Remember seeing someone blow up a balloon full of air, then letting go of it and watching it fly around to and fro, until it runs out of air and hits the dirt with a thud? It’s always a bit funny to watch.
That’s kind of the way organized fishing has been this spring. But the Covid19 let the air out. And it hasn’t been the least bit funny.
Let me say this right up front. Fishing is not the most important thing in our lives this spring and into early summer. Sure, there have been lots of people being safe fishing and having some great catches. That’s good. Most are socially distancing and being safe. Some individuals that are not, though, put themselves and others at a risk that we, frankly, don’t really understand.
Professional fishing tournament promoters and their followers are hurting. So are the big companies and businesses that sponsor them and even more so, the small businesses that serve them. Every day it seems an announcement comes that another tournament or special outdoor event has been cancelled, or moved back yet again. It ranges from smaller club events to large tour events. We understand. As for smaller events, the temptation is greater to get going too quickly. But folks, this is no time to “push the envelope” for a fruit jar full of dollar bills or a trophy that will end up in the attic, I can assure you.
Most noted in our area are major events scheduled in the world of pro crappie fishing with American Crappie Trail and Crappie Masters, where local events have been postponed and are up in the air, kind of like that balloon. It has hit bass fishing hard, too. Circuits like FLW, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and Major League fishing have cancelled and postponed numerous events. It will be impossible to reschedule all of them. But when it becomes safe, they will resume in some sort of fashion. That isn’t happening yet. Scheduling of events and personal time to fish them will be, well, a nightmare.
Let me say this. These professional organizations have put on their big boy pants and done the right thing, even though it hurts. For the organizations and the fishermen. It is a huge economic hit in ways too numerous to mention in a few short words here. The few people that have ignored warnings? Well Forrest Gump has an explanation of that. I’m all in on protecting freedoms and all that, by “love they neighbor” also means being wise and responsible.
I usually try to be pretty positive, but this situation — the virus and the lasting social/economic impacts — is serious. When things open back up here and in other states, it still won’t be the same as before. Not just with the tournaments, but with the whole structure around them and the potential participation. I was trying to figure out exactly what to say. Then I spent a while on the phone with Matt Morgan, tournament director for ACT, and he did it so well, I’ll just going to agree with what he said. I appreciate his insight and honesty.
“Everything just got the brakes pumped on it without warning,” Morgan said from his home in Indiana. “I think our upcoming championship is still pretty much a go, but frankly we don’t know for sure about anything. There’s no need to beat your head against the wall or jump out of a moving truck, but we just don’t know. Folks may think they do, but it is just a case by case deal, day by day. Hopefully in the next month we can get back to living with a little bit of normalcy. But seriously, we just don’t know.
“Look, my mom is 71 years old and we were eating dinner the other night and I asked her if she’d ever seen anything like this. She said she lived through the polio epidemic and it wasn’t even this bad, the total effect of it on the country. It was beyond what she, a lifelong professional person, could even comprehend at this point.
“I agree. It’s unprecedented. The effect on people’s health, the economic consequences, and there’s just nothing we can do about it other than hope things can get back quickly. But here’s the deal. I feel guilty for the fishermen, too. I would venture to say that half of them may be laid off from work. Even when we come back, there is only so much disposable income that they can devote toward tournament fishing and the expenses around it. That’s big. I would be shocked if every club and every circuit in the country didn’t go down in numbers this year and maybe next. And it’s 100% out of our control. We will see the residual effects for two years. Traveling decisions will be curtailed as people try and get back on their feet. Tourism budgets will be slashed, too, and that will affect the ability of groups to put up the money to put on events. The tourism folks that have their acts together will probably do okay. The other ones won’t. Things will be way more competitive than ever before.
“But hey, we could talk for four hours and make a full circle and not even cover 10% of what’s ahead. But I can tell you this. Nothing will make me quit what we’ve been trying to do. I can’t wait to get back and offer the fishermen the best opportunities we can. We just have to get up every day and get moving every day. That’s how America works.”
Nobody really knows what to do or when to do it. Those that say, with absolute certainty, that they do, well, they don’t. As for pointing fingers, get ready to duck. We’ll be inundated with mass hindsight. It is 2020, you know.
Stay strong. Pray. Work together. Be civil. Be patient. Get your priorities straight. And as Matt said, lets get up every morning and get moving as best and as safely as we can. Respect others. Never take someone else’s situation lightly. Take care of yourself. Don’t take your fishing blessings for granted. AND:
Make America Great Again. Make America Fish Again!
NOTE: For the latest updates on any organization you are interested in, I’d suggest you follow their Facebook pages. It’s the best source of reliable up-do-date information out there,