Let’s start bridging the gap

By Jerry Drazer


It’s been said that lake property owners don’t like bass fishermen. The issue has been blown way out of proportion, and has been inflated to the point, that it has become a hot issue over the years, with both groups.
So, why do bass fishermen fish docks and piers? Sometimes bass fishermen are forced to fish docks because of the wind on the main lake or an upcoming storm. Other times, docks and piers are the primary or secondary bass holding structure on that particular body of water.
Now, why do property owners not like bass fishermen fishing around their docks and piers? Most of the time they are concerned that bass fishermen will lose a lure or hook on their dock or in a swim area and a family member will get injured later. Other times, they fear that a lure will nick their boat.
Does a property owner have the right to tell you not to fish an area when their family is swimming, playing, or sunbathing around the pier or dock? As a bass fisherman and parent, I’ll answer this common sense question with a "yes". I wouldn’t want a member of my family to get hooked with a "wild cast". Would you?
Is it illegal for you to fish piers and docks on Indiana lakes? This question, has come up many times between both groups in conversation and in argument.
So, to put all rumors to rest, I contacted DNR Law Enforcement Division-North Region Captain Bruce Clear to find out the truth. "Abstracts and deeds may vary, but it’s not illegal for licensed anglers to fish the water line. All the water belongs to the State of Indiana" Clear pointed out. "Property owners don’t own the water. You’ll never see the same water twice" said Clear
Clear has had to investigate conflicts where fishermen have started the problems with property owners, and conflicts where property owners have started the problems with fishermen.
"There’s enough surface water for everyone to work together" stated Clear, as he emphasized the need for both groups to respect each other.
Do most property owners despise bass tournament fishermen? Absolutely not. I’ve run into many property owners that feel totally opposite. They like to watch tournament anglers cast, and are amazed at how we can cast a lure with such precision. Other lake property owners will strike up a conversation with you, and want to know when the weigh-in is, so that they can come and watch.
I have even had property owners help me out. Not just by saying, "Hey, there’s a big one that lives next to that tree right there", or by voluntarily unsnagging my lure, but by actually accommodating me in a time of need.

This year in the B.A.S.S. District Championship tournament my partner and I just got through fishing the last dock in a bayou, and I said: "lets move to another area". When I went to start my outboard, it had vapor-locked, but would almost turnover.

With the livewells running, and several close turnovers my start battery finally ran down. We had just been talking to the dock owner, and he and his son went "out of their way" to help us. They brought down jumper cables etc… and were able to help get us back fishing in about 10 minutes. (I usually carry some cables for emergencies, but had forgot them after cleaning the boat that week)

Do most bass tournament fishermen despise property owners? Absolutely not.
As bass tournament fishermen, we are generally always out in the worst of conditions, and I can recall accommodating a couple property owners when nobody else was even on the lake. Here’s some examples.

One time an elderly gentleman was trying to get his row-boat into his dock and the wind blew it away from him. The water was freezing, and it was his only boat. My partner and I helped him get his boat back to his dock and secure it. The elderly gentlemen thanked us over and over for our kind deed.

This spring, we were fishing, and we came upon a large dog that had fell in, and was stranded in 45 degree water. The dog kept trying to climb up a slick, deep, seawall to its mate on shore. Being a dog lover myself, I imagined my rottweiller being in that same situation. The dog was really in distress, and would’ve bitten anyone but its master if you tried to help it up. So, my partner and I yelled and waived our arms, making enough noise to finally get the owners attention from their closed up house. The owner came down and helped his dog to get out, and was extremely appreciative because he bred that particular breed of dog and it might have drown from exhaustion in the cold water since it couldn’t even touch bottom.

One time while fishing a tournament, I noticed a property owner fishing off his dock and had a huge channel cat on his rod and reel, but didn’t have a net. Desperately unable to land the fish without a net he asked me if I could help him. So, I slipped my dip net under his trophy, and gave him his fish. He was so excited, because it was the biggest fish he’d ever caught, and he knew nobody would believe his story.

To be honest, most property owners and bass fishermen are good people.

Property owners and bass fishermen have a lot of common ground too.

1.)Both groups are "lake people", we work hard all week to have fun on the weekends.

2.)We attend and mingle together at open houses and sport shows in the off-season.

3.)We don’t like people running in idle zones.

4.) We’re concerned about water quality on our lakes, rivers, and streams.

5.) We all pay taxes.

Why then, do some property owners get mad at you when you fish their docks and piers? Circumstances vary. One day I really got chewed by a property owner for casting around his dock. He hid behind a tree and jumped out yelling and screaming. Concentrating on fishing, I about jumped out of my skin! I tried to be nice to him, but he wouldn’t even listen. I think he was using Energizer batteries, because he just kept going, and going. Then, when I started fishing the next dock, I heard his wife yelling at him about the yard work from inside the house. You could tell they had been arguing hot and heavy.
I was just a release for him to vent his anger. I’ve fished the dock at other times when he’s been out and he usually waves "hello" as I fish or asks me how I’m doing.
Why then, do some anglers explode at property owners when confronted? Once again, circumstances vary. Maybe the bass fisherman has had a very bad day, lost fish, etc… It’s the same as the property owner situation. Just a release to vent anger.
In either case, neither should go bullistic on the other.
If a bass fisherman goes bullistic at a property owner, they should seriously consider getting out of the game awhile, that’s fishing.
If a property owner goes bullistic he should sell his property, that’s lake life.

How then can bass tournament fishermen get along better with a property owners?

  1. Respect each other.
  2. Be courteous, and friendly even if they are not. (Be a steward for the sport of bass fishing)
  3. Don’t throw lures around docks where people are sunbathing – Go to the next dock
  4. Don’t throw lures around docks where people are swimming – Go around them.
  5. If someone is fishing around the dock, ASK them if you can take a couple casts- OR just move on until later.
  6. Go in, and get your lures unsnagged from their dock or area. Try to remove your lure, not break it off.

How can a property owners get along better with bass tournament fisherman?

  1. Respect each other.
  2. Be friendly. He’ll be fishing your dock less than a minute and move on usually.
  3. Be courteous, don’t throw objects in the water when he’s a dock or two away from yours just to disturb the area.
  4. Don’t judge all bass tournament fishermen as a bad people, they’re out having their kind of fun.

Over the past few years bass tournament fishermen have been given a "bad wrap" in some local communities. Why? Reasons range widely from loud running boats, to jammed parking lots at boat ramps.

The Indiana B.A.S.S. Federation and its members have raised a lot of money for charities through the years by hosting bass tournaments on Indiana water’s. The Boy Scout Tournament has raised $106,000, The Leukemia Tournament $125,000, Indiana Children’s WISH Tournament $102,000, and the Children’s Miracle Network/Riley Hospital $33,000.
Many other benefit tournaments are held annually by Indiana BASS Chapters to help people from all walks of life. All through bass tournaments.
That’s a lot of money, and it’s all been raised by bass fishermen. We havn’t even scratched the surface of all the good things bass fishermen do. Lake facility improvements, restocking programs, kid’s programs, etc…
Instead, tournament anglers are now facing more red tape to hold events because some communities just don’t see the BIG PICTURE, and some simply don’t care.

Bass tournament fishing is big business, and the sport of bass fishing can really impact a community economically, as well as, provide entertainment and even draw spectators if the event is marketed correctly.
If communities would look at the BIG PICTURE, the economic potential is endless for everyone. This is not a win/lose situation. It’s a win/win situation for everyone involved. Now, this all sounds lovely, right? I realize that we do not live in a perfect world, but an untapped resource is flowing through "Hoosier" lake communities. That resource is the tournament fishermen.
Still don’t think tournament fishermen are a resource, then let me ask you this… If you had some land that had a source of Grade A crude oil, would you tap it and pump it? Or try to get rid of it?
Some communities haven’t given much consideration to the economic impact of tournament fishing to local businesses. Tournament fishermen spend money when they’re in town for a weekend event. Let alone, what their spouse and kids will spend on shopping, and entertainment during tournament hours.
The current I.B.C.F. Invitational tournaments provide a weekend format that is very conducive to putting thousands of dollars into a community in a very short order (1 weekend). Most anglers arrive Friday night, practice Saturday, and fish the event on Sunday. Still not convinced yet? Let’s prove it.

Lets be very conservative, and say there is a 200 man field boaters non-boaters (there are always more boaters)

Most of the 100 boaters will have to spend about $65 in gas, $40 on meals, $100 on lodging, and $10 miscellaneously during the weekend, in the community. That’s $21,500, for an extremely conservative total.

Most of the 100 non-boaters will have to spend $14 in gas, $40 on meals, $100 on lodging, and $10 miscellaneously during the weekend, in the community. That’s $16,400, for an extremely conservative total.

Making a Grand Total of $37,900 in just one weekend, on necessities not extras.

Remember, these figures reflect only what a tournament angler has to spend, with no thrills just the costs while staying in the community. Now, add the spouse and children and the dollars just keep going up like a rocket.
I don’t know about you, but I would define just these conservative figures as "big business" for a community.
In order for the community to attract the family market they need to provide some form of entertainment for the whole family.
Many communities have festivals throughout the year that highlight something they’re noted for within the state. Blueberries, strawberries, covered bridges etc…
If a community would run a charity benefit bass tournament in conjunction with their festival, the community would have another form of attraction and entertainment, added revenue, and could help a worthy cause at the same time. More than likely, there is a BASS Chapter nearby that would be very anxious to help put together a tournament for any community wishing to have one.
Some communities could even use bass tournaments to bring in revenue during the off-season.
In closing, bass fishermen, and bass tournaments stand for a lot more than just fast flying boats and catching bass. We are a great group of people that like to fish, and at the same time make a difference in the lives of others, and IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT.
What is the economic impact of tournament fishing to a community?

By Jerry Drazer
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