Saturday, October 9, 2010

American Bass Anglers

Bass boats at dawn
We stayed at Tennessee's Paris Landing State Park for three nights. Wednesday morning, around 5 AM, we were awakened by the sound of men talking softly, right outside our boat.  We threw on sweatshirts against the chill, clambered out, and discovered that the marina docks were swarming with bass boats, each one manned by a couple of anglers in insulated coveralls.  We had docked in the middle of the kick-off for the American Bass Anglers 2010 American Fishing Tour Championship.

The park has numerous signs that say "alcohol prohibited."
The event tent was sponsored by Busch.
Even if you're not a fisherman yourself, you have likely heard of the BassMasters Tournament.  This was not it.   

The nationwide organization American Bass Anglers puts on tournaments for AMATEUR anglers, rather than the professionals you see in BassMasters. The competitors are "weekend anglers" who have day jobs, not TV-star pros. 

But the event had many of the trappings of a professional competition.  For the right to be here, the 200 competitors--who drove in from all over the country--had previously competed in a whole series of regional "division" tournaments.  And though there's no cool half-a-million in prize money (as with BassMasters), the winner would take home a fully rigged Triton 21XS bass boat with a 200HP Mercury Optimax ProXS outboard ($53,000 value).

American Bass Anglers was organized in 1975, originally to offer recreational  activities for those serving in the military.  Though the organization's mission has expanded, the tournament's sunrise opening ceremony was a nod to its military heritage.
Like all American sporting events, this one started with the Pledge of Allegiance and
the singing of the national anthem.
To feel like you were there with us, click this link and listen to the stirring phrases of Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be an American" (popularized soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11).  

This music was playing over a loudspeaker as morning mist hovered low over the silvery lake, lit by rosy dawn, and a parade of boats made slow and stately passage across the harbor, bearing the American flag, the flag of Tennessee, and other banners.  These were delivered, with ceremony, to the dock, then marched to a display stand in front of the event tent.

The anglers, two to a boat, had been divided into three groups ("Red," "White," and "Blue"). Motoring at just above idle speed, the boats made their way, single file, past the officials' dockside stand, to the mouth of the harbor. Then, just as each boat passed the white and orange buoys that signaled the end of the no-wake zone, the driver would goose the throttle and the big Mercury engine would roar into action.
Helmets are a good idea when bass-fishing
Bass boats are designed to go fast--to get you out there on the lake, to the best fishing hole, so you can get down to the work of fishing.   Speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour are typical.  A Triton equipped with a 300 HP engine can go 100 miles per hour.  
Air temperature: 50 degrees F.  Wind speed: 70 mph.  Face mask? Also a good idea
Here's how an article in Popular Mechanics describes that ride:

"The acceleration . . . pushes you straight back into your tight bucket seat. At 60, your hat blows off. At 70, your eyes start to tear, even though you're wearing sunglasses. At 80, the hull is out of the water and you're riding the prop.  At 90, you're going faster than you have ever gone before on the water, your cheeks pasted back in an insane grin."

Maybe you are wondering, how much gas does a bass boat burn?  It varies, but wide-open throttle, those big engines may get about 3 miles per gallon.  

According to EPSN, "no sport has been more brutalized by high gas prices than tournament bass fishing. . . . If you make a long, pedal-to-the-metal run, you can easily spend $150 or more on gas in a day's fishing."   

And how many people are burning that much fuel for a day's fun?  Well, fishing is the 4th most popular sport in the nation . . .  and bass fishing is THE most popular form of fishing--a 70-billion-dollar segment of the U.S. economy.

So, food for thought.  Here's a sport that gives pleasure to millions of Americans.  To enjoy it, you burn  large quantities of fossil fuels . . .  but it's also big business, fueling the economy.  

How do you make a bass boat go fast . . . in a sustainable way?  The person who figures THAT out will find a large market for their product.


  1. The Evirude E-Tec Outboard is a good starting point. We're contemplating buying one for our pontoon boat.

  2. I have to beg to differ on Lee Greenwood-"Proud to Be An American" is so old that it was a staple of my late 80's/early 90's chorus concerts. The true middle America post-9/11 anthem is "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue" by Toby Keith. It's ...breathtaking in a number of ways.


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