Fantasy Fishing

With all of the craziness of the Genmar bankruptcy, slow economy, tournament anglers struggling to get sponsors to afford to hit the trails, it's a wonder the competitive fishing industry is still upright.

Well, thank goodness it is, otherwise I just don't know what I'd do with myself. I might have to find something else to whine about, like that Tiger guy.

With all of the financial difficulties that seem to be plaguing many of the brothers and sisters of the tournament world, what is the solution to their woes? How can this seemingly stagnant environment be brought back to life?

Well, I don't claim to have all of the answers, but I do have one idea. No, it's not fantasy fishing, its no-entry-fee tournament fishing.

I've discussed this idea many times with many anglers from all corners of this greatest nation on earth. Especially with one of my walleye pro buddies, Johnnie Candle from North Dakota. Here's the concept we've tossed about.

Have the tournament organizations hold their regular events, solicit sponsor dollars for their businesses, film a TV show, have internet coverage, magazine, radio, etc., same old, same old. Just do this all with no entry fees.

No more blanket contingency programs and no need for any payouts. The organizations would save a bundle and so would the anglers.

Sure, there are still expenses for fuel, lodging, etc., but bills would be slashed in half, if not more, for anglers. And don't most pros say they make their money from sponsor deals than from cashing a check at a tournament?

Just imagine submitting a proposal to a sponsor. Instead of a box of soft plastics for your troubles, you propose an incentive-based agreement based on your finishes, just like other pro athletes have. This could all be based on wins, Angler of the Year standings, championship qualifications, etc.

In essence, tournament anglers would no longer be fishing for their own money and the tournament organizations would still have a super-competitive circuit to promote to potential sponsors and would truly attract the "best of the best."

By eliminating entry fees all together, those who qualify to fish a series or circuit would no longer have the money excuse not to participate. Sure, it would still be financially trying for some, but most could compete. The sport would no longer be perceived by some fans as a wealthy-person-only game.

Anglers would be paid based on performance by their sponsors, which could include not just placement at events and yearly standings, but also on how many promotions the angler does, like radio, TV and other media interviews, and on and on. True professional athletes.

Just imagine how full the fields would be across the entire spectrum of the tournament world. Just imagine how impressed potential and current sponsors would be with these packed events. Just imagine being able to fish for a living. Just imagine the best of the best fishing and not just the best funded.

I really don't think it's a fantasy. It would be one step closer to other professional athletes and one step closer to the front of more Wheaties boxes.

Dave and Kristin Landahl host The Fishing Fanatics, www.TheFishingFanatics.com, radio show on ESPN radio affiliate AM 1360 WLBK in northern Illinois Thursday evenings from 6-7 PM Central time. You can also tune in to hear The Fishing Fanatics at www.1360wlbk.com and check them out at www.walleyecentral.com