By Tim Huffman

An interesting post on January 3 by professional bass angler, Randy Blaukat, addressed the question of expense in bass fishing and the overall effect to the sport. You can visit his Facebook post, but later in this article are portions from it.

National Classic Champs, Travis & Charlie Bunting, have a nice on-the-water workshop. Wrapped boat, powerful trolling motor and outboard, high-tech electronics, power anchors and all the right tackle for any technique.
National Classic Champs, Travis & Charlie Bunting, have a nice on-the-water workshop. Wrapped boat, powerful trolling motor and outboard, high-tech electronics, power anchors and all the right tackle for any technique.

National crappie tournament fishing has many large, fast boats with high-tech electronics, multiple poles and equipment for a wide variety of techniques. Travel is as expensive. The primary difference between fishing costs for bass, walleye and crappie fishermen is the cost of tournaments. Crappie entry fees are still relatively small compared to bass.
This article is not to sway you one way or the other. It’s probable that fishermen with money and/or good sponsors who have the big boats, expensive electronics and can afford to travel believe there should be no limits. Obviously, so will boat and equipment sponsors. Fishermen who scrap to make a living, low to average income folks, will agree that spending has gotten out of hand. Few high school and college fishermen wanting into the sport can’t afford to compete on a level needed to win consistently, so they will agree it’s expensive.

Some fishermen believe competition is competition with the strongest surviving and rising to the top. Those who can’t keep up simply fade away, or, never have a chance to try.
A positive side to having all the expensive fishing products is that makers of the products support tournaments. Payouts are at the highest level they’ve been, at least for crappie fishermen. Without money from supporters, there would be no national circuit like Crappie Masters that has good payouts for a relatively low entry.
One overwhelming fact is that the new high-tech stuff has made fishing much simpler. Side Imaging, for example, provides an incredible advantage in less search time required to find structure, cover and fish.
So where do we stand? Are we helping promote the sport of crappie fishing or are we, by example and competition, taking the level of the sport beyond the affordability of a weekend fisherman?

Electronics is ever changing and evolving. Large, top quality doesn’t come cheap.
Electronics is ever changing and evolving. Large, top quality doesn’t come cheap.

Portions of Blauket post:
“…new technology in fishing. I use it, only because I’m forced to do so to compete. That being said, I don’t think the current explosion in technology is a good idea for the future or our sport.
“The reason I say this is not because myself or others resist change and adaptation. I say this because technology…and the need to keep up with it to compete even on a weekend level, is turning…tournament fishing into an “elitist” sport. It takes a lot of money to keep up with technology. I think it’s a huge injustice to our sport, for tournament directors to allow an unlimited amount of electronics on a boat, yet they will not allow an angler to leave their boat to make an area more accessible…and other rules that require no financial outlay by the anglers.
“For some anglers to be able to afford $15,000 dollars in electronics, while some anglers can barely afford two very simple, basic units creates an uneven playing field.
“Same with rods/reels and tackle. Professional golfers are limited to how many clubs they can carry. The same should apply to tournament fishing…again, in an effort to level the playing field for those less financially fortunate.
“We live in a world of fishing where an $80,000 dollar boat, a $50,000 dollar truck, and $70,000 in entry fees and expenses, and another $15,000 in tackle each year is the norm. This is insanity. I see this harming our sport and new anglers who want to become part of it.”
Blauket continues that tournament directors could put more limits on…and place more emphasis on creativity by letting anglers plant brush, carry extra gas, pull their boats over shallow water access areas…anything free and within the state laws of the area being fished.
“To me, a perfect tournament world would be one with no gps or side/down imaging. Allow boat compass, a map, and two basic depthfinders…This would allow our sport to see the anglers with creativity and intuition excel…not who can afford to dish out thousands of dollars every time a new gadget is introduced to the market.”

Comments posted were varied with some practical, some dreaming, all with valid views.
>…think that eventually there will be a breaking point…which will force companies to focus on quality affordable items…
>…until tournaments are run as non-profit organizations, special interest will override the purity the sport needs and deserves.
>…I agree with you 100%…even on the small circuits.
> Life isn’t fair and neither is tournament fishing…When you start talking about limiting electronics and/or tackle to “level” the playing field where will it stop? Should everyone have to use the same type line? Some guys can afford…
>…can not afford…makes me feel at times fishing is for the “elite”…keep it simple and just fish.
> I’m not sure of the best answer on this…
> I have smaller screen electronics and an 18.5-ft bass boat with a 150, I compete every weekend against the fishermen in 21-foot Rangers with 250’s, and I don’t complain.”
> I see your point but look at anything that is competitive…it’s all about who has the most money wins…Look at NASCAR…money buys wins.

My Take
I don’t see things changing a lot because crappie fishing tournaments, along with all the other species tournaments, must have sponsors to support them. The bigger the tournament the more sponsors necessary. The more money that’s available for payouts, the more elite the competition becomes. It’s too bad for those who want in, especially younger people, but that’s just part of the bad that comes with the good. And tournaments, in my opinion, are good in many ways.
However, it does seem ironic that fishermen who can’t afford a nice boat and equipment are further prevented from competing by eliminating bank fishing, float tubes, no access to water that a big bass boat can’t get to so no kayaks in areas where they need to fish, and other restrictions aimed to protect the big dollar fishermen. But, it would be embarrassing, and financially problematic for the circuit, for high-tech boaters to get beaten by bank fishermen.
So back to the main question: Is fishing getting so expensive it’s hurting our sport? You make the decision.