Stick around until after weigh-in ends


Kyle Vandever

Jeff Gustafson (left) after his big win on the Tennessee River, with Brandon Palaniuk.

My bass tournament experience started at the young age of 10. I was really fortunate to have parents that saw my passion for bass fishing and provided me the opportunity to follow it. We have a big, open team tournament called the Kenora Bass International in my hometown that started back in 1988, and it has seen several pro anglers participate over the years. As a kid, my parents took me to the weigh-ins and saw how excited I was to be at the event.

For my 10th Christmas, my present was an entry into the tournament for my dad and I. We were very green at bass fishing and simply wanted to catch “a bass” that first year so we could walk across the stage. While we didn’t win anything, we managed to catch a few fish, and the seed was planted for me to live a bass fishing lifestyle.

My late friend Ron Lindner and his son Bill won the tournament that year, and it was at that event that I had my first interactions with high profile anglers like the Lindners and Canadian hall of fame angler Bob Izumi. Former Bassmaster competitors Guido and Dion Hibdon, O.T. Fears and Terry Baksay also fished the tournament that year.

At 38 years of age, I don’t consider myself an old-timer yet, but I feel like I grew up learning a lot of the old school bass fishing traditions. We’ll call them “rules to live by.” I was taught by a number of seasoned veterans at a young age to do things the right way — “find your own fish,” “don’t do things to others that you wouldn’t want people to do to you,” “respect the rules,” “take care of the fish” — those sorts of things.

I’m not saying that some younger anglers today don’t have the same respect for the traditions in our sport, but I don’t know that a lot of them are brought up learning these traditions. It’s important that the boat captains that take out the high school kids today teach them how to do things the right way considering they are the future of competitive bass fishing.

Recently, I was chatting with a friend from Minnesota, and we were talking about doing things the right way on the water. He brought up another seemingly forgotten tradition that he was taught as a youngster by legendary Minnesota angler Gary Lake. “Always stick around until the weigh-in is over to congratulate the winner.” I have known Lake for many years and learned a lot from him. This is totally something he would say. It’s a good bit of advice.

When I think back to some of the tournaments that I have won around home, the most memorable part is shaking hands with the other competitors who stuck around to see how things shook out. Back in February, when I won my first Elite Series event, two people that stuck it out in the crowd were my buddies Carl Jocumsen and Brandon Palaniuk. They stuck around to see the finish to the event and were the first two people to come and greet me when I stepped off the stage. That meant a lot. Palaniuk even sent me a handful of great photos he took after the event.

Since that tournament I’ve noticed that Palaniuk has stuck around to watch the final weigh-in at each event, even if he wasn’t fishing on the final day. He is one of the superstars of our sport, and for him to do that means a lot to all of the winners, I guarantee you. That is what inspired me to write this column.

There are days when we get to fish a tournament but must rush home to other commitments. Trust me, I get it. It happens to all of us. Just remember, if you have a few extra minutes to stick around and congratulate the winner, they’ll remember it and appreciate it.

That’s some "proper bassin’" as my friend Pat Renwick likes to say.