The COVID Effect
By Chad Hill, U.S. Anglers Choice contributor

  You all know the name by now, COVID-19. Its effects on life and society are widespread and well-known. It affects bass fishing too? “Surely not,” you say. While the list of ways Coronavirus affects bass fishing may not total 19, as in the name, it is and will influence bass fishing both positively and negatively. We just do not know the extent of its influence or for how long its effects will be felt. Let’s “dive into” some of them.

  Many states have limited access to fisheries with some closing all public lakes, rivers, and streams in order to promote or enforce social distancing. For example, Michigan is planning to implement a no-motor policy on all waters until the end of April! The effects of such rules on fishing are a double-edge sword. On the positive side, significantly decreased pressure on fisheries during the spring allows bass to complete their annual reproductive ritual unmolested. This increases the likelihood of a strong spawning class which leads to an increase in the population of adult bass a few years down the road. It is possible that this injection into the bass population could yield positive benefits for many years into the future. Also, decreased fishing pressure means that bass are less educated and conditioned to lures, presentations, and techniques. This could translate into more “bass catching” when things return to something closer to normal, a welcomed “bonus” to those who chase bass a regular basis. And, not to be overlooked, decreased boating traffic reduces the amount of trash and pollutants that gain entry into the ecosystem. A food wrapper or container will inevitably escape the confines of the boat of even the most environmentally conscious boating enthusiast on occasion.

  Limited access to fisheries means far fewer options for anglers and recreational boaters which puts them on a collision course toward the few waterways that remain accessible. More boats on fewer waterways is a scenario ripe with negative effects. The chances of boating accidents skyrocket. Exponentially increased fishing pressure weakens the fish population, possibly to the point that its effects are felt for years into the future. Crowded fishing areas, especially from the bank, provide easy opportunities for COVID-19 to spread. If you have driven by Crab Orchard Lake on any day in recent weeks, you have seen crowded parking lots and folks lined up elbow-to-elbow along popular bank-fishing areas.

  Access restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and stay-at-home orders have spawned (pun intended) another bundle of effects on bass fishing, mostly negative unfortunately. A countless number of tournaments have been postponed or cancelled. This reduces opportunities for anglers to compete, constricts revenue for tournament organizations, and reduces the economic infusion into hotels, resorts, gas stations, convenience stores, and tackle shops. . . . . .the life-blood of local economies that exist around many of the nation’s largest fisheries and recreational destinations. Some would argue that fewer tournaments will benefit these same fisheries positively by reducing fishing pressure yielding the positive effects discussed in the paragraphs above, a point of view that does have merit.

  There is one other negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on bass fishing, which relates to something mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is loss of income. Many folks who had fun-fishing or destination fishing trips planned this spring, your truly included, have had to at least postpone and likely cancel those plans. Lost revenue to small businesses, including fishing guides, is likely staggering.

  Under current circumstances, the average individual has far few choices for how he/she spends his/her free time. As a result, more folks are returning to fishing or being introduced to it for the first time. Recently a story was shared with me of a coach, who is usually very busy this time of year, gearing up to go fishing because he has no coaching activities to occupy his time. A measurable increase in fishing participation could spike the level of pressure on fisheries to the point of detriment and decline. Many fisheries are already pressured to the point of tenuous balance with the slightest shift in the wrong direction putting recovery out of reach. On the positive side, the future of bass fishing as both a recreation and a sport are being fueled by the rekindling of angling passions lost as well as those not previously discovered. Finding balance here is a key to the future of bass fishing.

  The COVID-19 pandemic affects so many aspects of life both at this moment and likely well into the future. Its effects on bass fishing are no different. There are both positive and negative. Some are here-and-now, easily observed and measured. Others are futuristic and somewhat abstract. Those will not be known until time has passed and we have the opportunity to look back, take measurements, and make comparisons. No matter results, this time in history will be talked about for years to come.