Friday, June 16, 2017

Tournament Fishing Today – My Thoughts

I started out actively fishing tournaments back in the early 80s. There had already been a lot of positive changes on the tournament scene since they started in the 60s. However, compared to the tournament scene of today the 80s, tournaments still seem like the Stone Ages.  Almost all the tournaments in the 80s and all that I fished had Catch and Release programs, where bass had to be weighed in alive and then released after weigh-in.  Though livewells had been incorporated as a standard features in bass boats by the 80s there were still a lot of older boats that didn’t have them.  Most of the folks with those older boats improvised some means to try keeping their bass alive.  Even with the livewells and folks trying hard to keep bass alive you would still see a lot of dead and distressed bass at the weigh-ins.  The biggest single change from the 80s to today is all the improvements made to livewell systems.  Keeping bass alive and healthy became a priority that has continued over the years.  Today the live well systems on boats have such improvements as Recirculate Pumps and Oxygen Systems.  If you don’t want to pay for the expensive Oxygen Systems for your
boat then there are also some great Ventilation Systems available. New Pro Products have the V-T2 vents that I installed in my boat and they do an awesome job at getting fresh oxygen in my livewells while at the same time releasing the potentially deadly gases that build up. With these livewell improvements, today’s bass stand a better than 99% chance of being released healthy after the weigh-in than they did just a few years ago.  Of course there is always a chance of a bass being injured during the catch, which happened to me in my last tournament, and that is an issue hard to control or fix.  If you don’t have an oxygen system or some form of livewell ventilation on your boat I highly recommend you install some V-T2 vents, they are far less costly than installing an oxygen system and will keep your bass just as healthy.

Keeping bass alive and healthy also leads us into the next hot topic I’ve seen on social media and have been asked personally.  That topic is the use of Culling Systems or Cull Tabs.  For those of you that don’t know what these are, they are basically a colored and/or numbered float that is attached to a line, cable or chain with a clip or hook on the other end.  The clip or hook is then attached to a bass’ mouth before you put them in the livewell.  They are used by tournament anglers to keep track of the size/weight of each bass they have caught.  Once the angler gets a limit of bass these tabs make it easy to cull their catch.  When a bass is caught and determined to be bigger than
one in the livewell, the angler can quickly find and remove the smaller bass. Just like with livewells these cull systems have improved over time.  The first ones to come out really caused a lot of damage to the bass’ mouth.  Some of this damage was to the point that the bass was unlikely to survive for very long once released.  I’m happy to report that today there are some cull systems out there designed to not damage the bass’ mouth.  I’ve tried a few of these newer systems and it is true they don’t damage the bass’ mouth but most of them also don’t stay attached to larger bass very well.  The one system I believe that works best and I’m currently using is the Clip N Cull from Cal Coast Fishing.  If you take an extra second to position the clip right in the bass’ mouth and lock it correctly they stay put even on big bass as you can see from the pictures.  The Clip N Cull do not damage the bass’ mouth and their float system makes it very easy to track and find the right bass when it comes time to cull.  

One of the new trends I’ve seen and been asked about is the new Catch, Picture and Release (CPR) tournaments.  These were started mostly by Bank and Kayak fishermen since keeping fish in their tournaments just is not practical as they don’t have a good method of keeping their fish alive.  It also opens up aspects of Online Internet tournaments even for boat fishermen.  I just finished
competing in my first CPR online tournament this past month.  It was the Crème Lures “King of Staff” tournament that was open to all Crème Lures Pro Staff. It was a lot of fun and knowing I was competing against other Pro Staff members from all over the country made it very interesting.  For these CPR tournaments the fish’s length is measured on a bump board and a picture is taken to be submitted to the tournament director. Most online tournaments allow you to fish any body of water of your choosing.  Just like the King of Staff tournament I fished, you can be competing against folks from all over the country.  That is very cool but it opens up all kinds of cheating possibilities as well, another subject that deserves its own paragraph later. I do know that when possible I’ll be fishing more of these online CPR tournaments in the future.

Releasing each bass back very near to where it was caught in all tournaments would be an awesome improvement.  This is especially true when tournaments are held during the spawning season.  It is my opinion that there shouldn’t be any tournaments held during the spawning season.  Why you might ask? All those big bass full of eggs that are about ready to spawn are pulled away from their beds and released sometimes many miles away.  Now I’m not sure exactly what happens after the bass is released, if it survives does it try to return to its original mate and bed or does it look for a new mate and build a new bed in a different location.  In any event it has to be disruptive to their spawning process and potentially damaging to the body of water’s bass population to some extent.   This would especially be true if these fish come from a river system where the fish would have to fight miles of current to get back to their spawning location.  Along these same lines is one of my personal pet peeve in regards to this discussion.  It is when the bass weighed in aren’t returned to body of water they were caught.  You will see this happen a lot when weigh-ins aren’t held at the body of water for some type of advertising or promotional event.  There is also the rare case where a tournament angler makes an extremely long run to fish. 
This happened a couple of years ago when the BASS Elite Series was on the Sabine River.  Pro Mike McClelland ran down the Sabine River to the Inter-coastal Waterway.  He took the Inter-coastal to Galveston Bay and then ran up into Clear Creek Bayou to fish.  This took him a 2 hour boat ride in both directions, but the tactic served him well as he finished 2nd in the tournament.  However all the bass he caught out of Clear Creek Bayou were released into the Sabine River.  Why should I care that this happened? The reason I care is Clear Creek Bayou is one of the systems we fish in the Bayou Bassin’ League.  Now 15 prime bass, likely prime spawners have been removed and transplanted into another body of water.  That just doesn’t set well with me, sorry!

Along the same lines of Fishing Etiquette is posting fishing reports on social media.  I do it a lot as I like to help other folks catch more and bigger fish.  This doesn’t set well with some folks and I’ve recently been attacked on social media for trying to give other folks help.  These people do not want you disclosing any fishing locations or methods as they think they own bodies of water or certain spots on a lake, river or stream.  I have news for those type of people, no one owns any public waters and if someone wants to disclose the location and method they used to catch fish, then more power to them.  There was a time when fellow fishermen helped each other.  Locals provided fishing reports to the newspapers and everyone was friendly on the water.  It is really sad where we have come to in this aspect.

Something else in the realm of etiquette is another trend that seems to be growing and that is cheating in tournaments.  Maybe it isn’t a growing trend and it is more folks are being caught or more reporting of these incidents is more widely spread.  Either way I just don’t understand what drives someone to cheat.  I guess I don’t understand tournament cheaters just like I don’t understand thieves and liars.  I compete in tournaments to see how I fair against other anglers.  Sure it is great to win and get the trophies and prizes but what are they really worth if you have to cheat to get them?  To me they would just be meaningless if I didn’t earn them myself.  I just hope that karma in some way takes care of anyone that cheats and doesn’t get caught.

One more etiquette related subject that seems to be more prevalent or more widely noticed these days is “Smack Talking”.  It might be more widely noticed because everyone so interconnected on social media. There was always some smack talk that happened in groups of friends, clubs and even bigger tournament series.  However it happened in the background and was more in fun than anything else, but in these days you see it happening on social media for all the world to see. I think anyone that fishes tournaments is guilty of a little smack talk from time to time, I know I am but I’m not so sure posting it on social media is a good thing.  For the most part I know it really is no harm meant, but it has led to some heated encounters on the water over the years.  It may also give fans of some fishermen the wrong impression of them as well, especially if that fisherman is doing it on social media. I don’t think it will ever stop, heck I don’t know that I can stop, but I will try very hard not to post any smack talk on social media.

One of the other things I am very pleased to see is the numbers of people now getting involved with tournament fishing.  Heck the level of competition today is 10 times what it was back when I started out.  Even at the local Bass Club level there are a lot of very good fishermen.  Now with High Schools and Colleges having Bass Teams competing, the level of competition is getting higher with each day.  Heck I wish there were Bass Fishing Teams when I was growing up! I tell you no matter the tournament, location or level you are fishing you will be competing against some great fishermen. 

Well there you have it folks, some of my thoughts, opinions and plain ramblings from my many years of tournament fishing.  In closing I hope this has given each of you some food for thought. I also want to wish each of you much luck in your tournament fishing.

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!!
You can follow me on:
Twitter - @BHOAdventures 
FaceBook - Derek Herring Fishing 
National Pro Staff - Derek Herring Fishing

Also check out the great folks that help make my fishing adventures possible and the tackle I use and trust. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

So You Want to be a Pro Staffer

Fishermen today live in a world surrounded with Social Media.  This has made it very easy for fisherman to show off their catch, communicate with other fishermen and provide helpful information to other fishermen.  However the most important thing Social Media has provided is a much better chance to get noticed by companies that want people to promote their products.  If you are looking to get added onto a company’s Pro Staff the first thing that folks need to understand is these companies are looking for Promotional (Pro) Staff and not Professional Fishermen.  Professional Fishermen make their living fishing, where Promotional Staff have normal 40 hour a week jobs or go to school, but on the side they promote the fishing products they use.  In most cases Pro Staffers do not get paid to promote products, but they do receive discounts and in some cases free products to test and promote.  A good Promotional Staff program is very important to these companies as it is a great method of advertising their products.  It is also a great opportunity for fishermen that want to start getting involved in the fishing industry while getting some discounts on the tackle they use to fish.  Also those really good Pro Staffers that promote products very well and also do very well in tournament fishing stand a chance to move up to the next level.
So how does someone go about getting selected to a company’s Pro Staff?  Getting noticed is the biggest hurdle for a fisherman looking to get selected by a company.  There are many ways to get noticed and in today’s world of Social Media it has become much easier.  Now I’m not telling you that you can get a Facebook Page, Twitter Account or a National Pro Staff Account and you will selected for a Pro Staff.  No I’m telling you that the tools are there for you to use, if you use them right.  Remember you are posting to get noticed not only by companies, but other fishermen.  If other fishermen aren’t following you and liking your posts chances are neither are tackle companies. There are two ways to be noticed, in a good manner and in a bad manner.  To get noticed in a good manner is the goal so here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will help in your Social Media Posts:
 1 – Always have a very good profile with a very good picture of yourself, with a good fish you caught if possible.  Make sure you put a lot of information in your profile about your fishing and your goals for fishing in the future.  Make sure to list any fishing accomplishment you have.
2 – Post good pictures of yourself and your catch whenever and as much as possible.
3 – Post good pictures of the baits you use and how you use them.  The same goes for your rods and reels.  Always explain why you use or like your tackle.
4 – Make sure to always give details of your catch.  Make sure to include what bait, rod, reel and line that were used to make the catch.  It is also helpful for you to talk about the method you used to catch your fish.

5 – Always reply to comments on your posts and try to answer any questions that are asked.  Even if the comment doesn’t set well with you take the higher ground in your reply.
6 - You need to be proactive and research the company and products you plan on promoting.  Be knowledgeable so you can make the best post possible and also be able to answer any questions that may be asked about the company and their products.  You want people to believe you know what you are talking about and not give them any information that turns out to be wrong.  Giving wrong or bad information looks bad for both you and the company you are promoting.
7 – Post helpful tips as much as possible.  A lot of folks are out there that like the help very much.
8 – Post questions that will draw a lot of answers from folks.  Reply to everyone that answers you.

9 – Follow back most of the people that follow you.  The reason I say most is there will always be some folks that follow you, that for some reason give you a bad feeling or have something offensive in their profile.
1 – Posting pictures of bleeding bass is never taken well by all folks.  I know that we all deep hook a fish from time to time, but be sure to wash off the blood before taking a picture. 
2 – I’m not against anyone keeping a few bass from time to time for the dinner table, but there are a lot of folks out there that are totally against bass being kept for any reason.  Posting pictures of a cleaning table or cooler with a bunch of dead bass is not going to go over well.  Take your picture before the bass are dead.
3 – Begging for likes or follows is a real turnoff for a lot of folks.  If your posts are good they will get likes on their own and people will start to follow you.  Keep working at making your posts better until they are getting likes.
4 – Posts that have anything that could be considered offensive are a No, No!  Remember you are trying to get the attention of as many people as you can.
5 – Never get into an argument on a post thread.  It is better not to comment at all if you cannot make some type of positive comment.
Now that you see the types of things you should or shouldn’t post let’s talk about making contact with companies.  There are a lot of different ways to make contact with companies.  You can Email them or Direct Message them but when you do make sure to include links to all your Social Media accounts.  However the best way these days to contact companies that are looking for Promotional Staff is through National Pro Staff. 
National Pro Staff or NPS is pretty new to Social Media, but it has taken some giant leaps in a short time.  Not only are there every day fishermen on NPS but also there are some Professional Fishermen, Promotional Staff Fishermen and most importantly there are many companies from the Fishing Industry that are on NPS.  Companies looking for Promotional Staff even make “Calls” on there so people can apply.  Applying to a company making a call for Pro Staff is not free, it will cost you $20.00.  That means you have to have your NPS Profile and Resume up to date with as much information about you as possible.  Make sure that both your Profile and Resume are appealing and only include truthful information.
You are Selected……Now What:
Each of the companies is somewhat different with their Pro Staff programs.  However for the most part there will be a contract or agreement you will have to sign.  Make sure that you read over these contracts or agreements very good.  Don’t enter into a contract or agreement that you know you cannot fulfill as it doesn’t help you or the company.  In fact if you don’t fulfill your part of a contract or agreement that could put a black mark against you and limit your chance for being selected to other Pro Staffs.
Don’t Be a Patch Pirate!
Being a “Patch Pirate” means you are just looking to add “Patches” or “Logos” to your shirt and you don’t use the products or promote for the companies.  If you know you are not going to actually use or promote a company’s products then don’t apply to be on their Pro Staff.  Only apply to companies you personally believe have great products that you actually use.  By doing this it makes promoting those products very easy.  If you are using them in your every day fishing, then getting pictures and making Social Media posts about them is so much easier and believable!  The other thing is you don't want to get on the staff of more companies that you can effectively promote.  If you are spread too thin then it doesn't benefit you or the company.
There is so much more that I know I’m not covering.  However anyone that has a question that I’ve not answered here can comment on this article, send me an email or direct message me on any of my Social Media accounts.  I really hope that this has been helpful to many of you, and you have a better understanding of this process.
Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!!
You can follow me on:
Twitter - @BHOAdventures 
FaceBook - Derek Herring Fishing 
National Pro Staff - Derek Herring Fishing
YouTube - Derek Herring Fishing 
Blog - Derek Herring Fishing 

Also check out the great folks that help make my fishing adventures possible and the tackle I use and trust. 
Ardent Outdoors
Bandit Lures 
Santone Lures
Creme Lures 
Dunamis Rods
Liquid Mayhem Fish Attractants
Lazyman Hooks
K-9 Fishing Products
New Pro Products
Thrasher Sports Apparel
Stealth Rod Holders