Forming a fishing partnership is not easy. Finding and developing a tournament fishing partnership is even harder. It’s like a marriage. (I can say that knowing my wife will never read this.) There must be give and take, mutual respect, and maybe even a “death do us part” attitude.
I firmly believe that we are all “crazy” in some way. The key to a good relationship — with a spouse or a tournament partner — is finding the kind of crazy you can handle and having the kind of crazy your partner can handle in return.
That’s a tall order. Finding a good tournament partner can be like tracking down a needle in a haystack … or a Yamamoto Senko in a mountain of Kinami Flashes.
How’s that for an obscure reference? If you know, you know.
Just like marriage, finding a good tournament partner starts with dating — initial outings where you find out if your styles align, if you can fish the same water at roughly the same pace, and if your prospective partner offers beef jerky, homemade cookies, or other on-the-water essentials.
Show me an angler who does not bring good snacks, and I’ll show you someone I have no interest in partnering with. Priorities!
Apart from the snack thing, a good tournament partner needs three essential qualities. He must be punctual, he must have a sense of humor, and he must pay his fair share. Fishing ability is good, but not nearly as important as these other things … unless of course you think of yourself as some kind of tournament titan, winning everything in sight and locking up the series points title in May. I’m more interested in having fun and avoiding homicide on the water.
When auditioning prospective tournament partners, there are a few “red flags” you should be watching for. Through the years, I think I’ve seen them all.
While I was in college — many, many years ago — I tried fishing with a guy who seemed perfectly reasonable on dry land. Once we got on my boat, however, things took an unexpected turn.
I made a short run to some flooded brush, and we started throwing spinnerbaits around cover in dingy water. After 10 minutes, the guy said, “Looks like they’re not biting today.”
He was serious, and I should have taken him back to the ramp right then. Instead, I endured him for the full day.
The fishing never got a lot better, but on the positive side, I haven’t spoken to him since.
I had another partner who stepped into my boat for our first derby together carrying 10 rods, nine of which were set up with Carolina rigs. All had 1-ounce sinkers.
I have nothing against “the rig,” but if 90 percent of your game plan is heaving that ball and chain around, we’re not likely to be a good match. To make matters worse, this was a springtime bass tournament, and the fish were mostly shallow. I was snaking a weightless Trick Worm in some very skinny water while he was launching bombs.
“Bloosh!” (That became his nickname.)
Those sinkers hit the water like jettisoned rocket boosters from a NASA mission, and when they splashed down, you could see the wakes of big fish fleeing the shallows in terror.
A bad tournament partner is just as clueless as you are on a tough day. A good tournament partner has ideas when you don’t. He or she learns to recognize your blank stare and responds with, “We need to …”
A bad partner makes excuses no one wants to hear. A good tournament partner offers explanations that sound just plausible enough to make you feel better after a tough day.
A bad partner rigs up at the ramp. A good partner is ready the night before … maybe earlier.
A bad partner keeps you waiting. A good partner gets there early.
A bad partner is hypersensitive — a snowflake. A good partner is nearly impossible to offend.
A bad partner talks too much. A good partner is not too quiet.
There are lots of things that good partners say to each other.
If I catch a fish or two and my partner hasn’t had a bite, I’m going to say, “That was fun; you should try it.”
If my partner is talking too much, I’m going to say, “The next words I want to hear from you are, ‘Get the net!'”
I once had a terrific fishing partner who wore the same cap to every tournament for an entire season. It read, “Shut Up and Fish!” (It’s possible that I’m a partner who talks too much.)
If you’ve fished many team or “buddy” tournaments, you’ve certainly witnessed the breakup of a team. It’s very similar to the breakup of a marriage. All the friends wonder what happened and speculate on the cause of the rift. Some will even try to “move in” and pair up with one of the former partners.
Just like marriages, the divorce rate among fishing partners can be high.