Some years ago I bought my first boat – a Skeeter 190TZX with a Yamaha 150 outboard. Like most new boat owners, I polished it, rubbed it and maintained everything in pristine condition.

My son and I fished our first tournament in that boat and caught a nice bag of fish and were pumped and ready for weigh-in. I reached down to turn the key and I got the infamous click, click, and click. The battery was graveyard dead. That was a huge disappointment and I'd learn to deal with many others over the years fishing in and out of various tournament circuits.

You learn over time the little things that seasoned anglers know about how to take care of your equipment, keep your fish alive and manage your day on the water. Over time you can get to the point where you pull up to the ramp on a cold spring morning and realize that you have a pretty good shot at having a good day. You buy the tackle, pay the ramp and travel costs, wear the shirts and hats, to engage in this sport we all love so much.

I'd be afraid to count my cost of entry fees, tackle, gas and other expenses just over the last 4 or 5 years. More importantly, I'd be afraid to let my wife find out that total, as I'd probably have to sleep in that Ranger Z21 I love so much. It's a nice boat, but the sleeping-bag drill on the front deck in the garage isn't my idea of a comfortable sleeping arrangement.

I suspect many of you would encounter the same dilemma should your spouse find out about that secret fishing account.

Recently the fishing industry, like many other aspects of our economy, has fallen on hard times. It's difficult to find even a jackpot worth fishing because the turnout's so light. I can remember showing up for a jackpot on Guntersville with 125 boats competing for a $1,000 1st-place prize. Today you might have 25 boats show up on a good day, unless there's big money and a long list of payouts.

This situation has significantly affected the professional ranks, as necessary sponsor dollars have become increasingly difficult to find. I suspect over time the industry will rebound, the economy will improve and we'll all be screaming down the lake at 70 mph again trying to be the first guy at the check window.

What we all have to ask ourselves is, What mistakes were made over the last 5 or 6 years that we can avoid in the future to help keep our industry viable and profitable for everyone?

It's been rumored for some time that ESPN has had BASS for sale. I don't know if this is true, but you have to wonder what'll come of major sponsor dollars if we're all watching the Elite Series on Illinois independent cable channel 25, sandwiched between Andy Griffith reruns and Jim Bob's Big Outdoors Show.

What's the deal with FLW and Fox Sports Net by the way? Does anyone really think their number of impressions are profitable on Sunday mornings, when a large majority of the industry is in church praying for entry fee money? I hear there's a deal with another cable company in the works over there as well.

What about your opportunities for fishing at a higher level? Is that plan working out for you and do you have more or fewer chances to break into the big time than you did just a few years ago?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say maybe, just maybe, we all got a little too big for our britches, as my dad used to say. A good tournament boat that'll keep you competitive can cost you as much as $55,000. Are you kidding me? Who do they think's fishing in these things anyway? This isn't the upper echelons of corporate America out here. This is Joe the Plumber.

Joe's our bread and butter and he sacrifices everything he can to get his gear and get in a show – any show.

How about $30 crankbaits? You guys been stocking up on them suckers lately? Probably, but you hated it and felt guilty before you even left the store. You should probably fish that thing on 100-pound braid by the way, because they cost way too much to lose.

I visited my local Bass Fishing Mega Mart recently and that thing looks like a European castle complete with waterfalls and crystal-looking chandeliers. Where did all this money come from? Well, I don't have to tell you. Just check the balance on your secret fishing account.

Professionals have to mortgage their future just to pay entry fees for 1 year because the economy's so bad they can't put a deal together to keep padding the pockets of whoever. Not sure where all that money goes.

Let's just try and apply a little common sense here. Bass fishing isn't a spectator sport. It'll never be king in urban America and most people in this country don't know who KVD is. We know who fishes and spends the money – it's you and me. What if we just culled out the crazy priced bass boats, over-inflated entry fees and $200 swimbaits?

What if we just focused on the guy and girl who buy our tackle in northwest Arkansas and central Texas? The result would be that some guy atop the corporate ladder at a major TV network in New York or Connecticut would probably get less of a Christmas bonus, and you might be able to afford an entry fee and have a few more dollars for the latest chigger thingamajig.

This will all rebound in time, but excess is what hurt our economy and it's what'll kill our sport if we don't get, and keep, some perspective.

(Chuck Medley's a 3-year FLW Tour pro. Prior to that, he served his country for 24 years in the U.S. Army and retired as Command Sergeant Major from the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He's been deployed to Iraq and the Middle East and is currently a Level II instructor and senior analyst for the Department of Defense.)