Baseball – from the earliest days of the sport to today there have been many advancements. The balls are better, the bats more robust, the gloves and other equipment have been upgraded many, many times. But one thing has remained constant – they still throw a ball and an opponent tries to hit it. The work, the skill, the effort, the desire, and the drive required to produce results at a championship level remain the same.
Football – tons of advances in equipment, workout regimen, dietary regimen, and strategies. But one thing remains the same – advance the ball beyond the opponent’s goal line by throwing and catching or running with the ball. The work, the skill, the effort, the desire, and the drive required to produce results at a championship level remain the same.
Golf – From hickory sticks to metallurgical wonders of alloy, golf equipment has evolved tremendously over the decades. But the game has remained constant - completion of a series of designated holes by striking a ball in such an incredibly accurate manner that one is able to complete the series of holes in fewer strokes than the opponents. The work, the skill, the effort, the desire, and the drive required to produce results at a championship level remain the same.
Basketball – by now you get the picture. The work, the skill, the effort, the desire, and the drive required to produce results at a championship level remain the same.
Every sport started out as a friendly method of competition. It was for bragging rights mostly. It was just to see who could master the skills required to perform better than others. And, over time, every sport evolved from that out-in-the-street backyard mentality to a tier of competitions led by those that were the very best at their sport.
It is notable that in every professional sport there has been a limit to the changes allowed by the groups of leaders that oversee the integrity of their sport. These are the people that founded and perfected the professional level of every competitive sport. The common thread among them is a deep and abiding love for, and belief in, their chosen sport.
These are the men and women who loved and cherished their sport above their own personal gain and wanted to be certain that the integrity, the heart, the very foundation, of their sport remained unchanged. They wanted to ensure that performing professionally in any sport became defined by the work ethic, skill, sacrifice, and desire that it takes to get there and stay there.
This is true in fishing as well because not every change in equipment, technique, or method is a good thing for the truth and integrity of the sport.
Fishing is as old as humankind itself. It is man versus fish. Pretty simple really – catch a fish, eat a fish. Then someone challenged someone else with the idea of catching more or bigger fish than the other person. From this very first competition, the idea and concept of organized competition took root and grew.
Methods and techniques and equipment changes flourished. Mason jar tournaments evolved for weekend fun and some of these anglers began to become known for their prowess and expertise in finding and catching fish. They used their knowledge from years of study and hundreds upon hundreds of hours on the water learning about the life and times of their prey. Again and again they were the victors in these competitions and it was due to their skill, intelligence, work ethic, and love of the “pureness” of their sport.
Many different fishing organizations have evolved from that first contest eons ago. All these organizations have at their very core an inviolate principle of sportsmanship. They deny their competitors the use of equipment or technique that gives an unfair advantage to the competitor. It doesn’t matter if that equipment or technique is available to everyone. It becomes a matter of principle, of sportsmanship, and of honesty in competition. Utilizing a means that detracts from the skill level, work, effort, and drive required to compete at a championship level is simply not allowed in any other sport nor should it be allowed in competitive angling.
Now let’s talk about fishing at a championship level – particularly redfishing. Same story as the other sports. Equipment has changed, techniques have changed, competition has intensified, rewards are greater – and perhaps in no other sport have the changes been as dramatic. Boats, rods, reels, electronics, navigational aids, motors, lures, livewells – every single aspect of competitive angling has changed and changed dramatically.
B.A.S.S., the largest and most well-known fishing organization in the world, has enacted rules that disallow certain techniques that give an angler an unfair advantage over the fish as well as the other anglers. There is zero tolerance for an elevated platform of any kind and of any height. There is zero tolerance for those that would tarnish the sport by competing in an unsportsmanlike manner. There is enforcement of the rules evenly and fairly no matter the transgressor.
Then there is competitive redfishing.
A sport that, 20 years later, is still trapped and writhing in its infancy. A sport still fragmented and lacking in serious leadership and direction. A sport that has witnessed all the same changes in equipment and technique but without supervision, leadership, or direction. A sport that is still locked in the “out-in-the-street backyard” stages. In short, there is no comprehensive authority to turn to for definition of the sport as a sport. A fishing method or technique that is tremendously advantageous and blurs the line of work ethic, knowledge, and skill should not be allowed on the field of play.
But that is exactly what is happening with the equipment and technique of “burning”.
Any angler of moderate skill given the resources to be able to utilize the technique of running a boat on plane in shallow waters, around every shoreline, and across large shallow flats will be able to find fish and compete on the same level as a veteran angler who has honed his or her skills over years and years of tireless study and effort. It is not truth in action because it artificially transcends and defeats multiple levels of competence and skill. Burning is merely an easy shortcut that short-circuits and eliminates what should be the inherent advantages of knowledge, skill, hard work, and personal drive.
Simply put, this technique detracts from the skill level required to compete at the highest level. It detracts from the merit, the honesty, and the truth of the sport. Until every redfish tour, trail, and competition in this country bans the use of this technique we will not, we simply cannot, build the sport of competitive redfishing to the level it deserves. Because, as long as this technique is allowed, the separation between anglers of moderate skill and those at the expert level will remain so blurred that a distinction between the two is impossible and the sport of competitive redfishing will forever be denied the growth to attain professional status.