November 12, 2009
It’s raining here, but that really doesn’t matter. I won’t get to breathe any outside air until about 7pm tonight. Stuck here at the office, big pile of paper in front of me, emails and voicemails that I need to respond to ASAP. I should’ve known the week was going to be a tough one when my wife’s dog peed in the guest bedroom on Sunday night.
Normally, this would just be a regular crummy Thursday, but it’s made worse not be the fact that I’m here, but rather by where I’m not.
Fellow Inside Line writer Terry Battisti is up in Mackenzie Brothers country hanging out with Dave Mercer and looking to crush some big smallies on Erie. I was invited, but it just didn’t work out.
My friends Chad Hallett and Bill Roberts are hopping on a plane to Birmingham this afternoon. Upon arrival they’ll meet up with our friend Lee Byrd and head over to Ray Scott’s place for a few days of fishing. Again, I was invited, but for various reasons it didn’t make sense for me to go.
I know it’s greedy to feel resentful. I have a big winter ahead of me – two trips to Mexico and a new boat on the way, more boat than I ever thought I’d be able to afford with more bling and gadgets than I ever thought possible. I emptied out the old boat yesterday and soon it should have a new owner. The process taught me that I have far more tackle than all but a few outdoor superstores. Still, I’m here writing “Life isn’t fair” 500 times on the blackboard and everyone else is headed out to recess. That sucks.
I guess it makes sense to channel Ice Cube and be thankful for what I have: “Today I didn't even have to use my AK/ I got to say it was a good day.” A low standard perhaps, but it’ll have to do.
A Rose By Any Other Name
November 11, 2009
If you care about professional bass fishing like I do, you should be concerned about the dearth of quality nicknames in the sport.
Think about it – we have genuine Hall of Famers like Denny Brauer, Gary Klein and Rick Clunn, along with stars like Todd Faircloth, Timmy Horton and Mike McClelland, who are really only known by their given names. What other self-respecting sport would tolerate that?
The few nicknames we do have are generally just derivatives of the anglers’ names: “KVD” for Kevin VanDam; “Ike” for Mike Iaconelli, “Double E” or “E-Squared” for Edwin Evers; “The Hack Attack” for Greg Hackney; and the ever-original “KJ” and “Tak” for Kelly Jordon and Takahiro Omori, respectively. Where is Chris Berman when you need him? In other sports, even the nicknames that are plays on what it says on the athlete’s birth certificate are more original – for example, “The Juice” for the ill-fated OJ Simpson, “Air Jordan” and “Pistol Pete” Maravich.
The very best nicknames, in my opinion, are the ones that tell you about an athlete’s style of play, his achievements or his attitude, without referencing his given name; descriptors like “Mr. October,” “Manos de Piedra,” “Charlie Hustle,” “Sweetness,” “The Refrigerator,” “Iron Horse,” “The Human Highlight Film,” and of course “The Round Mound of Rebound.” Any casual sports fan should be able to get at least 7 of 8 right from that group. But ask the average bass-clubber who “Boom Boom” is and they’ll probably give you a blank look. (For the record, it’s Fred Roumbanis). They might have slightly better luck with “The Bachelor” (if I have to tell you that one, how the hell did you find this column?).
Mark Zona tried to bestow “Wolverine” on Derek Remitz and it hasn’t really stuck. Someone, somewhere, decided to call Florida’s Terry Scroggins “Big Show,” and while he’s generally identifiable as such, I’m not sure it fits him like a glove (that’s two OJ references in one column!). It’s not even the best “Big” nickname in sports. Randy Johnson (AKA, “The Big Unit”) and Frank Thomas (AKA, “Big Hurt”) clearly take the top two slots in that category. With all of the “Bigs” in sports, and all of the players named Johnson, it’s surprising that no power forward or offensive tackle has been bequeathed the nickname “Big Johnson” – although there is, of course, a “Magic” Johnson and the jury is still out on whether a big Johnson trumps a magic Johnson. Either way, bass fishing has a long way to go.
Straddling Two Worlds
November 9, 2009
"If you go fishing often enough, pretty soon the really respectable people will start to avoid you."
--Psychologist Paul Quinnett
Nothing sums up my life better. The problem for me is that eveyone thinks I'm in the other camp. The respectable folks think I fish too much and the other fishermen think I'm too firmly anchored with the 9-to-5ers.
I Think (and Occasionally Work), Therefore I Have Too Many Crankbaits
November 5, 2009
"Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary."
November 4, 2009
Believe me, there are few people other than those who make their living fishing tournaments who want professional bass fishing to be a viable career choice more than I do. As a self-described “bass geek” who makes a portion of his meager living riding the coattails of KVD and his ilk, it’s in my best interest to keep these guys around. Otherwise I’ll have to develop a keen interest in the history and culture of pocket billiards, barrel racing or Texas Hold ‘Em in order to have something to write about. That seems highly unlikely and unappealing. At this point I’m committed to making this outdoor writing deal work.
But despite my wish that a reasonable number of jumpsuited Jethros be able to live comfortably from their tournament winnings and sponsor contracts, I know that the more pertinent questions are how many of them should be included under that umbrella and exactly how much the low man on the totem pole should make. The KVDs, Skeets and Clunns are going to do fine, maybe not as well as they’d like, but better than 99% of the public. The issue is how the 50th guy is gonna get by…or the 100th…or the 200th. There’s a small pie to take from and lots of hands in the cookie jar (to mix snack food metaphors).
But here’s the bottom line – professional fishing is a business, and it’s one with more risk attached to whatever reward you might reap than most. You might end up making seven figures, but there’s a greater chance you’re going to lose your house to the bank and your wife to the mailman. Any angler who doesn’t know that going in is either dumb or willfully blind. So that’s why it bothers the hell out of me when I hear pros saying that they didn’t know it was going to be so tough. Why won’t anyone just cut them a break? The same guys who would cut your nuts off to get the first cast at a stretch of riprap, who’d throw all of your weighted jerkbaits in the water and laugh as they slowly slip away into the depths, they’re essentially asking for charity. Why won’t a company give me a sponsorship, give me a boat wrap, give me a credit card?
I hear it all the time when I interview them. For every Boyd Duckett who gets that business is more than heart attack serious, there are ten who tell me the following, almost verbatim: “I’m one of the 50/100/200 best fishermen in the world. I should be able to make a lot of money doing this.” Here’s the reality, though, junior. Just because you want it to be so doesn’t make it so. I’m one of the top five in the world at sitting on my couch in my boxer shorts eating cheetos (actually, I’m pretty sure the latest AP rankings have me in the number one slot), but ain’t no one paying me for it.
The reason this strikes me as so odd is because about 99% of the professional bass anglers out there consider themselves rugged individualists and, by extension (whether they know it or not), free market capitalists. They don’t want anyone telling them how they should run their business – where they should fish, how they should fish, how to run their boats, what deals to take or reject – but if Socratically taken down this path, many of them would tell you that “businesses need to step up and support the anglers.” The anglers out there who’ve made it big have either done it with a rod and reel or by selling something (not blood or Ebayable items, although the latter is getting popular thanks to Brent Broderick – I meant for their sponsors), or more likely both. Sure, there may be a few trust fund babies, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. If you can’t hang, find another job where you’re one of the top 50/100/200 in the world and where you get a check every two weeks whether you catch ‘em or not.
Scenes from the TTBC: Brushes With Greatness
October 22, 2009
Congratulations to Kinami pro Dave Lefebre for his $250,000 win at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic this past weekend.
We'll get you some information about the new Norie's Bug that he used -- as soon as I can get my grubby paws on some.
Maybe Sherry VanDam's "lucky cookies" are no longer the "in" dessert. You might want to get yourself some good old Keebler Chips Deluxe to nibble on between fishing holes.
Scenes from the TTBC: Elementary, my dear Watson
October 21, 2009
GYCB pro Shinichi Fukae channels his inner Sherlock Holmes.
Scenes from the TTBC: We Are the Champions
October 21, 2009
If someone would hand out a prize for the most purchases of bass-themed jewelry, art and knick-knacks, I think Hanna and I would be the champs.
We brought this one home on the plane (the TSA folks looked at us a little strangely, but we made it through). Now we need to figure out where to put the sucker.
Killer Bees (Alternately titled "My Address Book Has TB" or maybe "One for the Thumb"
October 7, 2009
If someone were to hold a tournament for who knows the most people named “Terry B.,” I’d have a limit in the livewell and I’d be getting ready to cull.
I’ve got five, count ‘em, five phone numbers for people I know through the fishing industry who go by that first name and that last initial.
In no particular order:
There’s Terry “Tater” Battisti (making him the only TTB in the bunch), fellow underpaid, underappreciated outdoor writer and Japanese tackle enthusiast who has been a friend for over a decade.
I certainly could never forget the always wired Terry Brown, the far-from-normal pride of Normal, Illinois who gives me many of my favorite writing assignments (but who has never given me any tackle, despite my frequent requests).
Of course, Terry Baksay, either the first or second bass pro I ever met, makes the list. He’s one of the few people I know who’s more of a tackle freak than I am and he’s Connecticut’s greatest contribution to the world of bass fishing.
I spent a day of practice for the 1997 FLW Championship (on Lake Ferguson, Mississippi) in the boat of Kentucky’s Terry Bolton. I doubt he remembers that, but just about 10 years later I had the opportunity to interview Terry and his wife Pam for Wired2Fish (Terry Brown’s website) when they both qualified to fish a later FLW Championship.
Confused yet? I could handle four. But this week I needed to come up with an article topic and I remembered that Oklahoma BASS pro Terry Butcher had recently qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic, next February’s event on Alabama’s Lay Lake. I also remembered that Terry (Battisti) had spoken highly of Terry (Butcher) after they both participated in a recent charity event on Grand Lake. So I called Terry (Butcher) and got the interview. The story will be up later this week. If your name is Jerry B. or Terry C., I’d love to get an email telling me what you think of it, but if you’re not one of the five Terry B’s listed above and that’s your name, don’t bother writing. That page of the address book is full.
Words To Live By
October 1, 2009
"Don't wait until you retire to go fishing. Don't even wait until your annual vacation. Go at every opportunity. Things that appear more urgent at the moment may, in the long run, turn out to be less so."
--Ted Trueblood, Field & Stream
I love that quote. I suppose it explains quite a bit about why my parents consider my younger brother the professional success among their offspring while they hope that my days of frogging and flipping are just a phase on my way to bigger and better things. Little do they know....
September 28, 2009
At this point, I’m pretty sure that the Riegles think I’m stalking them.
Paul and Linda Riegle of Mountain Home, Arkansas, travel to most of the Elite Series events to run the Bass Cat service trailer. If Mike Iaconelli needs a new running light or Marty Stone has a faulty bilge pump, Paul is the man they see. You may not recognize him in this picture – about half the time is head is buried in someone’s bilge area trying to fix something.
I first introduced myself to Paul at the Kentucky Lake Elite Series event back in early June. I was there on assignment for JM Associates and had a question about my boat (which was at home in Virginia). I asked him one morning after take-off and by the time I came back in the afternoon for the weigh-in he’d talked to the folks at the factory and figured out a solution to my issue. He was busy all day but still made the time to help out someone he’d just met.
When I saw him again at the launch the first day at Oneida, Paul greeted me like a long-lost friend and asked if everything was taken care of to my satisfaction (It had been). I was amazed that he remembered me two months later, let alone that he remembered my question. I ended up spending some time with Paul and Linda where the service trailers were gathered, sitting with the them and the techs from Mercury, Triton, Skeeter and Nitro. By the way, these are good people to know – not only can they help you undo the things you’ve done to your boat, but they have a Big Green Egg grill at each event and they spend their limited down time making some amazing meals. At the three stops I’ve been to this year, I’ve had chicken wings, pork tenderloin, muffins and other good stuff. We all just sat around, talking about the tournament, about the industry, about fishing. Like old friends.
The Riegles are a two-person team. Linda keeps Paul in line, I’m sure, and they seem to be the type of couple I’d like me and my wife to become a few years down the road – together, seeing the country, with their dog, hauling boats from place to place.
On Friday, I had an appointment with my boat dealer (about 130 miles away from home) to get a minor warranty job done on my boat and when I pulled up outside, there was a BCB dually with Arkansas plates in front, having freshly dropped off a couple of new boats. I unhooked my boat alongside the lot, parked my vehicle and walked inside to find Paul and Linda chatting away with the owner.
“Hi Pete, what are you doing here?” Paul asked.
“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?” I laughed.
From there, we picked up where we’d left off in Syracuse. Paul had to take me out to the truck to show me the baits he’d purchased at Greentop, a Richmond-area tackle store. We talked about Iaconelli’s upcoming wedding, about the time they’d spent with Mike and his fiancée in Alabama and about the 2010 model boats.
Paul, if you’re reading this, I really hope that the next time you come through this area, hauling boats or otherwise, you’ll make an effort to stop by our little house. I promise I won’t ask you to fix anything on my boat and the pegboard may have a few extra baits that I’m sure will work on Norfork and Bull Shoals.
Linda, if he hesitates, put the hammer down and tell him it’s not optional.
I look forward to seeing you both here, in Arkansas, at the Classic or wherever our paths cross next.
Clemons, Not Such a Bad Guy After All
September 24, 2009
Who doesn’t like healthy breasts? They’re as American as motherhood and apple pie (specifically if the mother serving apple pie is wearing a low-cut blouse).
Accordingly, research on breast cancer prevention is a cause we can all support.
My good friend and mentor Alan Clemons is taking his support for breasts to another level. Clem, along with Kay Smallwood of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association, is collecting donations for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and if Alan collects $5,000 in donations by October 15th, he’s vowed to dye his hair a shocking shade of PINK. That alone makes the donation worth it.
My wife (who has fantastic breasts, by the way) lost her mother to breast cancer a little over a year before we got married, so this cause has great significance to our family. Please give if you can, whatever you can.
Those of us who like healthy breasts and healthy women thank you.
Send tax-deductible donations to:
2710 Lexington Avenue, SW
Decatur, AL 35603
Make checks out to” Susan G. Komen North Central Alabama Affiliate”