively for my trash (this includes food wrappers, as well as old plastic baits and line). Third, do your best not to whip your baits and hooks against people's boats or piers. In the event that you do accidentally snag a hook on private property (and you are able to do so), do what you can to remove the lure or rig from the property - and not just cut the line and leave it for trash.

The fourth guideline, that some might see as a bit crude, is not to
"relieve yourself" on a landowners property. Nothing turns a landowner off more than having to clean up after a messy dog in their yard - let alone a messy bass angler! Try to find access to a proper rest room, use a plastic bottle, or just hold it!

Finally, no matter what happens, THINK BEFORE YOU ACT! If something happens that gets you really upset, take a 15 second breath before deciding to do something stupid or offensive to other anglers or landowners. Remember, we are all in this boat together (figuratively speaking). If we want to see the sport of bass fishing continue to grow with little or no opposition, we need to be responsible, ethical, and focused on our fishing and not our ego.

Well, to sum up the day, it wound up being a beautiful Spring day, and
the club brought many fish into the scales at the end of the afternoon. As always, my favorite pre-spawn metal-lipped crankbait (a Lucky Strike Rattlin' Wiggler) hooked me my fish. There is nothing better than those metal lips during the bright days of spring, as they just draw in the sun's reflection (as well as the bass). We released all of the fish, unharmed. All that I can hope for is that the innocent and ethical anglers who come back to Buffalo Lake will be allowed to fish "unharmed" after the stupid antics of one disrespectful tournament angler.