Every four years (at exactly the same time our nation takes a sudden and fleeting interest in competitive swimming, gymnastics and track and field) someone asks me why there’s no fishing in the Olympics. And every four years I start my answer by saying that the Olympics should be getting rid of sports before they consider adding any more. (While I agree that synchronized swimming, trampoline, curling and the biathlon are challenging events, I’m not going to watch them.)
And I don’t think fishing should be an Olympic event, either, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, what would the competitors fish for? What species is ubiquitous enough that you can compete for it anywhere the Olympics might be held — Atlanta, Sydney, London, Rio, Tokyo? The only freshwater species that come close to fitting the bill are the largemouth bass and the brown trout, and they don’t come very close at all. Is there a saltwater species that could work? Maybe, but I doubt it, and local regulations would have to be modified for such a competition.
My second reason for believing that fishing should never be in the Olympics is the reason I offer for cutting other events. It can be summed up in this question: Is the Olympic gold medal the highest honor that such an athlete can achieve in the sport? If the answer is no, it doesn’t belong in the Olympics.
Ask a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team which is more meaningful, a gold medal or the NBA championship? Hint: Where are LeBron James and Steph Curry? They’re back in the U.S., and that answers the question. For me, basketball doesn’t belong in the Olympics.
Same question for golf: What’s more impressive, the gold medal or a green jacket from The Masters? Another hint: Where are the top four ranked golfers in the world — Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy? They’re not in Rio. If an Olympic gold medal cannot attract the world’s top talent, that tells me something.
What about tennis? Olympic gold or Wimbledon? I think we know the answer.
Unless the gold medal is the highest honor available, the sport is a poor fit.
An Olympic gold medal in fishing would generate some interest at first, but for bass anglers it could never compare to winning a Forrest Wood Cup or Bassmaster Classic. The serious trout anglers I know compete against the fish, not each other.
This is not to say that fishing wouldn’t benefit from some international competition, just that the Olympics would be a poor fit. I’d love to see some sort of Ryder Cup competition among the nations that have freshwater bass fishing or compatible big game fishing options. It could be a great way to spread camaraderie and exchange information and techniques. Sport fishing would benefit from something like that.
But the Olympics? No thanks.