The Buzz: Professionals and co-anglers

ESPNOUTDOORS.COM HQ — From time to time, ESPNOutdoors.com editors traverse various message boards and Web sites other than our own to see what's being said about professional fishing or hunting, and occasionally we stumble upon a heated discussion we think is worthy of putting some more eyeballs on.

In this edition of The Buzz, we focus on the current war of words regarding the pros of the bass fishing world, and the men who pay to fish alongside them, the co-anglers.
We join this discussion in progress, from the pages of the Bass Fishing Home Page.


from ButchT

5/28/2008 6:29:10 PM
Interesting column on probassanglers by Keith
Nighswonger, sort of
stirring a pot that has been gradually heating up in recent weeks.

son got burned pretty bad at the BASS Open on Santee Cooper a couple of
weeks ago by his first day co-angler. He didn't let it go either as he
made a public statement on stage at the second day weigh-in regarding
the issue. Apparently word got back to Trip Weldon and he made it an
issue at the Elite meeting on Lake Murray.

As co-anglers we
need to realize the guys in the upper level tournaments are there as
professionals. Most of them make, or are attempting to make, their
living and support their families by tournament fishing. I have yet
fished an Elite tournament with the intention of going out and trying
to "beat" or "out fish" my partner. It's not that I don't want to catch
fish, but I don't want to catch the fish he's fishing for. My emphasis
is on catching fish that he isn't going to catch anyway, if you know
what I mean. That way if I do have more weight than him, there really
isn't much to argue. Besides, I'm not skilled enough to catch the fish
he's fishing for.

I'm not sure there are any real answers
other than mutual respect and common sense. The suggestion you pay $400
and be an observer and bank on a roll of the dice won't fly with me. I
have no interest in simply saying I got to pay $400 to sit on my butt
in the back of the boat with an Elite or FLW angler. While I do admire
some of them, I certainly don't idolize any of them. Maybe there are
enough folks out there that would do this, but not me.

Anyhow, an interesting topic for debate and one that is getting more
and more attention.

Good read Keith, thanks.

from john247 #10474 5/28/2008 6:58:38 PM
This debate will be going on forever..Everyone has their
opinion...When co-angler fees were in the $300-$400. range it wasn't
that big a deal getting back-seated all day, which happens about 50%+
of the time..Now that co-angler fees are around $900. or more,
co-anglers want to cut a ck.
have their own tournament and want to catch fish. Yea I know, if you
want to catch fish, fish from the front of the boat.Most of the
co-anglers can't afford to fish as pros.Co-anglers who are women,
people of color or know someone get team rides, not on how they
fish....The guys who were fishing as co-anglers for the fun of it can't
afford it now. Add motels, food/drinks, fuel to and from, and if you
take a boat, a co-angler is looking at spending around $1500.-$2000. or
more per tournament....I've fished with many top pros over the past
10yrs or so and most don't leave anything. Most pros take it hard if
the co-angler beats them. It's an ego thing as they get a ribbing from
the other pros..A co won't catch but one good fish with a pro that
knows what he is doing.......I think a shared weight format of some
sort would work, or just pay observers......Trouble with that is that
the FLW and BASS want to make money off the co-anglers......Big
tournaments are on the downhill slide..I think there will be big
changes in the number of T's next yr....Boat sales are way down and it
won't be long before some sponsors start dropping out.....

from JR #11020 5/28/2008
7:39:51 PM
John247 hit it on the head I think. Most Pro Ams tilt
everything to
the Pro Side, i.e., taking Am money to build the Pro Side pot. Which is
the way it should be. Without the Am money to sweeten things, I think
the Pro Side payouts would diminish. I haven't looked into this in
detail, but I bet Keith might. Obviously if BASS or FLW could get away
with just saying you can have a free ride with a pro for a day as an
observer, they would have done that a long time ago. Any weekend Joe
fisherman would jump at the chance to ride with KVD or Alton for a day
for free.

from Bucktooth #10519 5/28/2008
7:48:25 PM
Its just that when it comes to the Elite tour,alot of "pros"
have to
put up alot of cash to fish this tour and this in turn put's alot of
them under pressure more than ever to make some cash back.This means
the co anglers will be looked upon as the enemy should they start
catching fish.
There's alot of "pro's"who just shouldn't be fishing the Elites if they
can't handle the co-angler catching fish.

from Beartrap
5/28/2008 7:56:07 PM
at the upper level of tourny fishing is to put an observer
back there
and if they don't have enough observers,stick either a web cam or
recording camera back there....at the elite or FLW level the outcome
should not be affected by fish that a co-angler might catch or show the
pro how to catch.......

don't mind used water
from Pactac
#12487 5/28/2008 7:56:26 PM
All I ask is don't screw me over. Give me a shot at the
leftovers. I
don't exspect first shot at anything but I do exspect to be treated
fairly. I know it doesn't take anywhere near what the front of the boat
has to catch in order to cash a check.

the pro does things like refusing to let you use his golden rule, puts
you in a position where it is impossible to cast or tries to knock your
fish off with the net I say game on. I'd do my best to outfish him.

the flip side if the pro treats me with respect I'm happy for him even
if he catches every fish in the area just as long as I have an outside
chance of catching a straggler.

from 5keepers #10346
5/28/2008 8:49:38 PM
Are you in position to tell us how your son got burned by Co
at the Santee BASS Open?
Also what Trip's comments were?
I am puzzled about what could have happen.
Your time in helping us understand is appreciated.

was wondering
from Brett
M 5/28/2008
8:55:41 PM
how long it would take for this get on the board. I was
reluctant to
start the thread for obvious reasons. I fish the pro side of the Opens
and recently fished the back of an Elite Tx. My hats off to my
"FRIENDS" in the back of the boat. I definitely see the pros side of
the issue but with the large entry for the co side, Even if they went
to 400, how can you not expect someone to want to catch fish. As stated
in the column, the large entry fee is attracting "good" fisherman that
can catch them. What else could someone expect?? A good fisherman in
the boat puts the pro on the defensive from stop one. I personally
cannot get in a boat, and just sit and watch, which is what "Most"
Elite pros want you to do. For this reason and others I won't fish the
back deck anymore. I, like Butch, respect their accomplishement of
being in the top league, but I don't Idolize them. My trip in the back
was a learning experience- not fishing so much as witnessing the Elite
day from the inside. I personally think that if you have reached that
level and can bankroll the year you should be able to bankroll an
observer also. If the Elites want the back of the boat "rodless" it can
be done, with BASS' blessing of course. After fishing the back, its my
opinion that a co angler, catching fish or not, alters the course of
the pros actions and the event. A suggested solution, would be to put
local and regional press in the back-- and pay them! This sounds funny
to some but if you understand the REAL structure of the Elites, its set
up to promote sponsors. Its NOT set up to make your living from
winnings. BASS, The Anglers and the press are all happy. BASS and the
Pros get to "pro" mote their sponsors and the press get paid time on
the lake and a story to boot.

Can't wait to see where this thread leads-- I'll be watching

from Brett
M 5/28/2008
9:17:17 PM
I think you are asking what Trip had to say at the meeting at
regarding agressive co's. What Trip had to say refered to an incident
on Clarks Hill involving a well known pro and his co. It went like this
or close to this-- CO's- If you are here to try to beat the pro, you
will be disappointed. it was brought to my attention that a co angler,
while the pro was culling in the live well threw across the bow and
caught a 4 lb fish. This alters the event. Don't do this or you could
be disqualified. You are fishing used water and just because the pro is
culling doesn't mean the lake is open ------ This didn't set well with
some co's, not so bad with others. Room was left to read alot between
the lines.

I hope this is an acurate account of what Trip wanted to get across,
it's not my intent to convey anything different.

the now discontinued
from hvacstar
5/28/2008 9:23:29 PM
open tourneys, the top 50 + fished with an observer instead
of a coangler.

am not embarassed to say that last year i paid $300.00 for the
opportunity to attend the angler meeting and riding with (not fishing
with) for 2 days with with 2 different guys who are good enough to be
there. if i had been fishing, i wouldn't have learned the things that i
did. (Russ Lane/football jig), (Bill Lowen/shallow water). i have to
say that i was glad not to be in competition (or any semblance of it)
with these guys. when two locals fished into Russ's area, he was very
polite and conversed briefly with them, but when they were past, he
said " i wonder how he would like it if i came to his office and
pounded on his desk while he was working?") the 1st thing Bill did
after we got together and left his motel was to get gas for the boat.
right away i realized that these guys were first and foremost
businesmen. they are under pressure to make money! if they don't make
the cut and or better they are out of business.i don't want to try and
makes a case for no co's, because i really don't care, but i do
understand why the pro would rather be the only one fishing out of his

also for the $300 fee i had a 50 to 1 chance to win a free boat and

one is seeing the big picture here
from JR
#11020 5/28/2008 9:33:37 PM
the Co entry fees are financing a big part of the pro
payback. If BASS
or FLW could just stick someone in the back of the boat and "pay them"
if need be they would. Tournament fishing at any level is a live by the
bottom line business. Money is money. A camera in the back boat would
be broke in minutes, either by accident or intentionally (a 3/4 ounce
jig could probably do it in one flip). If BASS or FLW could have
unbiased, sitting on their butt observers in the boat, they would. And
even then, their would be the "incentive" factor to consider which I am
sure goes on now with co's. There is no absolute answer. Until their
are numerous "monitoring" boats out on the water undetected, and
"observers" who are actual "undercover" cops, tournament fishing will
always be suspect regardless of the level. My grandpa always said, if
there is money to be had, there will be cheaters out there.

from Brett M
5/28/2008 10:05:27 PM
Can't aggree in this issue. Co- angler money does not add to
the pros purse-- simply do the math and you will see.

local chamber of comerce is sold an event based on the ammount of
participants and there economic impact-- less participants, less
impact, less money from the chamber.

I also cannot agree
that these guys need that much supervision. They have too much to loose
by getting caught in the wrong situation. The pros are self policing.

FLW, co-angler is not funding the pro side

from Tim Johnson
5/28/2008 10:30:01 PM
Look at the Tellico tournament coming up. Co-angler entry fee
is $700
times 200 co-anglers is $140,000. in entry fees from co-angler.

Add up the co-angler payback from the tournament and the total payback,
not including big bass, is $143,000.

look at the Detroit River tournament, which is an "open" and pays more
places. Entry fee is $800 times 200 anglers is $160,000.

Add up the co-angler payback, again not including big bass, the total
co-angler payback is $178,000.

speak for B.A.S.S., but on the FLW tour, the co-angler is fishing for
their own money, not adding to the payback on the pro side.

the FLW, with the points race being on the pro and co side, it does
make for a competitive environment for the co-angler. They are fishing
for the same "objective", which is achieve points and make a
championship. Some take that a LOT more serious than others, which in
itself isn't objectionable. What some of them do to achieve that
objective is cause for frustration some days. In fairness, though, how
some of the pros achieve that objection is also cause for frustration
to some co-anglers too.

But remember, just because the pro is
"fishing with the trolling motor on 100 all day" or "fishing every post
on the dock and saturating water", or any other excuse you want to put
there, doesn't mean it is being done to keep the co-angler from
catching fish. It's done for a purpose, and that is to fish the way the
angler needs to fish to do what he/she needs to do. It does make for a
long day for a co-angler, but the Pro is there to perform their job,
and if they did something different to make it "easier" for their
co-angler, then they have compromised their performance.

from RandyB #10478 5/28/2008 10:39:58 PM
I think the public largely believes that the co-anglers are
fishing a co-angler tournament. I never heard that some pro's would ask
a co-angler to not fish at all - to just sit in the back.

If your pro says you must just sit, then you don't have a 1:50 chance
to win a boat - your chance is zero.

thought the general rule was that the co-angler should cast to the rear
of the boat and up to the center of the side of the boat (or something
like that).

On the tv shows I see, the co-angler always seems to have their lure in
the water when the camera is rolling.

I think the camera idea could work, there could be maybe 3 cameras
(different angles). If the pro destroyed a camera, they could look at
the footage to see if it was intentional. That's a dq.

answer to the problem
from Procraftmrk
#10999 5/29/2008 6:30:02 AM
The only way I see to eliminate these problems is to go to a
team event with both fisherman working together to catch just one 5
fish limit. The weight would count as the pro-co weight for that days
fishing. I think you would see more pros treat their cos differently.
The co would still be at the mercy of the draw. I think still having
the draw for new partner each day would be good enough to keep the
cheating issue out of it.

people working together to catch 5 fish will have more respect for each
other. They would have caught more fish durring the day using team
concept. There are times when the co notices the way a fish wants a
bait that he could key his pro in on what to do.

When I am
fun fishing,whoever is with me,we work together as a team trying to
figure out the best way to catch the fish that day. I learn more about
fishing by going and fishing with someone catching fish verses watching
instructor on TV.

I think it would be cool to be on stage
with VanDam toting half the fish to the scales. Let Kevin weigh in the
first 3or 4 fish and let the co throw the kicker fish on the scales.
That way both anglers would be recognized for their team catch.

solved the pro-co problem for everybody, anybody out there reading this
!!!!!! I can't wait to go fishing again today caught 10 bass yesterday
before rain set in swiming a senko on top of the water. They would not
bite it any other way!!!!

could up the entry fees on the pro side
from Bender, MS Gulf Coast
5/29/2008 7:48:13 AM
And have a team. For instance, each pro provides a "caddy."
This caddy
would not do anything but organize tackle for the pro, net fish and
observe. The extra fee of around $100.00 bucks would require no payout
so would probably be straigt to the bottom line for the organizers. The
"caddy/observer" would be drawn at random and travel with the pro.

don't get it
from MikeF
5/29/2008 8:23:52 AM
Why would anyone want to pay $400 plus expenses and then give
the pro
gas money to be treated like crap. I'm surprised they don't make you
guys wear uniforms, fetch drinks and clean the boat. I can hear it now:
hey, co- you missed a spot and my drink's not cold enough.

reason some of these Pro's treat you like this is because they can.
They don't want you in their boat bothering their fish and getting in
their way so don't go.

As long as there's a steady stream of
people who willing pay to be treated like this nothing is going to
change. All it would take is one T without enough co-'s to fill the
field to get the point across.

People can only treat you like
crap if you're willing to put up with it. The best way to deal with
this situation is to not play the game. That would get their attention
a lot faster than making a speach or causing a scene.

co-anglers should go!
from Wackoman
5/29/2008 8:25:06 AM

is a change that is way over due. No way should an uncouth co-angler
affect the performance of the pros at the Elite or FLW Tour levels and
in turn clearly be affecting the outcome of an event.

don't need any observers either. None of the top level guys got to
where they are by cheating. They will not start to cheat just because
they are in the boat alone. It is a huge myth and misconception that a
co-angler or observer is needed to maintain the integrity of an event.
I believe as a whole, that professional fishermen are great sportsmen
and men of integrity. They will police themselves much like
professional golfers do. As a matter of fact, they have many times in
the past called penalties on themselves.

Sure you are going
to have a few, even at the top levels that would do wrong to win or
cash a check but those kind rarely catch anything anyway and when they
do hook them to the polygraph machine. First one caught lying is banned
for life. He/she, like others caught cheating would be blackballed from
all tournaments at any level. I can't believe any of the pros would
risk that. But even if they did, all cheaters get caught sooner or
later. Folks that worry of such things are wasting their time. If you
don't believe what I say will work then just make a rule that 5% of the
field will be randomly picked for a polygraph at every event. How long
could it take to polygraph five or six guys? It would be a waste of
time in my opinion but if it would make the guys putting their money
down more comfortable then do it.

Sorry guys but the team
format will never fly. You would have to make it another whole league
which the sport cannot stand right now. They (the pros) are looking for
ways to minimize the impact a co-angler has on the event and a team
format is where the guy in the back counts most. Not to mention that
KVD ain't signing up for a crap shoot like that. Without him and his
ilk you have no sponsors and therefore no event.

There will
always be a few co-anglers that do not understand their place in these
events. They are the same part of the general population that believes
everyone else is to blame for their troubles. They will never be
satisfied with used water because in their mind they deserve better.
Just tell them they are not needed and the problem is solved.

have fished as a co-angler quite a bit. I would never cast in front of
my boater and if he is retying or just having a cracker I am fishing
away from the area he is or plans to target. Even if we are going down
a narrow creek or cut I will ask if I can cast to the opposite bank in
case he plans to come back down it later. I have been told no before
and was satisfied with that answer. If being told no was upsetting to
me then I should have put my money up and towed the wackytoon. Which I
do sometimes.

All that being said, make no mistake that
some of the pros are azzholes and are going to whine if the co-angler
lands a single fish regardless of how or where it was hooked. Just
another reason for the cry baby to be fishing by his self. No one to
blame his failures on.

Wackoman is an excellent co-angler!

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