by Tommy Abbott
The pro or pre-fishing 'Lone Ranger' captain dilemma
I’m going to cover this because I’ve heard plenty of grumbling in the past three years about the subject. You and your team will fish against teams who have captains who have fished for a week or even several weeks preparing for a tournament without their team. They will be hard to beat, but even if they do beat your team, that doesn’t mean your team members aren’t better fishermen or women. It also doesn’t mean that the team who beat you will ever make it beyond the high school level either.
Here is my opinion on a captain's responsibility. We all have an opinion, this is mine, don’t hate me for it.
These kids are students first and foremost. They must attend school for a certain amount of days per year. They can’t and shouldn’t spend two weeks pre-fishing. Their captain shouldn’t spend a week or two pre-fishing for them either. In my honest opinion, your team should be on the water together at all times that practice is going on. If the team has two captains, I see no issue with each kid fishing with their other captain as long as it’s not an official practice day. If they are on their home waters, and follow proper laws and regulations, by all means, if you feel safe letting them pre-fish without you, I have no problem with that.
But pre-fishing without them doesn’t seem right in my opinion. Some people may not agree or like that statement, but if you think about it, it’s about the young anglers and their accomplishments, not the captains. Yes they still have to catch the fish, but having them ingrained in the process makes it much more satisfying for all. If they all play on an equal playing field, it’s much better for all.
There is no rule for this to my knowledge, so it’s legal, but ethics and priorities come into play. So that makes it a tough subject to deal with.
As a captain, you should want your kids to have to beat the best out there. If they ever have a chance at chasing a dream, if in fact fishing is a dream for them, they will need to compete against the toughest competition.
There is nothing wrong with “pro fisherman” dads fishing with their kids in tournaments. We all know those kids have an advantage. It’s just like any other sport that has a pro dad or family member; they are inclined to be better because of their environment. Competing against those kids will surely give your kids an advantage because there will be a really good chance that those kids will move on to higher levels. Your kid will eventually have to deal with them, so why not now.
The only problem I would ever have with a pro angler dad as captain is if they choose to pre-fish without their kid before an upcoming tournament essentially making them a guide during a tournament. In my opinion, that should be no different for any other captain.
Consistency is key
Remind your team that one tournament doesn’t make or break their year. Consistency is the mark of a good team. Most high school teams will be good in their general area but very few will be able to compete week in and week out in multiple locations.
Remind them that many of the best teams out there will never win a single high school tournament in their career. Some team every year will catch one or two big fish, and it will catapult them to the top of a given tournament. That’s the nature of the beast in one-day tournaments, so make sure they don’t focus on that. Keep their focus once again on consistency.
Don’t misunderstand me. This is not to say a team who has a little luck isn’t good. Being good creates luck, but sometimes luck trumps talent in single-day fishing tournaments.
The best teams out there can have a bad day. They also can have a day where they will not catch a fish. They will have days where they will catch every fish in the last few minutes. Every cast is a potential win. The last cast is just as important as the first.
High school bass fishing life
This sport is one of the most amazing sports on the planet where your surroundings will often times be so beautiful it will be indescribable. Soak it in and cherish every moment good and bad.
The bad news ... teens will be teens. The good news … participating with them in the sport of fishing is one of the most rewarding things you will ever experience in life. Many life lessons can be learned in a boat.
But don’t think it will be all rainbows and unicorns either. You will disagree with them. You will probably raise your voice. You will get very (or extremely) frustrated at times. That’s OK. Most of the other captains are just like you.
You will also enjoy many more good times than bad. Spending time with kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews in their teens should be cherished. It’s rare. You are in a very unique minority of people who are able to enjoy God's earth and beautiful places with those you love, especially at their age.
This is a competitive sport where there are no participation trophies. They have to earn their accolades. They have to perform to move onward and upward. To do that, my honest opinion is that they better have fun first, or they will never succeed. First and foremost, most of these young anglers got into the sport because they love it. It’s our job as captains to make sure they continue to love it by having fun.
I know captains right now who only smile when they finish way up in the standings. Their teams often take the same demeanor. Yes my team gets upset and down, but we try to find a way to be happy and have fun even in defeat. There are a huge majority who do just the same.
You really can’t tell when they win or lose by looking at them most of the time. Winners walk off the field of competition with the same attitude and demeanor whether they won or lost. You should not be able to tell which side of the winning or losing coin they are on.