Tournament bass fishing is commonly called an “individual sport.” In my opinion, this classification is only partially correct.
When your boat number is called on tournament morning, you certainly can only count on yourself. However, outside of tournament hours, it would not only be incorrect, but I feel would be wholly unfair to call this sport an “individual” endeavor, as there are way too many people behind the scenes making careers possible.
Of course, of the “team” of people who support a tournament angler, our spouses, our family and our sponsors tend to be somewhat widely recognized on a regular basis. However, there are scores of others over the years who have helped me personally, with seemingly smaller acts of kindness and support, who need recognition, too.
My most recent tournament travels took me on a month-long road trip throughout the Southeast. As a tournament angler trying to make a living without spending my profit on travel expenses, I'm always trying to find a cheap solution for lodging.
I've been fortunate over the years to connect with very generous and hospitable people who have opened their homes to me. One such family that went above and beyond recently was the Gibsons during my stay in Tennessee for the Bassmaster Open on Chickamauga. They didn’t just invite me into their home, but they actually set up their new travel trailer at a park right on the water and let myself and my travel partner stay in it all week, saving both of us a great deal of hassle and cash.
Though the Gibsons were notable hosts, this has been a very common occurrence on the road, with many families and individuals – in many cases complete strangers – going out of their way to help me, and I’m sure this isn’t just a rare occurrence for other anglers, either.
Just on this trip alone, in addition to the Gibsons, I had two other families welcome me to stay at their homes to try to help me to save a buck.
Another classification that this sport gets from many people involved with it is the title of “greatest sport in the world.” This is something I can get behind!
Now, I know that in the grand scheme of sports, especially spectator sports, tournament bass fishing ranks pretty low as far as popularity. However, if the criteria is the quality of the people, I don’t think there is a sport that compares.
Whether it's people opening their homes to complete strangers, or the willingness of people to blindly offer up information or support, there is no equal in my book.
I admit, I am in a unique position as a host of a nationally televised fishing show, where people want to offer a hand to me very often these days, and I am very thankful for the generosity.
The beautiful thing is that even if I wasn’t on television, or writing a colum for BassFan, the fans and participants in this sport would still be just as genuine and giving. It is something that I think we all should acknowledge and be very proud of.
I am a very fortunate person. I have a very supportive family, exceptional sponsors, wonderful mentors and a fan base I am humbled by.
When I’m on the tournament stage, I generally have enough time to thank those who I just mentioned, but sometimes I’m not able to fully acknowledge the other people on the sidelines who make it possible to chase this unconventional and unique dream.
That is why I would like to say right here and now – to the numerous families who opened their homes to me ... to the business owners willing to give a kid a break ... to the guy who pulls over to help replace a trailer hub ... to the service crews that go above and beyond at each event ... to anyone and everyone who has lent a hand to help me chase my dreams ...
You know who you are. I certainly do.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an aspiring tour pro and co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).