If you were to look up the definition of the word champion in the dictionary you would see it is defined by terms such as warrior, fighter or one who shows marked superiority. I've met a few champions in my lifetime and I would agree with all of those descriptions. As a young lad growing up in the small town of Berrien Springs, Michigan we were home to what will quite possibly always be known as the greatest champion of all time, the one and only Muhammad Ali. Notorious for his poetic self-proclamations of being "the Greatest" and as his career went on, proving these to be true over and over again, Ali was a proven fighter and champion. He proved you didn't have to be the so called biggest or baddest to in fact, actually be the biggest and baddest, which is why he will forever be known as "The Champ".
Muhammad Ali owned a place on the banks of the St. Joseph River which happens to be a stellar section of river for fishing and was also home to what I have always considered to be the champion of freshwater gamefish known as the Smallmouth Bass. They may not be the biggest fish in the river or appear to be the baddest, but anyone who has spent much time in pursuit of these creatures of the underwater World knows firsthand, they are in fact the biggest and baddest fish to swim in these waters. It doesn't matter if you live on the river bottom, swim in the center of the water column or fall on the water's surface, you are susceptible to being eaten by these aggressive opportunistic predators. Thanks to these attributes they are one of the greatest target's anglers could ever ask for and they just could be the key to getting more folks into the sport of fly fishing given their widespread territory.
It's quite simple really, in a World dominated by technology and less on spending time in the great outdoors, the number of anglers is on a downward trend, less anglers in many cases leads to less guardians for our natural resources. As many waters warm, Trout populations can be hindered, and Smallmouth will then flourish so they could actually be the fish of the future in many ways. Smallmouth are part of why I wanted to move to Northern Michigan, the Traverse City area is known for its World Class Smallmouth Bass fisheries and even my buddy Ron and fellow Berrien Springs native who fishes the FLW Tour says I now reside in the mecca so to speak. It isn't just their aggressive nature to eat or their widespread territory that makes them great though, quite possibly the greatest attribute they possess is their toughness and never-ending desire to fight to the bitter end. I don't believe you will find a fish that fights as hard pound for pound as a Smallmouth Bass does.
If you haven't given Smallmouth Bass a shot, you should definitely do so and experience what it's like to enter the ring with a champion. Once you're hooked, maybe get involved with local conservation efforts too and preserve these watersheds for generations of future fighters to come. That is what in my opinion truly made Muhammad Ali a champion, his efforts to help make the World a better place after his fighting days were over. Thanks, champ, for all you did for our small community in Southwest Michigan and beyond.