When you start to break down all of the repetitive stress put on an anglers body throughout the course of a day on the water, it can make fishing sound like an extreme sport. Take a moment and think about how much stress is placed on the body during casting, setting the hook, fighting the fish, etc. Now multiply that sequence several thousand times over and you begin to understand the stress load placed on the body is much greater than initially realized.
While competitive fishing does not usually involve the same single play life altering injury potential found in main-stream contact sports, the repetitive stress experienced often leads to long term injuries. Most of these injuries start gradually and are simply dismissed by anglers as a short term problem. It isn't until they reach an advanced state and lead to decreased performance on the water that most anglers even consider making changes to their health.
Up until this point, the issue of angler fitness has gone largely un-addressed even in the highest levels of competitive fishing. The next time you ask a tournament angler about their preparation for an upcoming event, you’ll likely hear explanations related to fish patterns, baits, and techniques. Rarely, if ever will you hear an explanation of what steps an angler has taken to prepare their body for competition day. I will note that there are a few professional anglers who have embraced a lifestyle centered around fitness, but analyzing how that influences on the water performance largely remains an unexplored frontier in competitive fishing.
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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR COMPETITIVE FISHING?
Elite tournament anglers are always searching for something to give them a competitive edge on the water. Currently, the vast majority of their energy is spent developing a certain bait, technique, or fish pattern that will put an extra fish or two in the boat each day. However, I believe that philosophy is about to change.
It’s very possible that we’re about to experience the same phenomenon that led to a complete shift in competitive golf approximately 10-15 years ago. The fitness revolution in golf started with a few key competitors looking to translate their athleticism into lower scores on the golf course. The movement was slow to catch on at first, but soon the rest of the field (and world) took notice of the positive effects fitness could bring to golf.
There’s nothing stopping that same revolution from taking place inside the world of competitive fishing.
All the same signs are there:
1) Competition quality is at an all-time high
2) Payouts are at or near an all-time high
3) More and more companies are realizing the true advertising potential of competitive fishing
If there’s a competitive advantage to be had or a frontier yet to be explored, you can bet it can and will be exploited by anglers at some point in the near future.
Several top anglers have said that from a skill set perspective, most of the anglers on elite tours are very similar. The separation between a good angler and a great angler has largely hinged on their mental toughness and their ability to adapt to adversity or distraction while on the water. While I agree that mental toughness will always be extremely important in competitive fishing, there may come a point where you can simply out work the field on your way to a tournament win. Think about having the strength and stamina to get an extra 10 quality casts in each day of competition. That leads to 40 casts over the course of a major event. Think of all the positive things that can happen in 40 casts!
Only time will tell how fast anglers will start focusing on preparing their body for competition as much as they prepare their angling skills. What is certain for now is that fitness is truly competitive fishing’s final frontier.
Post by contributing blogger and tournament angler Paul Ziehm. You can follow Paul at www.paulziehmoutdoors.com