Every professional bass fisherman, from Rick Clunn to Brandon Palaniuk, has started just like you and me: fishing as a kid from the shore, a dock, or a boat. Those humble beginnings connect everyday anglers like you and me to the pros we admire and learn from. It's just that they have taken it to the next level. Ever since the first subscription I ever had to Bassmaster Magazine, I was hooked. There is a lot on the line when professional bass fishermen get in their boat during a tournament, and these suggestions are equal parts tongue-in-cheek and serious. Bass pros follow many rules already, but it would be fun to see a few more that might freshen up the competition for us, the fans. As a fan, we only want the best for bass fishing and the pros we follow. We want a chance to be a part of the action.
1. "This is a Giant"
This one is a little facetious, but the fact is that the pros can detect the presence of big bass on their line better than anyone. So often, it is a big bass, but not a "giant." If it turns out that the fish does not weigh 10 pounds or more, and they use the term "giant" to describe it before they land it, they have to release it without it counting towards their total.
2. The Boat Bounce
Stuff happens that is out of their control at times, but I can't be the only one who doesn't like to see a caught fish bouncing around in the bottom of the boat upon its entrance, mainly when they use the rod lift technique to flip it from the water into the boat. We're always taught to use a net and carefully scoop the fish we catch. There should be a regulation related to avoiding the dreaded boat bounce.
3. The Net and the Thumb-Lip
So many times, a tourney angler will reach down into the water and cradle the bass onto their hand and forearm area, lifting it out of the water. One flop and it will fly onto the bottom of the boat. Then, you'll need to go back to the previous rule. A net and the ever-popular thumb lip will prevent this, though it technically can cause damage to a fish's mouth. At least it leads to a better grip by the angler.
4. Horsing a Fish
I grew up saying that if you were "horsing" the fish, it meant you were cranking it in so fast that it was skimming across the top of the water. We all know that time is of the essence in a tourney, but a pro angler shouldn't do it. A little patience can go a long way, even if the pros know it's a smaller fish that won't make the livewell.
5. Spitting the Hook or a Broken Line
Even with today's ultra-sharp hooks and ultra-strong lines, a break off in bass fishing is a constant concern. But the fact remains that these pros can stop this from happening better than anyone. I propose a penalty for either of these instances, but it would certainly be a case of adding insult to injury. Not only would they lose out on the fish, but they'd see their winning odds decrease, too.
6. Barbless Hooks
Maybe just for some tournaments, like the ones sponsored by a hook company, we could see the pros come to grips with the fact that they will need every ounce of their bass fishing skills to land every fish without the luxury of a barbed hook. The spit hook idea I mentioned about can be waived for these events.
7. Bait Limits
Here's the setup: Each pro will have a go-to bait they will find as the tournament progresses. If they make the weekend cut, whatever lure they catch the most bass on will, for the rest of the event, have a limit on how many fish they can catch with it. The idea would be to force them to reach deeper into their tackle bag and get creative to finish the job.
8. Rod and Reel Specifications
We all agree that you can never have too much fishing gear, right? The bass pros are no different, which means for this adjustment, each angler can only use a spinning combo on day one, a baitcaster the next, then a choice of setup for the final day or days. Since these guys are professional fishermen, why not add a fly rod? Okay, that might change things up too much, but you get the idea.
9. Bait Trading
One of the biggest reasons we have multiple professional bass fishing leagues is because of the sponsors. Every bass pro has more than one of these competing brand names to ensure every good product gets its market share. But if things were a little more open, I think it would be cool to see pros trade with each other at the end of each day's fishing. Maybe one tourney angler is doing well with a specific soft plastic creature bait, while another is destroying them with a stickbait. They could trade baits to see if they can outdo one another, and once the trade occurs, they cannot use the bait they traded away for the rest of the competition.
10. Bait Stealing
This exciting idea could help anglers at the bottom of the leaderboard as the event comes to an end. Like a mulligan in golf, an angler low on the board could steal the most productive bait from one of the leaders to use for themselves. It would only be available for the bottom five anglers to target the top five, with a one-bait-only limit. The angler who loses the bait can no longer use it, but it comes with a price: a five-pound penalty to the "thief," with those five pounds going to the "victim."
The only way pro fishing tournament coverage can expend is with more viewership, and I feel like all of these things would make pro angling better. What other rule changes or adjustments would you like to see?