For many anglers, fishing is reward enough – Delmarva Daily Times

Although the last fishing day of the White Marlin Open came and went over four months ago, anyone who has been following the saga of the event knows that all the winners have yet to be officially declared.

Actually the winners where kinda-sorta announced — or at least “assumed” when the last fish was weighed on that last day, but after members of the top winning team turned in an altered catch-card and red flags popped up during their polygraph tests, enough suspicion was raised that tournament officials decided it might just be best to let a court make the final call. So even though there’s no dispute over who caught the biggest fish, the tournament will technically not quite be “over” for a while.

Fears of cheating and other unethical practices stalled the concept of monetary prizes for years, but gradually more and more tournaments started providing cash payouts for wins, and as fishermen began to realize that a tournament victory could not only land their faces on the cover of local newspapers, but also put money in their bank accounts, they had more incentive and justification than ever to enter the events. With some tournaments offering competitors who catch the right fish on the right day millions of dollars in cold hard cash, “money” rather than “trophy” tournaments are the certainly the rage these days.

The result of all this is that successful big money tournaments these days do so much more than just pat someone on the back for catching a big fish. Tournaments are major summertime events that create jobs, excitement, publicity, entertainment, and pump vast amounts of money into seaside economies. Big tournaments are big business spurred on by a lot of fishermen who just love to be a part of the show.

But not all of us. After decades of both fishing and running tournaments, I for one eventually came to the realization that “I no longer have any interest in competing in fishing tournaments.”

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with tournaments or those who enjoy them. They just aren’t for me. I like to fish because I enjoy the process of fishing; the boats, the scenery, the challenges involved with getting a bait or lure in front of a fish and tempting it to bite, and helping others to catch a fish of their own.

All that is reward enough for me, and along the way if I cross paths with other fishermen I want to be able to honestly wish them “good luck” without secretly hoping they won’t catch more or bigger fish than I do. The sport of fishing has given me a satisfying livelihood, a lifetime of incredible experiences, and a lot of fine meals for my table. I’m just not quite sure how, why, or where competition with other fishermen fits into that picture.

Of course, diversity is one of the greatest things about fishing. As fishermen we all have our likes and dislikes, some prefer fishing from the beach more than from a boat, others like freshwater better than saltwater, and some really like tournament fishing while some don’t. But over the years tournament fishing has morphed into something that’s so much different from what a lot of us remember from  “back in the day,” so no one should feel ashamed, un-American, or like they’re letting the fishing community down if they’ve lost their enthusiasm for it. It’s OK to conclude and even admit that it’s no longer your cup of tea.

Sooner or later all the confusion over the last White Marlin Open will be sorted out, the rest of the prize money will be distributed to those deemed to be the rightful winners, and thousands of avid tournament fishermen will forget about the 2016 controversy and begin making plans to enjoy a fun event next summer. And on that first morning when hundreds of boats are streaming out of the inlet in quest of fame and fortune, there will be at least a few of us who will watch them go by and “honestly” be able to wish them “good luck!”

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