The crowd wants to see your fish. Show them with pride, but get the fish in the tub and on the way to the scales without too much delay.
Weigh-in Line Etiquette
Good practices in the weigh-in line equates to educated tournament anglers and healthier fish after release.
by Ron Presley
Tournaments play a special role in the education of anglers when it comes to good fish care. All tournaments should operate with a goal of 100 percent successful live release and all anglers should help achieve that goal. Tournament anglers can contribute individually to ensure a speedy weigh-in line that benefits the health of the fish while educating other anglers in good weigh-in procedures.
Spectators come to tournaments to see big fish and the anglers should display their fish with pride. They should also use good fish handling practices when they do. As catfishing grows as a sport, individual anglers are role models for those that follow. As the sport grows and new anglers enter the tournament scene they need to be educated on proper procedures.
Here are 5 things anglers can do to promote professionalism in the sport, educate fellow anglers, and speed up the weigh-in line to the benefit of the fish.
- Ask a friend or other angler to drive your vehicle through the weigh-in line with your entire team in the boat. One of your team members can do the same for them. This will allow the entire team to enjoy the weigh-in process and prepare the boat for the stage. The team can organize the boat before getting to the scales. Stow bloody cutting boards, rags, and incidental items out of sight. Be sure to clear the livewell lids and have a way to hold it open. Anything accomplished before you get to the scales will improve the efficiency of the weigh-in.
- Plan in advance to get the fish out quickly and efficiently. Some anglers use a net or bucket to corral the smaller fish and have fish grips attached to the big fish before they reach the stage. The idea is to avoid chasing small fish around the livewell for far too long. Even little things like removing nets, poles, or anything else that obstructs good photos can be done while you are still in line. Do not pull up to the scales and pull the plug on the livewell. It usually makes a mess, often making mud holes and impeding the volunteer workers. Their job is tough enough already. It can also reach the spectators and degrade their experience.
- Show your fish to the crowd with pride. You worked hard to catch them and the spectators are waiting to see them. This is a photo op and part of promoting the sport. Sometimes with big fish, it is difficult to hold them long, but do the best you can and “pose” to give everyone a chance to get a photo. Do all this using good fish handling methods like supporting big fish horizontally, no holding by the gills, place them gently in the tubs, don’t just throw them in. Fans are watching.
- Once the fish are in the tub(s), the whole team should exit the boat and witness the weigh-in. If your weight is among the top teams the tournament director is likely to want another photo. Move quickly to accommodate the photo and then help get the fish back to the water. Sometimes the tournament staff takes the fish back, but often you can help speed it up.
- Finally, make sure your boat and trailer are parked and out of the way. Then come back to the weigh-in and enjoy the crowd. Talk with fans, supporters, and other anglers by sharing information on the day and give out some tips to interested fans. (If the COVID-19 worries are still around practice social distancing.) Keep in mind that others will observe your behavior. Keep it positive and professional so the whole catfish community will benefit.
This is just a general outline of things that can make a weigh-in go quicker and look more professional. My experience with the catfish community leads me to believe that plenty of ideas can be added to this short commentary if everyone approaches the weigh-in with efficiency in mind.
Tournament directors can and do add procedures that speed up the process too. Aaron Wheatley (Monsters on the Ohio), for example, provides the drivers to move the vehicles through the line. He also provides an oxygenated 200-gallon tank to resuscitate weak fish before returning them to the water. His whole philosophy of the weigh-in revolves around taking care of the fish. Especially from the time the boats come out of the water to the time the fish are returned to the water. This is a good philosophy for all to follow.
Individual anglers (teams) have the opportunity and ability to contribute to weigh-in efficiency. I have called it etiquette here, but it’s really much more than that. It is also common sense if you think about it. With these thoughts in mind, approach your next tournament with the notion of doing your part in supporting catfishing in general and catfish conservation in particular by behaving professionally and creatively. The more good behavior passed on from one catfish angler to another, the better the image of catfishing as a sport will be. A positive image goes a long way toward convincing resource managers and legislators to support the sport.