Not too long ago, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ran a mini-poll that asked sports figures to weigh in on the follow question: Are professional anglers athletes?
Predictably, the respondents largely sided with the opinion of most uninformed sports fans. They said anglers were not athletes, but Denny Brauer, an18-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier and host of ESPN2's Schooled by Denny Brauer, begs to differ.
"I'd love to have those individuals come participate because everybody who participated who had that type of (preconceived) attitude totally changed it," the former CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion said. "In fact, they could not believe how physically hard of a sport this is.
"We've had professional football players fish at the amateur level and they couldn't believe it. After a week of practice and the actual tournament days, they were more worn out than they had ever been at training camp for football. That tells you a little bit right there."
Brauer also said golfers, who generally are known for their keen concentration, can't measure up to anglers.
"Golfers have to maintain mental concentration 72 times, if you've shot a real good round. In fishing, in 10 minutes I might make 72 presentations. Multiply that over a nine-hour day in a multiple-day tournament. You've got to be totally focused. Then there is making a 100-mile run in 4- and 5-foot waves and the pounding your body takes. And you're putting in 12- to 14-hour practice days.
"It goes on and on, but this is a very physical sport and it's a sport where you've really got to be in shape."
Former New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tim Goad, who has competed as a non-boater in several BASS tournaments, agrees with Brauer's assessment.
"The mental fatigue hurt me more than anything," he said. "Pro fishermen definitely have to be in shape. They have to be very tough mentally.
"As far as physical demands, they're up early every morning and go to bed late. They stand up all day fishing, and some don't even look tired. They've got to be in great shape to do this. A lot of people don't think fishing is very strenuous, but if you stand up in the front of the boat and fish hard for eight hours, you will learn the truth. People think they do this for fun, but I've been around them enough to know that this is work. There is nothing easy about it."
The United States team comprised of 11 Bassmaster pros last week took the Eurobass Cup championship 14-10 on Lake Ricobayo in Spain for the second consecutive year.
Massachusetts's Danny Correia led the way with the two largest bass of the competition. His American teammates were John Crews, Bradley Stringer, Byron Velvick, Jeff Kriet, Scott Suggs, Jason Reyes, Greg Gutierrez, Kevin Wirth, Ron Shuffield and O.T. Fears.
"Being in Spain was awesome," said Correia, a former Classic runner-up. "But the fishing was very tough. Last year they were catching around 20 fish a day, and this year I think the lake was turning over and it made the fishing very difficult. You were lucky just to catch one."
The Eurobass Cup is part of Iberian Hunting and Fishing Week, which is organized by The Trade Fair Institution of Castilla y León. The inaugural Eurobass Cup was held in 2004 with the objective of bringing together anglers from the United States and Europe.
"We were fishing a fall BASS tournament on (Lake) Wheeler," veteran pro Jack Wade, of Knoxville, Tenn., recalled. "I was on a pattern with a Rico (a Japanese topwater plug) and I only had one of the bigger size. I stopped on a little place where I had caught a lot of fish before and there was shad flipping everywhere. I threw that Rico on this point and got a hold of something.
"But it wasn't acting just right. I had a big, old, fat snake about 2 feet long on my one and only Rico, which I had already caught two big fish on that morning."
Wade is scared to death of snakes no matter if they're poisonous or not.
"It was interesting getting that snake off my line, I can tell you that. Then, I cast across the next point and here comes another snake like a jet ski after it. I cranked the boat up and left. I never went back in that area and I had caught a ton of fish there one time."
Did you know?
Three anglers have won more than $300,000 in a single Bassmaster season: Denny Brauer ($347,000 in 1998), Dean Rojas ($333,940 in 2001) and Kevin VanDam ($474,125 in 2005).
On Oct. 14, reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam turns 38.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro ...
Tour pro Jimmy Mason of Alabama says he would be an electrical engineer. "That's what my degree is in from the University of Alabama-Huntsville," he said.
The said it
"They're all well spoken. They all look reporters in the eye. They all take the time. Many of them will go out of their way. They give you business cards, which is very unusual from an athlete to a reporter." SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer Chris Ballard, who was impressed with the Bassmaster pros he met during the CITGO Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh.
For more inside information on the world of pro bass fishing, check out BASS INSIDER.