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Trophy Motivation

by: Lloyd Tackitt 10/22/2013

Trophy.  An odd word when you look at it.  It has a Greek origin meaning "food, nourishment".  So that makes it even odder I think.  Our traditional concept of a trophy is a gold colored object that depicts some sort of achievement, usually in sports. 

I've often wondered what motivates people to seek trophies.  I may be without the trophy seeking gene, or perhaps it was the way I was raised, or maybe it's because I wasn't good enough in sports to win one.  Remember that when I was a kid, way back in the day, getting a trophy was a truly rare event. 

But, I think I know what the motivation is:  Public Recognition.  If a trophy was earnestly sought, it won't be hidden or kept secret will it?  I can imagine someone getting a trophy that's not really interested in trophies putting it in the back of a closet and not talking about it.  But someone who is seeking a trophy?  Yeah man, you're going to hear about it, and see it.  At every opportunity.

With fishing, you don't necessarily get a gold plated fish to put on your mantle.  But you might have the fish mounted which is the same thing, and your name will be in the record books.  And what does it signify?  Some might say that it meant you were in the right place at the right time.  Others might think it means that they were finally rewarded for years of study and effort.  Both could be appropriate depending on the circumstances.

With big game hunting you have to kill a trophy animal to be accorded the official listing in a book, and have to follow the rules of fair chase as well...if you're going to do it right that is.  But fishing could be different, could have alternative methods of achieving the public recognition without killing the fish.  The alternative would be a length measurement instead of a weight measurement.  There would be details to work out, such as witnesses, photographs, proof of date or what have you...details for certain but details that could be worked out.

What benefit would that be?  Releasing a superior specimen to return to the breeding pool can only help the overall fishery by the donation of the genes that made it a trophy.  Killing the fish removes those genes from the pool (sorry about the pun).  This seems fairly obvious yet I'm sure there are counter-arguments that I haven't heard yet.  Always open to more data though so don't hold back. 

At what point does a person put the overall health of the fishery above their personal desire for public recognition?  One alternative here in Texas is to call the TPWD for bass over 13lbs, keep the trophy fish alive, and they will come get it and take it to a fish hatchery where they can put those genes to maximum benefit.  Along with the donation of the fish the angler receives public recognition.  This is for large mouth bass only, unfortunately.  But it's a start.  The program is called "sharelunker" and you can look up the details and the rewards on the TPWD website.  For other species they do have a length record for catch and release anglers, and I applaud that.

Another point comes when a fisherman makes it a personal point of honor to return all large, especially trophy large, fish back alive.  There is no public recognition in doing this.  In fact no one will know unless you're fishing with someone else when you do it.  This has to be about the fish, about maintaining as healthy a fishery as possible.  But - and this is a big but - you can sure enough take pictures and measurements and show them off...perhaps that's the best of both worlds.  That enhances the fishery and gives the angler the opportunity for bragging rights if so desired. 

I have had a few comments about my articles not being accompanied by photos of fish.  I've taken a few, not because of the size of the fish, but just for entertainment purposes - but carrying a camera is a hassle for me so I rarely do.  I think I need to get better about doing that, taking pictures for the articles that is, because I really do enjoy seeing photos posted here on the site.


Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Member comments
Coyute, CO   10/22/2013 4:19:57 PM
Whether a person kills and keeps a trophy or turns it loose, many people 'fish' for public recognition more so than simply fishing for the fun of it. If all the braggarts, motivated more by bragging than fishing, left the sport altogether, I'd have more water to myself. We'd also have fewer bloggers and editors here. You are one of the most sensible bloggers on here. Thanks for the blog.
Opry99er, CO   10/22/2013 4:30:34 PM
Everyone fishes for different reasons... For me, it's the tug, the friends, the family, and the peace it brings (generally). I seek large fish for the hunt... the challenge. More often than not, it's the hard working fisherman who wins the day, not the lucky one. I see fishing as a venture in which I can attain success by hard work and dedication... The fish, then, becomes almost secondary. In many ways, fishing and life have much in common-- one of those commonalities is the elation of success and the pain of failure. Who among us hasn't lost a giant fish and felt that emptiness inside?? Then... who among us hasn't caught a personal best because he/she went that extra mile to achieve?? Everyone fishes for different reasons...
shiverfix, CO   10/22/2013 4:33:48 PM
With the quality of images one can capture on a phone these days, it is much easier to get a good pic of a fish. However, many of the same problems are present if you are by yourself: how do you get a pic of the fish? Do you place it on the ground (bad for the fish and tends to get a lot of negative comments)? Do you hold it out as far as possible and try to get it all in the shot? When I first started fishing again a couple years ago I would get pics of the fish. Now I pretty much only take pics of friends and loved ones with fish and only post those on FB if anywhere. Sometimes I'll get a pic of a fish to send to my wife or stepkids or fishing buddies if they aren't with me just to show off... Look, I finally caught something!!! (: Everyone has their motivation for why they do things. There is nothing wrong with wanting recognition for accomplishments, and there is nothing wrong with avoiding the spotlight. I've caught MAs I've never submitted, but honestly, I don't know what I'd do if I caught a state record fish. I'd like to think I'd let it go, but would I?
Abel1, CO   10/22/2013 5:21:38 PM
I have practiced taxidermy for several years and its only for myself. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it and I compete against myself to complete a better mount each time. That being said trophies are different to each individual. Yes there is something to be said for that 42" pike on the wall but the 8" brook trout in fall colors caught from a small creek is just as good in my opinion. Taxidermy has evolved quite a bit over the years. You can buy a reproduction of just about every species of fish now as well as antlers mule deer/whitetail etc. The real hunt is finding a good taxidermist. Find one and you won't be able to tell the difference between the real thing and a repro. If its a trophy you want for the game room then a repro may be the best choice. You can also hunt for trophies on Ebay. Saves you the cost of the hunt and the mount. To each his own though. I would guess most of us are out there for the personal enjoyment and the memories both of which money can't buy. Great blog!
malty falcon, CO   10/22/2013 6:45:06 PM
Nice read, Lloyd. The TPWD program sounds really great for keeping the genes healthy.
FISHRANGLER, CO   10/22/2013 7:15:16 PM
I target Channel cats along with many other species, but the large cats do it for me. My god they eat bass why wouldn't you target them? They don't reproduce in most waters in Colorado anyone that says they do. doesn't know what they are talking about. They are stocked, so releasing the Record cat wouldn't make any difference in the gene pool for future cats in CO. I release all others though and promote Catch and Release of cats unless they are eaters or a record.So I wont be called a hypocrite, I don't eat fish I catch either. I once had that record. I was targeting it, does that make a difference? It does make a difference to me if a person is targeting them or not. It's on the wall now, a reproduction and I cannot wait to put the next one next to that one. I wont fall to others suggesting that I fallow their belief system I walk my own walk and can think for myself. I lost the record to a nice young lady, congrats to her. I have been after it again ever sense. So when I do get it back be prepared for some major bragging, anytime someone says I shouldn't I will post the picture again. I spend a lot of money and time doing this. Having a picture isn't going to cut it. I fish for fun but I am very serious about it when I'm out fishing. I do catch many other species that would be thophies on the wall for others, but they get released and im happy with just a picture. That's just my opinion on the subject and someone else's prospective.
FXA0, CO   10/22/2013 7:16:14 PM
As always, nice read Mr. Tackitt, but I am going to disagree a bit. As I have said before: "no one likes a pedantic jerk." However, I am still going to point out that the "trophy" you reference with a Greek root meaning "food and nourishment" is a different "trophy." That "trophy" is the same one used in "dystrophy" or "hypertrophy." The trophy that means "the giant bass on the wall," is related to a Greek word meaning "putting into flight." Let's face it, if the person who invented the wheel did not have a need to brag about it, we may not have a wheel today. At the very least, it would have been delayed. The same is true for flight, the industrial revolution, the information revolution... If our forefathers did not have a need to accomplish great things (or even just small things) and show off, humans might still be cave dwellers. I for one love bragging. And I enjoy the company of a good bragger, as long as he/she does not monopolize the bragging : ) Simply put, trophies, bragging and public recognition are essential elements for human success/progress. It is the very thing that put us "into flight." With that said, bragging and trophy fish killing should be done in moderation... I don't feel the need to have a fish or an animal on my wall, but that's a slightly different conversation from "bragging and public recognition is bad."
FISHRANGLER, CO   10/22/2013 7:34:38 PM
FXA0 The smartest man in the room Fins up
FISHRANGLER, CO   10/22/2013 8:02:38 PM
That did not sound correct. I wish I could put thoughts to written words as well a everyone here.
JOHN_COSprings, CO   10/22/2013 8:56:44 PM
I certainly do fish for trophy carp. At first it was a case of catching carp, then catching a bigger carp, then a "trophy" sized fish, then a state record fish. For me it's a passion, yes, I am happy to catch anything but those big lumps are very much appreciated. I take my videos, my photo's, submit a couple for a MA entry for the year and then don't worry about the paperwork for the rest. Heck, I shudder to think how many 30"ers I have put back in the waters this year. I would like to think that those fish will once again grace another anglers line and they will get as much pleasure and excitement as myself in catching them. As for public recognition, for sure - it would be a lie to deny it. However I started my posts here, on these very forums, and the video series. However the reason I started all this posting/video madness was to get the word out there that the fish species I target is more than just trash, it's a fast, hard fighting, sometimes difficult to catch fish that is worthy of a "sporting" classification. I would love to be able to share the joy, or the sure pleasure I see on anglers faces as they haul in sometimes their first 15+lb fish on rod and reel. They don't care it's a carp, they are just happy to have landed a real beast - especially when it's their new PB by weight or length. Yes, I have my MA awards for the single best carp i've caught proudly displayed on my family room wall, with a picture of the fish. It's more the memories you make, the experiences you have, for me, than any stuffed animal nailed to my wall (ironically, I have a blog article to post with that very same title - more to follow). John
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX   10/23/2013 10:18:18 AM
While I think that public recognition may be the main motivation for trophy taking, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Hell I like public recognition as much as the next guy, I just think there should be a better way than killing a fish that needs to stay in the gene pool to achieve it. But then again I'm not particularly interested in being recognized for catching a trophy fish. I've had three hole in ones from back when I played a lot of golf. Two were witnessed and one wasn't. Of the three the unwitnessed one is my favorite, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because I didn't have to share the thrill with anyone, maybe because it was a strictly personal thing. For whatever reason though, that unwitnessed one was more better than the other two combined. Fishing is like that for me too, I love catching big fish, but it's even better when I catch them while fishing alone. Can't explain it, just is.
MaxwellFishing, CO   10/23/2013 11:57:32 AM
My Trophies have been and will always be released. A picture is good enough for me.
FXA0, CO   10/23/2013 1:03:07 PM
@ Coyute: so you admit that you are insecure : ) As for bragging being a more transparent form of insecurity, do you think that the roaring lion is saying: I am insecure? No, he is saying: I am the alpha male and the king of the jungle. I can be as loud as I want. I don't have to go hide in a shady hole and keep quiet. Rowdy jocks get the girls quiet guys don't. The ones who speak up their minds and show off their skills and achievements get the corner office the ones who keep quiet get the cubicles (seriously, I have never had a boss who didn't like to brag). If you want to call that "insecurity," then go for it. I'm a pragmatic man whatever works for success/progress is good. I have lived in 4 countries on 3 different continents and I can tell you that Americans like to brag more than anyone else I have come across. They also have more public recognition ceremonies/institutions than anyone else. And they are the most powerful country in the world. I don't believe that's a coincidence. This country loves to brag, and we are better off for it. To suggest that bragging and public recognition are bad is simply anti-American. There is a healthy way to channel our primordial urge to roar. Trying to suppress that need is nave and counterproductive moderating it and channeling that drive is a good motivational/management tool. Yes it I said it is a tool. There is need to be romantic and think of it as a character flaw while promoting modesty as a virtue. With all that said, it is possible to brag too much. @ Fishrangler: your last response was succinct and to the point.
Tiny Stevens, CO   10/23/2013 1:08:40 PM
Very well written and gives a lot of "food for thought" Lloyd! Here are my thoughts on this for what it's worth... March 22nd, I caught my first "near miss" 10 lb walleye at 9.84 lbs.. she would have been 10 easily a few weeks earlier if I had caught her pre-spawn. I was alone, took pics of her with me holding her, and released her. Afterwards, I looked at the pics... had one of my arm, my torso, the sky, oh.. in one I actually got half of the fish's head! Still... I have no regrets in releasing her, I have the memories and my log! May 15th, I had the privilege of catching what I consider to be a fish of a lifetime in a 36" Lake Trout! As I held her, my friend took pictures, the realization hit me that this was a beautiful memory of a magnificent fish. I look at the pics from that trip often, and I always see the extreme joy and happiness on my face in the pics. I would not want to deny anyone else that pleasure of catching a fish like that. I have no issues with others keeping a fish of a lifetime, record, etc... but... after holding that giant laker... not me. Thanks for writing this Blog Lloyd! Tiny
Coyute, CO   10/23/2013 1:22:14 PM
Yes, I admit that. We are all insecure - we just have different ways of hiding it. Being a pedantic jerk is one way and championing and congratulating the opinion of another person's adversary is another. If you know what a lion thinks, you are obviously more god-like than me. Grats. :)
cookster, CO   10/23/2013 1:37:32 PM
My trophy is a huge fish fry on the weekends with family and friends. All large fish I happen to catch get released just because the are no good for what I want. I have caught and seen many state records released here out of respect to the fish and the fishery. Everyone has their own way of thinking and that's just the way life goes. Nice read Lloyd and great post everyone.
Coyute, CO   10/23/2013 5:37:21 PM
Regardless of all that, I do appreciate bantering with a game opponent. :)
Fishful Thinker, CO   10/24/2013 11:31:07 AM
I believe in evolution and survival of the fittest. Given that fishing originated as a food-gathering method, the caveman that gathered the largest fish - and therefore most calories for his people - would define the "fittest" and would therefore mate the most and therefore the best angler kept evolving until now. Clearly, being a great angler is the result of thousands of years of evolution in the very same way that got us to the top of the food chain at all. If the caveman that caught the giant fish unceremoniously put it back and went home hungry, where the hell would we be now?! )
Opry99er, CO   10/24/2013 11:53:10 AM
I've always enjoyed "bragging"... not for the sake of bragging, but to instill or reinforce the competitive nature of my peers. "Look what I caught, Uncle Lance... now... what you got?!" For me it creates interest and helps nurture a healthy passion for the sport... History is filled with examples of similar behavior. One man builds a car, another man desires to build a better car. One man builds a skyscraper, another man strives to build one taller and stronger. "Bragging" (for lack of a better term) can a catalyst for progress... It can also be extremely annoying and caustic if engaged in by over-zealous and vexatious jerks.
Coyute, CO   10/24/2013 2:41:29 PM
@ CL, just trying to tie-up your correlation between bragging and Darwinism. Are you saying that in order to be considered the fittest to survive one must be boastful? Any good caveman worth his salt would wallop the boastful cretin, take his women and his furs and go about his day not so much as a way to prove his supremacy - but to rid the world of a boastful jerk. I doubt cavemen took much stock in bragging, they were probably more concerned with a saber toothed raccoon stealing their brand-x crawdad baits. Once the boastful caveman found out that he could gain more by preying on the weak minded through subterfuge, our species devolved. And once the fit man did the same, following the same malign path, he devolved even further and lost what made him strong. Look at many of our world leaders, celebrities, athletes and big shots - a bunch of small, ruthless and boastful men with a myriad of psychological complexes. Where would we be without all that? I ask myself that every day. :)
Coyute, CO   10/24/2013 2:44:21 PM
We are all influenced in different ways. Influences that come easy are worth less IMO. It is easy to go along with what society sees as strength, and model your life around that. It isn't as easy to take a point of view contrary to pop culture and ride it until you die or someone puts you in the funny farm. In fact, the later path will probably hurt you more along the way.
Abel1, CO   10/24/2013 4:27:53 PM
What would motivate a superstar athlete or a Nascar driver to hog all the opportunities to hunt a whitetail on those private ranches down there in Texas? For the average Joe like myself you better have some pretty deep pockets because most of us will never be able to afford that competition.
Fishful Thinker, CO   10/24/2013 4:32:56 PM
Actually just trying to be a bit sarcastic and provide a little blurb of something silly to the thread. I can see both sides of this discussion very clearly from where I sit! CL
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX   10/25/2013 8:30:57 AM
A couple of more thoughts: From the history I've read of the Native Americans, bragging was a big deal, a ritual action take be each man after a big hunt or a battle. Each person would take turns telling his story of the day, bragging as much as he could. Public recognition again. And who got the girls? The ones with the most recognition probably. Look how girls act around rock stars. I don't know if this was a universal trait of primitive people or not, but I suspect it was fairly common since it is still fairly common today - although in slightly different ways. Then too fishing was for survival, and a big fish was a very good thing, add some bragging to that and the interest of a pretty girl and I can see where bragging has purchased a spot in our hard-wired survival instincts. Sort of anyway.
Abel1, CO   10/25/2013 4:01:56 PM
Trophy motivation. Public recognition. Not necessarily a bad thing. I challenge each of you to take some time out of your weekend and spend it with your kids/spouse or parents. For the past week my family has been after me to get the Halloween decorations up and my parents have been after me to help them out with a few issues. These soft spoken words have been heard yet ignored. I found myself lying awake last night thinking about how much time I may have lost because I have always had other plans. I also realized that the some day I would get to these issues maybe too late. For me the time for a change has come and it starts today. Maybe its not too late to earn some public recognition or perhaps a trophy or 2 and some bragging rights. After all the Worlds Greatest Dad/Worlds Greatest Husband or the Worlds Greatest Son all have a nice ring to them and might look pretty good up there on the mantel. Good luck to everyone and have a safe weekend.
Coyute, CO   10/25/2013 5:44:21 PM
When I was younger, I certainly got my fair share of pretty girls during my more dickish phase - but the quality just wasn't there in regards to traits other than being pretty. To each their own. Thanks again Lloyd for the blog and the opportunity to voice my opinion. :)
Lloyd Tackitt
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