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Looking Back
Gary Leiter

Hey, what if we had a tournament for Bass Fishing and the winner won some money or something?

That's how it started, some guy hanging out with his friends made that offhand comment and was summarily laughed at. Well, nobody's laughing now. Fishing tournaments have become a multi-million dollar business. All of which should have been predictable. You've got a favorite pastime in fishing (fun) added an element of competition to it (testosterone) then Throw money in to the mix (Greed). What could be more American than that?

My first foray into tournament fishing started shortly after we started Hunt Sleep Fish. We made a deal to follow a tour through the season. Somehow, it evolved into me fishing in the tournament. Me Fish the tournament? Ok sure. After all, I'm a pretty good fisherman, why couldn't I cash a check or two?

As the producer of HSF, my initial thought process was the logistics of following a Bass Tournament, and all the technical headaches that were sure to follow. From a Fishing aspect, It never occurred to me that I didn't have a bass boat, or had never set foot on any of these enormous lakes. All this seemed trivial of course compared to the fact that I was about to become a professional fisherman.

After I found a willing partner (with a boat), it was soon time for our first tournament. When we pulled up to the ramp on the morning of the tournament, the first impression I had was "I can't afford this hobby"! Experience should have told me to turn around, and leave unnoticed, then decide on an excuse later. Why can't guys like me thoroughly think this stuff through? There might have been a few people there independently wealthy, but most were guys just like me. Guys with mortgages, credit card debt, and kids who need pretty much everything sold at Wal-Mart. Yet, something possessed them to buy a $30,000.00 Truck, a 30,000.00 boat and endless amounts of "necessary" gear. Not to mention gas, rooms, entry fees, and food, multiplied by every stop on the Tournament. Run Gary Run and don't look back.

But I didn't. Against all better judgment I didn't. And I'm actually glad I didn't.

In a casual conversation with another fisherman, months after that fateful day, he said to me something I thought was profound. He said that tournament fishing was a way for guys our age to still compete at something. When my football days ended in high school, it never occurred to me at the time that they were over forever. All those competitive juices would soon be consumed by marriage, kids, life, etc. And while testosterone still shows itself during rush hour traffic, or watching France's ambassador to the UN, we still need a teammate to high five with every once in a while.

Looking back on the past two years, now as a "veteran" of the sport, I know at least a few things for sure:
1. I've spent a lot more than I've won
2. I'm not good enough to be a professional
3. I can't wait for my next tournament

Gary Leiter
Hunt Sleep Fish