Outdoors Column

Competition brings out the best and worse

By Bill Howard | Mar 18, 2014
Photo by: File Bill Howard

Competition can bring out the best or worst in someone, even those that are not competing.
I was following a kayak bass fishing tournament at Santee Cooper, South Carolina this last weekend. I thought about trying it myself this year but other engagements kept me from making the trip and entering my first bass fishing tournament.  Regardless, I was still interested in the outcome as I have become acquainted with several of the anglers participating.
Drew Haerer, who I have interviewed and used as a source for several stories, was one of those participants. I have never met Drew face to face, but I would say he is a friend simply from our interactions with each other. Drew had a really good first day placing fifth out of nearly 150 other competitors, all fishing from a kayak.
This was the second year for the KBF (Kayak Bass Fishing) Open, and Drew’s second year participating. Last year Drew placed in the top 15 even though it was water he was not familiar with.
After the first day, while browsing Facebook posts from people in the tournament, one post caught my attention. It basically belittled anyone competing. “If I had to compete to fish, I would just quit. I fish for fun.”
I thought it was a little over the top. Personally, I have never competed in sports such as fishing or shooting until recently. I tried out for the television show ‘Top Shot’ on History Channel and made it through several cuts based on my passion for the outdoors and my abilities. One of the things that probably kept me from the last stage was the lack of hardware from testing my skills against others. I was not upset about it; I just took it for what it was. I hunted and my skills were used for hunting, that was all.
Now, especially over the last six months, I have challenged myself to improve skills such as archery. I have learned plenty, and it is all due to competition. It pushes me forward and keeps me focused. I am sure it will help come hunting season even though there are some differences in both equipment and skill sets.
But what about this fishing tournament? Why would someone feel that way as to call out someone for competing? I tried putting myself on that side of the argument. I thought about how I would debate competition destroys the sport or how it can defile an otherwise pristine experience. In high school we would occasionally have to argue a point opposite of the way we felt in order to help us empathize with another’s view. But even with the arguments I could make, they just felt weak at best. Merely talking points in order to express a view, they just did not make a strong case.
There are ugly sides to any sport. You can find cheating in tournaments such as this. You can find people who are in it in order to gain sponsors and money only. But these are the exceptions. If someone were to cheat and ‘pre’catch fish saving them for the weigh-in (or in the case of kayak fishing tournaments, measuring boards, as the fish are by the inch rather than by the ounce), does it defile the sport any more than the weekender who tells everyone of the 8-pounder that was really 4 pounds, or the fish caught out of the farm pond that he trespassed to fish on?
The majority of competitions, and competitors, whether kayak angling or target shooting, actually do everything they can for the sports, the promotion of the sports, and the continuance of the sports. They believe the sport in bigger than themselves, and it is. They may wear a jersey with several logos emblazoned across them, but they, the majority, do it for companies that have the same beliefs and passion for the sport as well. The competitions are just another way to enjoy something they have always enjoyed. They would be just as happy with a cane pole, a cup of earthworms, and a fighting bream, it is just a lot tougher to get all those people sharing the same pond and enjoy it together.
Honestly, if you look into the depths of the sport, you are really competing against whatever is on the other side of the line whether in a tournament or sitting on the shoreline anyway.
And as of Drew’s fate, he finished third overall after the second day measure.

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