I don’t have to tell you it’s been a strange year for everyone, and competitive bass anglers are no exceptions.
COVID has impacted everything from local bass club activities to professional bass circuits, and honestly, anything related to outdoors.
It’s certainly changed how Elite anglers went about their business during the past season and even into the upcoming year.
When the government lockdowns first hit, B.A.S.S. had to scramble to adjust our tournament schedule, and there were times when we wondered whether we would have a season at all.
But to B.A.S.S.’s credit, officials were able to realign the season to get all the tournaments in. When you consider the hand they were dealt early in the season, it’s remarkable how they remained patient and persistent, worked it out with host communities and got it done.
The anglers deserve a lot of credit as well. To my knowledge, only one angler — Hank Cherry — contracted the virus, and even he was able to recover and get back on the water.
The minimal virus spread among Elites was due to a commitment from tournament officials and the anglers to do all we could to keep everyone healthy and the season underway.
B.A.S.S. kept us separated during weigh-ins and emphasized the importance of staying safe daily. We wore masks when around others, were spread out backstage while waiting to weigh in, no longer stood next to Dave Mercer and had our own microphone for his on-stage interviews.
We even were able to have successful tournaments in New York, a state that had tough restrictions. We were tested daily, had to answer a series of questions each morning and had to rely on carryout food or cook for ourselves.
Finding food often was a challenge at several tournament sites. Restaurants would only allow so many people in at one time, so you had to plan accordingly. Most of us used food delivery services, or as I did, rented a house and cooked for ourselves.
COVID has made us be patient and flexible. In normal years, we already would have the next season's schedule and started booking our lodging and travel arrangements. But as of this writing, we only know of four tournament sites and dates as B.A.S.S. is trying to work around potential COVID problems and piece together a solid schedule.
If there have been any positive effects to this terrible virus, it’s that the outdoors industry has flourished because people learned that it’s a lot easier and safer to socially distance outdoors than being stuck inside.
People turned to outdoor activities and spent money on boating equipment, canoes, kayaks, hunting gear and four-wheelers. Every state has seen substantial increases in license sales which have led to some equipment shortages, especially in fishing gear, that could continue into next spring as well.
Unlike so many other sports, we are lucky that our playing field is outdoors and large. We can spread out, which makes it possible for competitive fishing to continue under these tough conditions.
But I’m an optimist. Once the vaccines are more readily available we’ll get back to a more comfortable style of competitive fishing.
In the meantime, we’ll do all we can to remain safe and protect this great sport that we all love and cherish.