Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tim Rowland: Bass Fishing And Drag Performance

large mouth bassRemember the good old days when, as it applied to fishing, “drag” was something that you had on your spinning reel? Well, that quaint definition has gone by the boards, now that a fundraiser for a North Country bass tournament will include a drag show to be deliciously known as Camp Fishsticks.

Money raised from the affair will benefit the popular Bass Masters Elite tournament in Waddington this July, which draws thousands of manly sportsmen each year, but costs upwards of $200,000 to produce. So organizer Bob Giordano, who is a true genius in my mind, came up with the idea of Camp Fishsticks to feature, according to North Country Public Radio, the region’s “vibrant community of singers, dancers and comedians who dress up as the opposite gender.”

This, it seems, kind of completes the circle of the rugged outdoorsman of Monty Python lumberjack fame who “puts on women’s clothing and hangs around in bars.” And for the drag performers themselves, it has to be some uncharted waters that are ripe for the picking.

Is that a Rapala in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Any sport filled with rods and largemouths is bound to be almost embarrassingly easy pickings for any self-respecting drag performer. And this is not to mention the brassieres and fishnet stockings.

Bass fishing and drag shows do share some commonality, I would think. They tend to be noisy, colorful and somewhat less than subtle. The sportsmen dress up their lures with the same care and attention to detail used by drag performers to apply their makeup. All to land a poor “fish” that is deceived by outward appearances.

The tournaments themselves are fascinating spectacles, as a beehive of anglers descend on a lake and pull bass from the waters with ruthless efficiency. I know there’s a skill to everything, but professional bass fishermen just seem to be able to pull in fish in at will. Whenever a cast comes back without a lunker on the line, they view it as a failure normally associated with North Korea missile launches.

I had the pleasure of fishing once with the late Butch Ward, a record-holding smallmouth angler, and it was quite the experience. It had always been imparted upon me that the key to fishing was patience. In retrospect, I think this was just something that grandpas told small boys in order to get them to sit still for more than three minutes at a time.

Because Butch was not a patient man. Two casts, three tops, without a strike and he would have his bass boat hurtling across the lake to try another locale, snarling like a bobcat at his bad luck — this, mind you, after he had already hauled in a half-dozen trophy-sized smallmouth. And, while I always took no small amount of pride in my long, high graceful casts, Butch viewed this as a horrific waste of good fishing time.

He would glare at my lure as it went arcing slowly across the sky, checking his watch a few times and remarking that it would have been possible to boat three fish by the time my bait had hit the water. Butch’s casts, by contrast, appeared as an arrow shot from a bow, splashing into the water with an alarming ferocity, bringing to mind another grandpa myth that little boys, when fishing, needed to be very, very quiet or it would scare the fish away.

I don’t know what Butch might have thought about a drag show for the benefit of a bass tournament. I suspect he would have thought it was a hoot, although I doubt he would have taken the time to attend Camp Fishsticks. To Butch, anything other than fishing was just details.

Illustration: Largemouth Bass, courtesy DEC.

Related Stories

Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

16 Responses

  1. adirondackjoe says:

    NOTHING is worse for the sport of bass fishing than a tournament. Extreme pressure on a fishing area, ” caught and released ” bass floating days after the tournament, invasive species introduced into the waters. I’ve seen it all.bass fishing was NEVER ment to be turned into a contest.

  2. Mark says:

    Very true. The dark side of tournament bass fishing. People can’t possibly think that those fish survive all that. I’ve seen it here in Maryland when the tournament is held at Smallwood. Hundreds of fish floating after the tournament ends.

  3. Boreas says:

    Caught in one location and released into another bass’ territory stressed and barely alive. Great idea. Now they are doing trout tournaments on the Ausable. Yes, now fish are there just for our entertainment.

  4. Bruce says:

    What is the socially redeeming feature of this tournament which makes it worthy of raising money not provided by the tournament sponsors? The corporate and commercial sponsors stand to reap the greatest benefit. Is this going to feature handicapped fishermen in each boat, are the tournament prize monies going to charity? Is it not a business venture put on by the organizers and sponsors?

  5. Pete Klein says:

    Enjoyed your humor, including your reference to Butch.

  6. Smitty says:

    Tournaments are the worst thing to ever happen to angling. What was formerly contemplative recreation has now become, like everything else in life, a frenzied competition. I see this everywhere now. Too much emphasis on catching as many as you can and not on the experience and protecting the resource.

    • Boreas says:


      • Balian the Cat says:

        Cruelty to other living things, facts ignored to facilitate promotion, natural resources publicized but degraded without regard…all in order to further the illusion of non-existent economic growth. Welcome to America and the Open for Business State.

      • Robert Kibbey says:

        Make that two AMENS

  7. adirondackjoe says:

    Mark, Boreal, Bruce Pete and Smithy I say thank you gentlemen I thought I was alone in my opinion of tournaments. I’m glad we’re all on the same side on this one. Leave it to corporate America to take the sport of fishing and ruin it….

    • Boreas says:


      I feel if tournaments must occur, they should be restricted to man-made lakes and reservoirs to minimize ecological impact.

      • Balian the Cat says:

        I want to be clear that I do not regard angling, in and of itself, to be “cruelty to other living things.” I meant that only in the context of tournaments where the goal isn’t meaningful interaction with nature and/or providing good quality natural food for yourself or others. On the few occasions I have watched the yahoos participating in tournaments on TV: They set hooks like they were doing Judo, yank the fish into the boat aggressively and without thought, and parade the fish around by their lower jaws before “releasing” them. I support conscientious hunting and fishing – it’s Man as heartless master of the biosphere that I refute.

  8. adirondackjoe says:

    I agree with ALL the replies to this post ( even the cat ! ) but not the one I most want to here from. What say you Tim Rowland?

    • Bruce says:


      Actually I’m not against tournaments, but they could be managed more for the betterment of the fish than they are. I saw a UK 3-day trout tournament. Each fisherman was accompanied by a monitor who weighed, measured and ensured the return of each fish back to the place where it was caught as quickly as possible.

      My thought about this particular tournament is the promoter raising outside money to bring the tournament in so he can profit from it at the least possible cost to himself. I can understand doing that for a charity event or other worthwhile cause.

  9. adirondackjoe says:

    Bruce, with these guys it’s all about the money. Always has been always will be. They have done more damage to the lakes and fishery than can ever be repaired. Thanks for your reply.

  10. colby says:

    You are all crazy…you give the black bass no credit were credit is due.Educate yourself on the real problems of our waterways,its certainly not tournament angling I can assure you if anything tournament angling has brought conservation to the forefront

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox