Catching small fish is fun, too

Written on 04/28/2024
Bud Fields, Outdoors with Bud

I know it may sound funny or odd, but catching small fish is also fun! I’ll bet you never heard a competitive bass angler say that, but I am saying it! To be truthful, there are more small fish swimming in the water than there are big fish, and it takes a long time for a small bass to grow to be a monster bass.

I know that as a competitive bass angler, you won’t cash many paychecks catching a bass that is only 10” to 12” long, but placing too much emphasis on making money fishing can be the reason many anglers drop out of fishing tournaments. I had a close friend tell me, “If you’re fishing for food, you will always be hungry. If you are fishing for money, you can end up broke. But if you are fishing for fun, you will always be fulfilled!”

At the time I was told that, I was competing in five bass tournaments a week, losing a lot of sleep, traveling a lot of miles, and spending money doing it. I had people ask me, “Do you ever get tired of fishing?” Nope, I get tired from fishing!

I never thought I would get involved in competitive fishing because if it swims, I wanted to catch it. I really had little interest in anything but catching fish, whether it was a crappie, bluegill, sunfish, perch, northern pike, muskie, or bass, I just wanted to try to catch it for fun. Money was of no interest at that time. Having fun was more important.

My neighbor owned a fancy bass boat powered by a 150 hp Mercury, and he teased me about my 12’ aluminum with a 7½ hp Evinrude. I was always loading that old boat on top of my truck topper and heading for small lakes to catch enough fish to have a fish fry.

One afternoon, he invited me to go fishing with him in his boat. I told him I really didn’t own any bass fishing tackle and he told me he had plenty. I had to admit, those fancy, padded swivel seats were mighty comfortable, and having all those storage compartments for fishing tackle and rod lockers was downright snazzy.

When he fired up that outboard motor, it had a lot more “get up and go” than my outboard. The power trim-and-tilt button made raising and lowering the motor up and down much easier than doing it by hand. He had aerated live wells with pumps that circulated oxygen to keep the fish alive.

If it rained, you didn’t have to bale the water out of the boat with a coffee can. You simply activated a toggle switch, and an electric bilge pump blew the water out of the boat. Wow! This was a way of fishing I never knew existed!

Well, I started buying bass fishing tackle and never looked back. Sometime later, my neighbor asked me if I wanted to fish a bass tournament with him, and I eagerly jumped at the offer. He and I finished in second place, and after that I became addicted to bass fishing.

Even though I discovered another fishing endeavor, I promised myself I would never let winning interfere with my love to fish, and I became rather successful on the tournament circuits. I won’t say I was the man you had to beat in any tournament, but I wanted to feel like I could fish just about any body of water on the schedule and catch fish and have fun doing it.

There were tournaments I really felt confident that I could do well in, and there were locations I knew I often struggled to catch fish. If I caught enough fish to win or at least make some money, I was indeed proud and thankful. If I went home empty-handed, at least I had fun and made some memories.

I promised my wife that if I couldn’t have fun fishing, I would quit. All the years I fished with several different tournament circuits, I always had fun. I met a million great people, both male and female, who enjoyed the same thing I did.

I got to learn many different fishing techniques with artificial lures. I also got to ride in some great bass boats. I got to visit and fish locations that I probably would never have fished had it not been on the fishing schedule. I cashed several paychecks, and I also went home with my tail between my legs. But I always said, “I am a part-time fisherman trying to catch a full-time fish.”

Sure, I wanted to do well in every tournament, and I never entered a tournament thinking I was defeated. I caught fish in every single tournament I entered, but sometimes they were small and could not be weighed in. But at least I caught fish and had fun!

The main reason I started fishing as a child was to enjoy fishing, and even though I am no longer active on the tournament trails, I can still walk the banks of a farm pond or retention pond and cast a live nightcrawler or artificial lure into the water. And I still get excited when I catch a little bluegill or huge bass. After all, catching small fish is fun, too!